Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Equestrian Eventing - Accidents and Safety Measures

Between 1997 and December 2008, at least 37 eventing riders died as a result of injuries incurred while competing in the cross-country phase of eventing at national or international level or at Pony Club, and of these, 18 riders died in the period 2006–2008. These 37 fatal falls have been at all levels of the sport, from domestic one-day events up to regional championships level, and they have occurred in most of the recognized eventing countries around the world, with concentrations in the United Kingdom and the United States . At least 25 of these 37 deaths have resulted from a somersaulting (rotational) fall of the horse, with 11 of the 16 deaths in 2007 and 2008 being reported as having resulted from a rotational horse fall. Information about horse fatalities is difficult to locate, but at least 19 eventing horses, many of them top-level performers, died in 2007 & 2008, most of them in the US.

Over time, course design has become increasingly more focused on the safety of the horse and rider. Fences are built more solidly than in the earlier days, encouraging a bold jump from the horse, which actually helps prevent falls. The layout of the course and the build of the obstacles encourage the horse to have a successful run. This includes a greater use of precision fences, such as corners and "skinny jumps," that are very good tests of the rider's ability and the horse's training, but allow the horse to simply run around the jump if the rider misjudges it. Safety measures such as filling in the area between corner-shaped jumps on cross-country or rails of a fence help prevent the entrapment of the legs of the horse decrease the number of serious falls or injuries.

The newest improvement in cross-country safety is the frangible fence, which uses a pin and other techniques which allow the fence to "break or fall" in a controlled manner to minimize the risk of injury to horse and rider. This can help to prevent the most dangerous situation on cross-country, when the horse hits a solid fence between the forearm and chest, and somersaults over, sometimes falling on the rider.

Equesrian Eventing - Riding Attire

Riding attire is different for the three phases. Dressage and show jumping require very conservative attire, following the traditional turnout for each of those disciplines. Cross-country is much less formal, with many riders wearing clothing of personalized colors and the emphasis very much on safety equipment.

For the intermediate and advanced levels, dressage attire is similar to that of Grand Prix Dressage. The rider must wear a dark coat (usually black or navy blue), with a shirt, stock tie, and pin. If the rider is riding at FEI level, only then can they wear a shadbelly tailcoat and a top hat. Riding breeches are usually white, although any light colour is permitted. Gloves are usually white, although other colors are permitted. Spurs of certain lengths and types are required. Riding boots such as field or dress tall boots are usually black, in normal or patent leather.

The rider is required to wear a protective vest, as well as a ASTM/SEI/BS approved equestrian helmet, properly fastened at all times when jumping (and may be eliminated if this is not done). A medical armband, containing the rider's medicinal history, is required. This is for safety purposes, allowing access to the information should the rider fall, be knocked unconscious, and require medical treatment
Breeches may be any color, with some riders coordinating it with their shirt or vest color. All shirts must have long sleeves, and light-weight rugby or polo shirts are the most commonly worn type, usually without a stock or tie. Black and/or brown boots may be worn. Riding coats are not worn. This is the event where riders may choose anything from traditional hunter green or navy blue to tie-dye and even zebra stripes or fluorescent colors. 

Show Jumping
Show jumping attire is similar to that of dressage. However, a protective equestrian helmet with harness is required, and riders always wear a short hunt coat, except when weather is unreasonably warm, when, at the discretion of the technical delegate, jackets may be considered optional. If helmet covers are used, they are required to be black or dark blue though some now include national colors where they are entitled to be worn.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Equestrian Eventing - Phases (Show Jumping)

Show jumping tests the technical jumping skills of the horse and rider, including suppleness, obedience, fitness and athleticism. In this phase, 12–20 fences are set up in a ring. These fences are typically brightly colored and consist of elements that can be knocked down, unlike cross country obstacles. This phase is also timed, with penalties being given for every second over the required time. In addition to normal jumping skills, eventing show jumping tests the fitness and stamina of the horse and rider, generally being held after the cross-country phase in higher level and international events.

