Eventing Gets A Bad Rap

I will be the first to admit that there are many elements of upper level Eventing that scare the shit out of me. Going into eventing initially wasn’t really a choice for me but rather what I needed to do if I wanted to compete with the barn that I boarded at/ the trainer I rode with. My first attempts out were pretty disastrous though not dangerous. Then I moved barns – got some confidence – and bam I was right back out there.

1454590_10201818111153522_1656274926_nMy last 2 horse trials with Houston were a blast. I came out of the ring or off course with bold smiles on my face and there was no denying the rush. I was on a high over my first phases until I found out that a horse had not made it off course. I couldnt imagine being the heartbroken rider that came back from the ride alone.

That said the injury that happened could not have been prevented by anything USEA or even event managers could do and had nothing to do with the particular fence that the horse was jumping but rather was believed to be an aneurysm. I didn’t event after that but more due to financial and time constraints in addition to the fact that ultimately I determined that eventing with Houston wasn’t for me.

epictetus quoteWhile I do believe that there need to be steps taken to increase the safety for horse and rider on course I think that too many people are getting caught up with wanting immediate changes and playing the blame game on USEA. Also why is no one outraged when horses die at HJ shows? It is also incredibly unfair to try to act like there have been no improvements in recent years.

Amanda pointed out that I should take a look at the 1986 World Championships… HOLY SH*T guys! That was a crazy time. I can’t believe the number of people that had terrifying falls and GOT BACK ON. Guys, what in the world?!

USEA LOGO 2013USEA is a non profit. They do not make rules/ regulations or actually have any power when it comes to singlehanded changes to the eventing world. I personally think it’s crazy to think that if every USEA member committed $5-10 to the collapsable fence study that it would be fully funded.

I actually find it very interesting that in a study from 2014 we can see that the use of frangible pins/the move away from long format has coincided with a decrease in rotational falls/horse falls and the fatality rate has been cut almost in half – but sure no improvements have been made and USEA is the devil…

Articles related can be seen: RedBudEquestrian ArticleFEI Risk Management StatisticUSEA/USEF Safety Rules

DR1_9774I don’t pretend to donate to all causes or even to be particularly generous with my donations but this is one that I didn’t even second guess. It seemed like a no brainer to me. Yes, the changes won’t be immediate but I would prefer that an educated change be determined instead of causing a huge frenzy among event organizers to replace or update fences when we aren’t even sure if the change will be a good solution. There is a reason why most things related to safety or health (in animals and humans) requires testing before it is put on the open market… Just saying!

Even if you don’t have a vested interest in Eventing I think we all as riders have a general vested interest in the safety of fellow riders. This has been talked to death a bit but I wanted to get this off my chest.


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  1. Well I disagree with”Also why is no one outraged when horses die at HJ shows?”, because people do get outraged. When Humble (I think that’s his name) the pony died at Devon? HUGE UPROAR OMG. And rightfully so! I’ve never heard of horse dying in a h/j competition without a huge smear of speculation (usually drugs) or sadness (like Hickstead’s anuerism).

    Here’s the difference though – it rarely happens. When I hear about a horse dying at a h/j show, it’s a “Omg what happened that’s so terrible!” response. When I hear about a horse dying at an event, it’s a “Oh no not again,” response.

    1. I know of 3 dead show jumpers so far this year. The last one being a few weeks ago, which somehow was barely even mentioned in the media despite it being a catastrophic injury that occurred in the ring at a big FEI event. Villianizing one sport is a mistake – horse welfare is an across the board concern.

  2. This is a great perspective to me, coming from h/j. Horses and riders die in ALL horse sports–a few jumper horses have died this year for various reasons, two horses dead on the track at Pimlico, and I saw yesterday that a barrel horse collapsed and the child rider died while hospitalized. I’m sure there are others. Not all deaths are preventable–this is an inherently risky activity, but it is so worthwhile to study causes and try to find solutions to lower the risks, rather than blaming one organization that actually has zero authority over the rules.

    1. Well I guess I’m just not as in the know as you are.

      Look, I’m not going to sit here and say that injuries in one sport are okay and in another they aren’t. We both agree that horse welfare EVERYWHERE is important. That is a non-issue… but I am never going to be convinced that eventing is just as dangerous as hunter/jumpers. There is no comparison in my opinion.

      1. I agree. The level of risk is exponentially higher in eventing than in the h/j world. It’s not even a close call. I’m not anti-eventing, it’s just the facts.

        1. As someone who has been very involved in both disciplines, my observations are that lower level eventing and lower level h/j are very similar as far as safety. The difference comes in when you get to upper level eventing, and from what data I’ve been able to uncover from the past few years (yes I’ve gone back and researched this) horse deaths between the two sports are very close in number. The glaring difference is really the rider deaths in upper level eventing.

  3. There are a lot of important things said here that I think most people, especially those not directly involved in eventing, need to read and then re-read again. Specifically the role of USEA in the sport, the work that has been done on safety to date, and what the data actually shows. Many people are sorely misinformed and the ignorance is rampant.

    Also, 3 show jumpers that I know of have died at shows this year. The last one went by with barely a mention ANYWHERE and he suffered a catastrophic injury and had to be put down in the ring. So no, I definitely do not think that horse deaths get the same attention from the “peanut gallery” across all sports. Some people really love to villianize eventing, when really the subject of horse welfare (and rider safety) should know no bounds.

  4. I think evening takes the most heat because it’s one of the most dramatic and harsh looking sports. XC alone scares most of us bit combined with other days of hard work, means it looks at least from the outside as harder than other sports.

    Other than blame organizations, since horses die across the gamut of sports, maybe we need to gon upstream and think about breeding. Are we using and breeding the best horses for the sports we use them for? Can we do better, breed for better cardiovascular health, better stamina,stronger legs (vs lighter bodied for racing)? I see so many injuries from just riding, best we can do is demand improved safety for horses and riders.

  5. I think it’s important to look at HOW these horses are dying. An aneurysm is not the same as dying from a rotational fall. Most of the jumper deaths are aneurysms (most, not all). It is much more common to see deaths from rotational falls in eventing than in the jumper ring. I think that is what everyone is upset about.

    1. Only one of the three jumpers this year was an aneurysm, the other two were “catastrophic injuries” very similar to the horse that had to be euthanized at Jersey Fresh (he wasn’t a rotational). But USEA also has an ongoing study that will hopefully give us some insight into those types of deaths as well. Hopefully what they learn will be helpful across all disciplines.