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Has your enjoyment of eventing been affected by horse/rider deaths?

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  • Has your enjoyment of eventing been affected by horse/rider deaths?

    Reading the Andrea Leatherman thread just broke my heart.

    I've been involved with eventing for 12 years now, competing at the lower levels and supporting the upper levels; however, less so since the change of formats.

    Let me preface this by saying that I know there are horse deaths in every sport and I also that horses can easily die just standing in the pasture.

    BUT...is anyone else getting to the point where they question their support of a sport where the number of horse and rider deaths (and severe injuries) has gotten to the point where we're relieved when an event completes without one?

    It just makes me ill to see this happening, and most of the time, these accidents happen to professional riders--riders at the top of their games at the highest levels (and despite all the safety measures now being taken).

    I never thought I'd say this but, for me, eventing just doesn't have the appeal it used to have. I still look forward to playing at the lower levels down the road, but am also enjoying other sports that do not present the same level of risk to horses and riders.

    A few years ago, if I'd seen a post like this, I would have vehemently defended eventing. But I just can't do it anymore. Am I the only one?

    And at what point is one death one too many?

  • #2
    (pardon one big paragraph--anyone else have problems with the "return" key on Windows 8 and CoTH?) It would be pretty callous for anyone to answer "no, of course not", I think. How people "handle" this sort of thing really varies. Mostly I pay attention to eventing, so it's easier to bring the memories of recent bad events to mind. But indeed they DO happen in other sports as well, and in all of life's pursuits. Risk acceptance is nothing you can say is located in one particular spot for even one individual, let alone a whole group. I see people die all the time, sadly, through no fault of their own in some cases and in other cases ENTIRELY through bad choices they've made. It's terrible, and tragic, especially when it's a young life. But this type of thing (risk) has never really made humans (as a group) unwilling to still pursue things they feel are valuable. I think it's how we're wired. So I myself am not ready to give it up, although (mainly through lack of time to prepare) I have no aspirations to compete at as high a level as possible.
    Click here before you buy.


    • #3
      The number of deaths, perhaps coupled with the fact that we hear about them so quickly and graphically, has certainly taken something away from my love of eventing. But a part of that is age--I'm and olde pharte--and the number of years I've been watching it. I've never been to Rolex--haven't been able to since they moved the date so close to final exam week--and now have little desire to go, but more because I hate big crowds than the fear of seeing a disaster. I'm guilty of doing an ostrich about many aspects of the horse business today because of the ugly things I'm just tired of having to consider--race injuries, big lick, hoarders, unregulated slaughter, starvation, disreputable rescues, ignorance, etc., and, yes, eventing tragedies.

      But, no, to answer your question, you are not alone here. Neither is eventing.
      "One person's cowboy is another person's blooming idiot" -- katarine

      Spay and neuter. Please.


      • #4
        Denny/Tamarack posted a Facebook status in the wake of Neveah's death yesterday regarding how the trappiness/technical nature of courses has markedly increased over the years, but the speed expectation has remained the same. His assertion seemed to be that if new format XC is going to ask more technical questions (gallop-slow-gallop-slow) then perhaps the galloping speed should be adjusted downward to account for it.

        I am a smurf with no aspirations beyond (maybe, one day) training, but it seemed like a logical enough line of thinking to me. Of course I'm troubled when horses die, and I do think that a heightened level of risk is probably assumed when comparing XC to other horse sports, but I do think we have an ongoing obligation to our horses to constantly examine the balance between keeping them as safe as possible and maintaining the integrity of a (fair) challenge.
        "With mirth and laughter, let old wrinkles come" (Shakespeare).


        • #5
          Originally posted by deltawave View Post
          (pardon one big paragraph--anyone else have problems with the "return" key on Windows 8 and CoTH?) It would be pretty callous for anyone to answer "no, of course not", I think. How people "handle" this sort of thing really varies. Mostly I pay attention to eventing, so it's easier to bring the memories of recent bad events to mind. But indeed they DO happen in other sports as well, and in all of life's pursuits. Risk acceptance is nothing you can say is located in one particular spot for even one individual, let alone a whole group. I see people die all the time, sadly, through no fault of their own in some cases and in other cases ENTIRELY through bad choices they've made. It's terrible, and tragic, especially when it's a young life. But this type of thing (risk) has never really made humans (as a group) unwilling to still pursue things they feel are valuable. I think it's how we're wired. So I myself am not ready to give it up, although (mainly through lack of time to prepare) I have no aspirations to compete at as high a level as possible.
          But the risk acceptance in non equine sports is just for the human being. Eventing implies that a risk is being assumed for the horse involved as well.
          Way too many posts saying the horse died doing what it loved. Really?
          Too much rationalizing too many deaths and injuries.

