THAT new Eventing rule...


At the beginning of the season, British Eventing announced its “one fall and you’re out” rule.

Ever since, people have been in uproar!

It essentially means you can fall off in the dressage and you’ll be eliminated.

Trust me, from a horse owner perspective, I GET IT! Eventing is a hugely expensive sport and so I wont lie and say I don’t think the rule needs tweaking to ensure some sort of refund. I was, however, slightly disappointed to see that Captain Mark Phillips also disagrees with the rule….He claims the rule lacks common sense, with no evidence supporting it. Whilst I would usually take Captain Mark Phillips words as pretty much gospel, on this occasion, I do feel British Eventing have got it right.

I would like to ask you a question:

Would you like to see the number of serious injuries and deaths to competitors in the sport decrease?

If you answered yes, then in a small way, you agree with the new fall rule….

  • Eventing is the modern horse sport usually deemed as the most dangerous. Paix (1999) found an overall injury incidence of 0.88% per competitor per event, which exceeds by more than 3 times, the incidence rate of 0.24 for motorcycle racers (and I bet most of you would never dream of getting on a motorbike!).

  • Eventing is more than 70x more dangerous than Horse Riding in General (Paix, 1999)

  • The FEI predict one fall every 18 starters, one horse fall every 63 starters and a rotational fall every 460 starters.

  • The FEI predict one serious/fatal fall every 532 starters.

  • The risk of serious injury is 1 in every 55 rider falls, 1 in every 20 horse falls and 1 in every 5 rotational falls (FEI).

  • The fatality rate is higher in Eventing competitors than in Racing (Hennessey, 2016)

  • 1* is continually above its target level for falls, with 4* also going above in 2017.

Numerous studies have shown that repeated brain injury in sport can lead to Chronic Encephalopathy ((McCrory et al., 2007; McKee et al., 2009; Gavett et al., 2011; Saulle and Greenwald, 2012; Ban et al., 2016). You might not even know you have a concussion, but repeated blows can have a cumulative effect. Symptoms wont be felt straight away but include behavioural changes, mood changes, problems thinking and it may result in dementia.

Unfortunatly there is no helmet technology around that can prevent concussion. So whilst you may fall off, think you haven’t hit your head (you can get concussion without hitting your head), get up and feel fine, think about the effect this small event may be having on the overall health of your brain. Think about your future.

It has been argued that eventers naturally have a personality trait that means they have a poor analysis of risk, or they are able to accept the risk and diffuse them. We have been taught, ever since we first got onto a horse, that falling off is part of every day life, and whilst that may be true, severe injury shouldn’t be.

Arguing about the fall rule, in my mind, is like arguing about wearing a seatbelt (maybe lots of you don’t wear seatbelts either, I don’t know!). Would you argue about not wearing a seatbelt whilst driving at 70 down the M25, dodging obstacles? Probably not. To me it's the same thing...

Whilst I know that horses are unpredictable animals, use this rule to make sure you and your horse are as prepared for an event as possible. Get fit, train more, work out a suitable feed to exercise ratio etc. Whilst this can never stop you falling off, it will certainly help.

Andrew Nicholson….fell from his horse at Gatcombe in 2015. Andrew was allowed to ride his next horse (although he didn't). I think we all know the rest of the story….he was told that the injury to his neck would have caused paralysis at the time of injury in 98% of cases. The new rule has been implemented to save lives. Not everyone can be as lucky as Andrew.

Dont agree with any of the above? Think about it this way, not having this rule may risk the sport you love, because if the current level of risk cant be sorted, the sport may be in danger…or atleast the sport as we know it. If the risk level doesn’t dip slighty, then the Cross-Country will become like showjumping, with every fence able to fall…..The USEF have recently decided to make all Cross Country Oxers Frangible. Maybe that is the best thing for the sport, but in your mind what would you prefer, a Show Jumping(y) Cross Country, or a fall rule?

Don’t we need to start looking at the sport with a proactive rather than reactive policy?

I look forward to examining the British Eventing statistics next year to see if the rule has made any difference. I hope it will have done.

I would love to hear your opinions, I understand that this is a controversial thing to post, and I know many wont agree with me...BUT...Eventing Risk Management and Rotational Falls has consumed the last 6 months of my life for my Dissertation, so I thought It was about time to share with you some of what I talk about in it

Emily xx

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