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  1. #1
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    Default Letter from USEF President David O'Connor and USEA President Kevin Baumgardner

    29 April 2008

    Dear Members of the Equestrian Community,

    This past weekend at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day, Laine Ashker suffered a serious fall during the cross-country stage of the competition. She is currently in critical condition at the University of Kentucky hospital in Lexington. Laine's horse and another involved in a separate accident had to be euthanized.

    These accidents come just a month after Darren Chiacchia, an Olympic rider, had a serious fall at an event in Tallahassee, Florida. They also come in the wake of a recent article in the New York Times about 15 rider fatalities in cross country that have occurred worldwide over the last two years.

    These accidents have hit us hard in the sport of eventing - we are all riders who care deeply about the horses, their welfare and the image of the sport. For us, the issue is also a personal one.

    This spate of accidents has raised important and potentially troubling questions for those of us who govern the sport: Why are so many riders and horses having accidents? Is there more that can be done to make cross country safer? Is the sport just too dangerous?

    There is no question that eventing is a demanding and yes, risky sport. Riders cross undulating terrain at high speed and jump a series of challenging fences - all while atop a 1,000 pound horse. So there is a constant need for us to ensure that every precaution is being taken to reduce the risk of injury to riders and horses.

    Although we have implemented several measures to improve safety over the last year, clearly more needs to be done. In the coming days and weeks, we will be redoubling our efforts to identify additional steps we can take to make sure that riders and horses can compete as safely as possible. We would like to ask your help in this effort - whether you're a rider, trainer, coach, veterinarian, or simply a horse enthusiast.

    We invite each and every one of you to the USEF/USEA Safety Summit to be held in Lexington, KY June 7-8. We will break the issue of safety down and examine the causes and potential solutions with some of the best minds in the game. In the meantime, if you have immediate thoughts about how we can improve the safety of cross country, please email them to us at:

    safetythoughts@usef.org and/or safety@useventing.com.

    Over the last few days, we have received emails from people who were at the Rolex event over the weekend and were disturbed by what they saw. They are asking hard questions of us and questioning whether they should continue to support the sport of eventing. To them and to you, we want to say that we too are disturbed by what we see. No matter how much we tell ourselves that injury is a part of our sport, it is always traumatizing to see a horse fall.

    Therefore, we are working closely with FEI to do whatever we can to better protect riders and horses and to repair the public image of our sport. We are proposing today that within the U.S. the following five initiatives be put into effect:
    1. If a horse has a rotational fall, horse and rider are suspended from competing for three or six months
    2. If a horse has a rotational fall, horse and rider lose their qualification at the level at which they are competing.
    3. If a rider falls off on the course they are eliminated.
    4. Open oxers on courses at every level are made frangible.
    5. If a horse falls related to a jump both horse and rider are suspended from competing for one month.
    We don't have all the answers, we are deeply concerned about what is going on in the sport of eventing and we need your help.

    Sincerely,

    David O'Connor, USEF President
    Kevin Baumgardner, USEA President
    Volunteer Coordinator, Equiventures, LLC
    and the Sunshine State, Little Everglades,
    & Live Oak Combined Driving Events
    tincupeventing@gmail.com



  2. #2
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    It's a good start.

    SCFarm
    The above post is an opinion, just an opinion. If it were a real live fact it would include supporting links to websites full of people who already agreed with me.

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  3. #3
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    truly - suspensions might save lives
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  4. #4
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    Kudos to them and to all eventers for being smart and pro-active on this.

    I'm so sorry it's required at all, but as a PR person I'm very glad to see some intelligent moves from the top.



  5. #5
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    Yeah, I applaud it, for sure...but who decides if it was a rotational fall and how will that prevent more? Riders don't know that their decisionmaking (or whatever) will result in that kind of fall--or any fall at all--so kinda "punishing" them (I don't know if that's really the intent though--I'm not sure what the goal of suspending them is, alas) isn't going to prevent such falls from happening, is it?
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  6. #6
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    Like LLDM said, it's a start.

    However, I need some clarification on point #1. Does it mean the rider is suspended from ALL his/her rides or just from that horse? Is the horse suspended from competing with ALL riders? If the rider is struck off all mounts and the horse is banned from all competition, I think it's a much better rule than if the rider/horse is still allowed to compete in other combinations.

    Same goes for #5 -- does it mean the rider is banned from all competition on all horses? Does this include falls in showjumping as well as XC?



  7. #7
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    It is a good start.

    I think though that once the horse and rider have a rotational fall, it is already too late in many cases.

    I think a subjective element to XC riding might be added to certain UL HTs - and if you fail to score adquately, your score is non-qualifying. This would eliminate those rounds where people "get around" from qualifying them for the three days that they are usually using them to get to.

    We already have the subjective element in the dressage, and it can make a double clear round, finishing on the dressage score, non-qualifying. Why not use subjectivity to get to the crux of the matter - the xc riding.



  8. #8
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    Email your thoughts to them.
    Volunteer Coordinator, Equiventures, LLC
    and the Sunshine State, Little Everglades,
    & Live Oak Combined Driving Events
    tincupeventing@gmail.com



  9. #9
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    Good start, and I'm glad this is being taken seriously. But would any of those initiatives have saved the horses' lives this weekend?

    The only thing I've heard that would have likely made a difference is Denny's radical statement about getting rid of xc fences with vertical faces.