          And eventually if the courses are not changed to make an attempt at correcting some of the design issues somebody else will step in and make changes for you. And those changes won't be made by anybody who likes eventing.

          Flat racing and over fences racing have their own issues but right after those sports comes eventing. Hunters, Jumpers and Dressage do not have a constant deluge of deaths and Hunters and Jumpers have at least 10 times as many horses and riders competing.

          Looking at the 'Humble' controversy in H/J world COTH lit up like mad to condemn the individual involved. I can only imagine the controvery that a bunch of in competition deaths in H/J world would create.

          But the eventers seem to shrug their shoulders and just continue down the same path. That's a problem !!


          • #6
            You'll never hear ME saying a horse died doing what it loved. Unless it died eating.

            But yes, I did not include the horse in my reply. As much as I love horses and strive to keep them as well as I can, I do not weigh the vslue of a horse's life as highly as that of a human life. It's not to seem uncaring (and it will probably come off that way) but IMO there is no comparing the two in the same statement. If that is offensive I apologize in advance.

            Horses suffer at our hands in many ways even if our intentions are perfect and nobody has horses who has not exposed them to some risk somewhere. I reserve most of my compassion for the ones suffering from ither things besides being fit athletes with owners that look after them well and use them for sport. No horse sports, no horses. Is it not better to live and die than to never exist?
            Last edited by deltawave; Feb. 9, 2013, 12:06 PM.
            Click here before you buy.


            • #7
              I find it truly heart wrenching when a horse is lost in our sport. As does everyone else, I am sure.

              It makes me seriously question my pursuit at the upper levels with my heart horse. If something like this happened to Mick Dreamy, I think I would (literally) curl up and die.

              So I for one am questioning what I'm doing... very. much. so. This weekend is a time for reflection and riding bareback in the mountains and mourning for Andrea and her lovely mare and the profound tragedy. I so hope that she can heal her wounds and go back to being the amazing rider that she is...

              Grieving here in windy Virginia... and wondering if all this is worth it.


              • #8
                Honestly, yes. Watching a horse die right in front of me from a rotational fall a few years ago was one of the most awful things I have ever witnessed. I grew up on a farm where it was understood early that death was an eventual part of being around animals, but that did not remotely prepare me for how horrific that accident was.

                I do still event and show, but I have had many moments of doubt since then about whether I am doing the right thing for me and my horse. Though I have competed at the upper levels and for a long time had very strong aspirations to get back there again... I have realized in the past year that I'm pretty happy competing at a lower level where I feel like the risk is more manageable (though obviously yes, even at lower levels and dressage the risk is not gone entirely).


                • #9
                  I think people who event are risk takers. I have "missing" friends, and permanently injured friends. The missing I mourn, the injured I support. but it didn't stop me from competing, and enjoying my personal challenge.

                  It is only when the lightning strikes too close to home too often that some of us
                  sit back and take stock.

                  And, I agree with Denny, now that we have taken the heart out of the Endurance phase and made the courses show jumping technical, with out show jumping knock down capabilities, something has to give.
                  Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                  Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                  • #10
                    Yes, and quite directly.

                    I could say the same about hunting, as I've lost a horse out there as well.

                    My horses still do eventing if it suits them. I have one this year that has competed through Training last year with no issues whatsoever but, based on one single SJ schooling incident, JMP tells me that he's not sure her mind is quick enough to save herself if all goes wrong.

                    When he says that, I take it seriously. He knows what he's talking about. At the same time, I know that 99.99% of event riders would be planning to move her up to Prelim at this point and she's well capable physically, but this is a case of listening to the smallest signals and a voice of greater experience.

                    JMP says this mare will make a nice show hunter. Unlike my other horses, she has the jump and the style and the manners, so there's no reason not to embrace this idea when (for the only time ever), I have a suitable horse.

                    But that's risk assessment. One small doubt and there's no UL eventing in their future. I don't ever want to be on the wrong side of that decision.

                    I don't know what the fence looked like where Andrea's horse fell in Ocala but from the written descriptions of the fall, it was the kind of rotational fall that could have happened in show jumping as well as XC -- the horse left both front legs.

                    My own mare suffered a catastrophic hind pastern fracture while cantering between fences. She had no previous injury history whatsoever. It's hard to pin that one on eventing specifically, as that kind of overload can happen anywhere. All the same, I'll always be a little more apprehensive whenever my horses are out there on XC.


                    • #11
                      I'm curious about the age of the horse. I understand it was seven, and doing intermediate. So assuming they started jumping at four, that is only two years experience. Even a talented horse can be over-faced. Perhaps personal ambition trumps development of an upper level horse?


