Following Will Coleman and Cool Connection’s accident where a cross-country flag impaled the horse at the Jersey Fresh International (N.J.), the U.S. Equestrian Federation has issued an extraordinary rule change proposal regarding safety flags. The proposal was approved by the USEF Eventing Technical Committee and will be presented on June 18 to the USEF Executive Committee for adoption. If passed the rule would go into effect Aug. 1 with the full support of the U.S. Eventing Association.
Malcolm Hook, chairman of the USEF Eventing Committee, saw a video of the accident and was moved to make a change. “It’s unbelievable,” he said. “When I saw it, I said ‘Something’s got to happen.’ ”
After talking with USEF President David O’Connor, Hook decided to model a new rule after one in England, where a similar incident in 2007 resulted in a horse death at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials.
“It was a no-brainer,” said Hook. One of the major changes will be that the bottom of flagpoles will have to be tethered so they can’t pop up. Flagpoles on fences less than 3 meters jumpable width must now be made of a material that cannot shatter, break or splinter, such as carbon fiber.
The rule proposed is as follows.
4. Safety Flags
i. The types of fence required to use safety flags include:
a. Corners;b. Fences of less than 3m ( 9'8");
c. Related fences which because of their design offer a jumpable line of less than 3m (9'8") width;
d. Fences designed to be jumped on an angle where knocking a flag is a possibility;
ii. The flags and poles on these fences must meet the following criteria;a. The flag poles must be made of a material that cannot shatter, break or splinter, such as suitable plastic or carbon fiber or any other appropriate materials;
b. There must be no points anywhere on the flag poles and any sharp corners and/or edges on the flags must be rounded;c. Flags must be secured in such a way that they 'break away' and/or move away from the fence if/when struck by either horse or rider in such a way that the chance of horse and/or rider being injured is significantly reduced.
d. All flags and flagpoles to be used in these situations will need to be approved by the Technical Delegate.