It’s easy to be negative about eventing right now. The death of two horses, Frodo Baggins and The Quiet Man, at Rolex Kentucky (p.10) are just the most recent fuel for a firestorm of debate about the safety of the sport following the deaths of multiple horses and riders worldwide.
Eventing needs to become safer, and I have no doubt that change for the better will come out of these tragedies. Everyone in the sport—from grassroots eventers to top riders and industry leaders—is focused on finding creative solutions that will keep the spirit of the three-day intact, while protecting those who want to play. Every aspect of eventing is going to go under the microscope, including, but not limited to, course and jump design, rider education, more stringent qualifications and personal responsibility.
But what gets lost amidst the furor and frenzy to find the culprit for this carnage is all that’s good about eventing. Many people get caught up in the criticism swirling around the sport and forget the amazing things that make eventing unique from every other horse sport.
Yes, there’s a significant element of risk. But preparing to take on that risk with all the components in place is part of the challenge of eventing. It’s a really tough sport, and not because it’s dangerous. Putting together three solid phases at any given event is something that even the best riders struggle to do consistently. Athletes choose sports like triathlon because they want a challenge, not in spite of
Eventers don’t pat themselves on the back at the end of an event. There’s almost always something you could do better, and eventers thrive on that challenge. They’re not the kind of people who sit around basking in their own glory. Eventers are also the first ones to step up and help each other, whether that’s an Olympian giving stud advice to a novice or an advanced rider coming back to tell the competition down the aisle that the glare on the water made it a tougher ride than expected.
Event horses love to event too. The type of horse that thrives in eventing is a competitive one, one with ambition, heart and drive. You can’t make a horse jump around cross-country if he really doesn’t want to.
I’m not saying that we should ignore the deaths and accidents in the sport. But negative energy only creates negative results. You can view eventing as a cruel and awful sport because riders and horses have died. Or you can see the maelstrom of activity to make the sport safer and the focus on making these problems public as proof that eventing isn’t broken.
Just two days after Rolex Kentucky, U.S. Equestrian Federation President David O’Connor and U.S. Eventing Association President Kevin Baumgardner published a letter organizing a safety summit and proposing rule changes (p.43). This immediate reaction proves how determined eventers are to save the sport they love.
Nobody loves their horses more than eventers. It takes a real bond and trust between horse and rider to head out on cross-country. No eventer wants to put his or her horse in danger, and that’s why you can trust that eventers are already on the job to make the necessary changes so that this special sport can continue.
Sara Lieser, Editorial Staff