Equestrian Eventing - Phases (Cross-country)

The next phase, cross-country, requires both horse and rider to be in excellent physical shape and to be brave and trusting of each other. This phase consists of approximately 12-20 fences (lower levels), or 30-40 at the higher levels, placed on a long outdoor circuit. These fences consist of very solidly built natural objects (telephone poles, stone walls, etc.) as well as various obstacles such as ponds and streams, ditches, drops and banks, and combinations including several jumping efforts based on objects that would commonly occur in the countryside. Sometimes, particularly at higher levels, fences are designed that would not normally occur in nature.

Sometimes, particularly at higher levels, fences are designed that would not normally occur in nature. However, these are still designed to be as solid as more natural obstacles. Safety regulations mean that some obstacles are now being built with a "frangible pin system," allowing part or all of the jump to collapse if hit with enough impact. Speed is also a factor, with the rider required to cross the finish line within a certain time frame (optimum time). Crossing the finish line after the optimum time results in penalties for each second over. At lower levels, there is also a speed fault time, incurring penalties for horse and rider pairs completing the course too quickly. Penalties are also incurred if the horse refuses to jump an obstacle or disobeys the rider. Should the horses shoulder or hind-quarter touch the ground, or the rider fall off the horse, a mandatory retirement is taken, and they are not allowed to participate in the competition any further.The penalties for disobediences on cross country are weighted severely relative to the other phases of competition to emphasize the importance of courage, endurance and athleticism. Fitness is required as the time allowed will require a strong canter at the lower levels, all the way to a strong gallop at the higher events.

A combination is always considered one obstacle, and the various elements within the combination are lettered "A", "B", "C" and so on. In Cross-country, the rider need only retake the element they refused rather than the whole complex. So a refusal at element B does not require them to jump A again. However, they have the option of retaking the previous elements if they wish.

Equestrian Eventing - Phases (Dressage)

Eventing is an equestrian triathlon, in that it combines three different disciplines in one competition set out over one, two, or three days, depending on the length of courses and number of entries.

The dressage phase (held first) comprises an exact sequence of movements ridden in an enclosed arena (20x60m for International 3DE but usually 20x40 for ODE). The test is judged by one or more judges who are looking for balance, rhythm and suppleness and most importantly, obedience of the horse and its harmony with the rider. The challenge is to demonstrate that a supremely fit horse, capable of completing the cross country phase on time, also has the training to perform in a graceful, relaxed and precise manner. At the highest level of competition, the dressage test is roughly equivalent to the USDF Third Level, and may ask for half-pass at trot, shoulder-in, travers, collected, medium and extended gaits, single flying changes, and counter-canter. The tests may not ask for Grand Prix movements such as piaffe or passage. Each movement in the test is scored on a scale from 0 to 10, with a score of "10" being the highest possible mark and with the total maximum score for the test varying depending on the level of competition and the number of movements. 
  • Once the bell rings the rider is allowed 45 seconds to enter the ring or is eliminated.
  • If all four feet of the horse exit the arena during the test, this results in elimination.
  • If the horse resists more than 20 seconds during the test, this results in elimination.
  • Errors on course:
    • 1st Error = minus 2 marks
    • 2nd Error = minus 4 marks
    • 3rd Error = elimination

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Equestrian Eventing - Debut in Olympics

Eventing competition that resembles the current three-day were first held in 1902, at the Championnat du Cheval d'Armes in France, but were not introduced into the Olympic Games until 1912. Dressage originally demonstrated the horse's ability to perform on the parade ground, where elegance and obedience were key. Cross-country began as a test of stamina, courage, and bravery over difficult terrain, important for a charger on long marches or if the horse was asked to carry a dispatch across country. The stadium jumping phase sought to prove the horse's continuing soundness and fitness after the difficult cross-country day. The Olympic eventing competition was originally open only to male military officers in active duty, mounted only on military charges. In 1924, the event was open to male civilians, although non-commissioned Army officers could not participate in the Olympics until 1956. Women were first allowed to take part in 1964. equestrian sports are one of the few Olympic sports in which men and women compete against one another