  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by pwynnnorman View Post
    Yeah, I applaud it, for sure...but who decides if it was a rotational fall and how will that prevent more? Riders don't know that their decisionmaking (or whatever) will result in that kind of fall--or any fall at all--so kinda "punishing" them (I don't know if that's really the intent though--I'm not sure what the goal of suspending them is, alas) isn't going to prevent such falls from happening, is it?
    Rotational falls follow a very very distinct pattern. The horse hits the jump between the point of shoulder and forearm on one side. The horse slides up across the jump on that one shoulder, and his body is pivoted over that shoulder (it's not always a spectacular somersault like frodo; usually it's a semi-lateral flop). If the jump breaks away like in SJ, he is able to put his front feet down to save himself. If not, he continues his rotation and lands on his chest or the fore shoulder. Rider may or may not be thrown out of the way.

    As to the other questions in your post, I can't answer those.



  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by pwynnnorman View Post
    Yeah, I applaud it, for sure...but who decides if it was a rotational fall and how will that prevent more? Riders don't know that their decisionmaking (or whatever) will result in that kind of fall--or any fall at all--so kinda "punishing" them (I don't know if that's really the intent though--I'm not sure what the goal of suspending them is, alas) isn't going to prevent such falls from happening, is it?
    I would assume the Jump Judge would be required to describe the fall. It is their job to be watching closely. I would guess that the TD or the PGJ would decide if it was a rotational fall based on the description and interviewing the JJ.

    Yes, it should be punitive. The idea would be to ensure that a rider is really, really sure that they are capable of taking this horse, at this moment in time, safely around the course. And to give them a really, really good reason to withdraw or retire if their round starts to go south.

    It probably shouldn't be necessary. But right now it is.

    SCFarm
    The above post is an opinion, just an opinion. If it were a real live fact it would include supporting links to websites full of people who already agreed with me.

    www.southern-cross-farm.com



  12. #12
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    Yes, but suspending a rider/horse for a rotational fall doesn't keep the horse that fell alive.
    So how would this work? ... Frodo is suspended now?

    - I think that training and qualifications are seriously important - but they are personal responsibilities and should not be legislated because .... as keeps getting pointed out these were not rookies riding out of control. They were experienced horse people who made a mistake.

    We have to demand an environment where the answer to a mistake is not death. Fences that break fall down are not going to encourage bad riding - RAyers point is perfect - does having a airbag make you play chicken with a truck? - But it may keep you alive if you don't see the truck coming.
    Our x-cntry jumps need to be built to a standard that is challenging, allows for speed and bravery and takes in terrain, but doesn't kill when an error is make.



  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by DizzyMagic View Post
    Good start, and I'm glad this is being taken seriously. But would any of those initiatives have saved the horses' lives this weekend?

    The only thing I've heard that would have likely made a difference is Denny's radical statement about getting rid of xc fences with vertical faces.
    # 4 might have.
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  14. #14
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    Clarification on the points needed....

    for the rotational does that mean that horse and rider (no matter what horse) are suspended. That could be problematic for the pro's if a baby hangs a leg somewhere and flips. Can they not show anything for that time?

    for the fall of horse related to the jump, does that mean that some of the horses that submarine in the water on landing are included? Or that the time my darling horse tripped directly after a fence and fell would count? Or like my 2 star in the mud we slipped going up the bank and bellied at the top?

    I could think without a lot of clarification these could get hairy. How would they know if it was a full rotational or just a fall? Just off what the jump judge says? Or will there be video? Trust me I love fence judges and know that we can't do this without them, but most have 0 horse experience and wouldn't know what was what anyways.

    Seems like a good jumping off point but a nightmare to put into effect and police properly.



  15. #15
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    You mean 'if they survive' a rotational fall? Then they have to sit in the corner?

    Is it more like you are thinking that a penalty will make them reduce the chance of such a fall, like anyone would plan for one?
    The truth is what you can get other people to believe.

    -- Tommy Smothers



  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by LLDM View Post
    The idea would be to ensure that a rider is really, really sure that they are capable of taking this horse, at this moment in time, safely around the course. And to give them a really, really good reason to withdraw or retire if their round starts to go south.SCFarm
    Definitely a laudable idea. I just don't see how it would work. Seems to run counter to the prevailing attitude of eventers such that many might simply not make the connection.

    "Wildarse is a difficult ride, but I'm sure I can get him around the course anyway!"

    How many riders will stop thinking that way and instead conclude that "Wildarse is a difficult horse, so I better not compete him today"?
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by pony grandma View Post
    You mean 'if they survive' a rotational fall? Then they have to sit in the corner?

    Is it more like you are thinking that a penalty will make them reduce the chance of such a fall, like anyone would plan for one?
    Yes, the idea (I'm guessing) is to put the "Fear of God" back into the ULRs, heck into everyone. It's called "Personal Responsibilty with Teeth".

    If your life or your horse's life isn't enough of an incentive, how about the loss of your liveyihood? Or your ability to to chase points?

    If this is what it takes, I am all for it.

    SCFarm
    The above post is an opinion, just an opinion. If it were a real live fact it would include supporting links to websites full of people who already agreed with me.

    www.southern-cross-farm.com



  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by pwynnnorman View Post
    Definitely a laudable idea. I just don't see how it would work. Seems to run counter to the prevailing attitude of eventers such that many might simply not make the connection.

    "Wildarse is a difficult ride, but I'm sure I can get him around the course anyway!"

    How many riders will stop thinking that way and instead conclude that "Wildarse is a difficult horse, so I better not compete him today"?
    Then they will get some vacation time to mull it over. It's a start.

    Heck, pwynn, we aren't allowed to shoot them...

    SCFarm
    The above post is an opinion, just an opinion. If it were a real live fact it would include supporting links to websites full of people who already agreed with me.

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  19. #19
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    Well, OK. I'll admit that shooting riders is certainly an effective way to reduce the number of errors they make.
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  20. #20
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    Is anyone from here thinking of going?

    I'd like to see scientists like Reed and IFG and others with safety experience (albeit not eventing related) and design engineers there for their perspectives on things.

    Could the CoTH board raise funds to send representatives?
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