Eventing is one of the most dangerous disciplines in equestrian sport. Accidents occur time and again. Now a study wanted to find out which are the most dangerous cross-country obstacles for riders and horses.
Eventing is an all-around competition that consists of three tests: dressage, jumping and a cross-country ride. Serious accidents occur time and again, especially during the cross-country ride. Here, the horses have to gallop over obstacles of a solid nature over a longer distance. Research has been going on for a long time on how to minimise the risk of accidents during cross-country riding.
A new study now investigated which obstacles are particularly accident-prone and what effects the safety systems that have been implemented more frequently in recent years have on the fall statistics. For their recently published study, Euan Bennet, Heather Cameron-Whytock and Tim Parkin analysed all records of the FEI’s global eventing database from January 2008 to December 2018.
During this period, 202,771 competition starts were recorded, 190,429 pairs competed in the cross-country phase and took a total of 6.1 million jumps. In 5.2% of the starts, the horse and/or rider fell on the course. Almost nine out of ten of these 10,519 falls were related to an obstacle.
Results of the study
They came to the conclusion that accidents are more frequent in downhill jumps and jumps with water landing. But accidents also occur in jumps with safety systems where elements can break. The study explains this as follows: “Obstacles with breakable elements are possibly misjudged. The rider thinks that he can get away with inaccuracies here and is less careful.” It is also conceivable, he says, that course designers build more fastidiously if they know that an obstacle is equipped with a safety system.
As expected, more accidents occur towards the end of the cross-country course. The rider’s and horse’s concentration wanes, which is why dangerous careless mistakes can quickly occur. For this reason, the researchers call for the challenging obstacles to be placed at the beginning of the course. In addition, there are more falls in higher classes. This is because courses at 3* or 4* level are much more demanding than 1* or 2* courses.
Despite this, eventing is developing in a positive direction. The probability of falling at a cross-country obstacle was lower in the years 2016 to 2018 than in the eight years before. This therefore shows that the numerous rule changes and safety measures are having an effect after all.