Is Eventing Really Too Dangerous
 By Winniefield Park   •   13th Jul 2014   •   9,945 views   •   2 comments
Is Eventing Really Too Dangerous

The eventing world has again attracted some unwanted attention following the unfortunate deaths of two top riders on one day. Thirty-year-old Canadian Jordan McDonald died after falling during an event in Somerset. Twenty-five year-old German rider Benjamin Winter was killed during Germany's major four-star event at Luhmuhlen. Both deaths followed rotational falls. A rotational fall is when a horse hits a fence with its forearms or chest, somersaults over, and lands on its back. Winter died of massive head injuries while McDonald suffered a cardiac injury, suggesting that his chest cavity was crushed despite the protection of his safety vest.

The eventing community is of course devastated at this double loss. And once again, it throws cross country jumping into an unfavorable light. In the lead-up to the 2012 Olympics, Time magazine ran an article titled Equestrian Eventing: The Olympics’ Most Dangerous Sport? There’s been a great deal made of the thirty seven rider deaths, twenty-five of which were attributed to rotational falls that occurred in a ten-year span from 1997 to 2008. Eighteen falls occurred during a two-year time frame. The statistics for horse deaths are harder to come by. This is because there are few records kept, and a horse may not actually die on course, but have to be put down, perhaps months after an injury occurred.

Statistically, horseback riding is one of the most dangerous sports we could participate in. It accounts for the greatest percentage of head injuries treated in emergency rooms. Horseback riding accounts for one serious injury for every 350 hours of riding time, whereas motorcycle riding accounts for one injury per 7000 hours. Competing in cross country jumping increases the risk, with one injury in every one hour of riding time. The chance of injury does not change with rider age, experience or competition level.

Looking at the statistics, the picture seems very grim. However, even competitive cycling has a long list of deaths during races. In Canada, the estimated number of deaths while recreational cycling was 78 in the period between 1998 and 2002. Even being a pedestrian can be dangerous - although there are considerably more pedestrians than horseback riders. In the same period, there were 450 pedestrian deaths. This doesn’t diminish the realities of the eventing statistics, but it may provide a little perspective.

Related: The Nature of the Crazy Eventer
Related: A Letter From Jessica's Parents
Related: Cross Country 101

The FEI and other governing bodies are taking the statistics quite seriously. The eventing community is continually working to make the cross country phase of competition safer. While solid jumps encourage a horse to make a greater effort to clear them, ways to make these big jumps fall apart if a horse hits them are being experimented with. Safety vest have been made mandatory, and many riders wear the newer vests that inflate on impact. Weight restrictions that made horses carry a minimum weight have been removed. Course designs increasingly focus on more technical jumps such as skinnies and corners that require greater skill to guide the horse over, and allow the horse to run out if the rider makes an error. The focus is to make the courses challenging, but safer.

So what do you think? Is there a safety problem in eventing? Should it be made safer? And how?
Valkyrie   MOD 
It can't really be made much safer. They've already made it about as safe as it can be. But there will always be accidents when you're galloping around a long track jumping solid obstacles.
  Jul 17, 2014  •  9,483 views
no longer need barn
I agree with Valkyrie it can't be made safer but with health and safety these days they will probably make the fences pony club sized!
  Oct 15, 2016  •  5,610 views
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