                      • #12
                        I lost a very good friend, Keith Taylor, when he died from a fall at Radnor in 1998. It changed my entire perspective. It was not my intention to stop eventing because of that, but as luck would have it, I last competed my mare in the fall of 1999. I decided to breed her, as she was 19, and had every intention of competing her filly. Unfortunately she dropped dead at 6 years old in 2007. It has been 14 years since I evented. As much as I miss it, because of the changes to the sport, I don't know how I could go back. I have been blessed with a young horse that I have currently trained to 3rd level dressage. He doesn't like to jump, so I haven't in at least 6 years...the last time I schooled my filly cross country. I was heartbroken to hear that another horse was lost and another rider hurt! I pray that Andrea heals quickly and that Neveah is at peace!
                        Mirror Image 2001-2007


                        • #13
                          You're not alone. I was never talented enough to go above training in my best years and I'm thankful. Being far from an UL rider and having an unbiased outside perspective, this sport has changed too much and not for the better. Anyone who tells you the risk is normal or remotely acceptable is full of crap. No, this was not always such a problem, and because of what its become I think twice about telling people I have anything to do with the sport. I hope they wake up and get real about making changes. Everyone can see the courses are way more technical than in the past, but riders keep showing up to ride them. Why!?!? Money. Pride. That's why. The well being of the animal, without whom they would be nothing, is not in the equation.


                          • #14
                            Of course.
                            In my teens I completed at prelim and had aspirations of going to Rolex. Then I had some time away from shows for college and grad school. Currently, I have a great horse who is totally capable of prelim maybe more... and I just don't think I have it in me to ask that of him (or me). I'm not a pro. I do this solely for my enjoyment. I've found that I really enjoy training level. Maybe I'll do some prelim CTs at some point... maybe. maybe not. I also find the same amount of enjoyment in riding the pony over BN/N fences.

                            On the other hand, I had a "heart" horse die in a field in FL, a former horse die at a HT (not from a fall) and I've seen a horse die doing Novice at Pony Club National Championships (not fall related)... horses are just tragic animals.
                            Yes, I ride a pony. No, he would not be ideal for your child. No, he is not a re-sale project...


                            • #15
                              I agree with Denny and his assertion that the upper level times are too fast for the courses that are being designed these days.

                              However (and that is a big however), seeing the falls and horses getting injured or dying, makes me wonder more about why that specific accident happened. In my mind (and especially with rotational falls), something had to go wrong for a horse not to pick its feet up and end up flipping over. No horse wants to fall down, and most will do anything they can to avoid it, so what went wrong for a horse to leave both it's legs hanging in order to flip over a fence and land on its head?

                              I can only think of a few answers to that. A) It was rider error, missed a distance and horse was too trusting. B) Horse was schooled too frequently over poles and was not experienced enough with large solid obstacles. In my mind, eventing, and especially XC, takes the sort of horse that has self preservation and is a bit independent. If a rider misses the horse shouldn't just follow blindly into a death trap. I would rather a stop every now and then when I mess up than my horse taking dangerous leaps in an attempt to clear large solid obstacles. I understand that everyone misses a distance at some point, but the horse shouldn't die because of that one missed distance. As far as B, a horse has no business running around an intermediate XC course if it has a history of taking down poles at that height and/or not respecting jumps.

                              That being said, I can't blame any one person or thing on horse deaths and I am definitely not letting it take away from my sport of choice. What happens happens, and I didn't see it so I can't make any definitive statement.
                              "I'm too sexy for my blanket, too sexy for my blanket, these mares-they should take it..." (J-Lu) - Featuring The Skypizzle Pony aka Classic Skyline


                              • #16
                                I agree that things like this really make you take a step back and reevaluate what you're doing but there a couple of things I want to mention:

                                - I 100% agree that some xc courses are getting too trappy and technical which is why I've been loving Derek DiGrazia's recent Rolex courses that result in runouts instead of horse or rider falls. That being said, this specific incident, was at a straightforward galloping fence from what I understand. It was mostly just a freak accident, and not directly related to course design.

                                - Would most horses rather be stuffing their faces in a green pasture than running xc? Absolutely. But this doesn't mean that they hate their job or don't have a blast out there. Most event horses truly look thrilled on xc. So would they freely choose it? No. But do they enjoy it? Sure. Maybe that doesn't take away from the guilt one feels after a horse is injured because they were doing something you asked them to do, but its not as if the horse is miserable running xc.

                                I am terribly sorry for Andrea and her loss. I can't imagine what that must feel like. As far as continuing in the sport, I think that if we are doing it for the right reasons, make sure to put our horses first all the time, and assure that we are adequately prepared for the level that we are competing at than we are doing all we can.


                                • #17
                                  *** my post has nothing to do w/ Andrea, her lovely mare who she lost, or Andrea's program, I have a lot of respect for Andrea as a trainer and rider***

                                  The falls and the deaths don't turn me off from eventing, but they do make me a lot more cautious. I whole heartedly agree with JER, and her comments about really reading a horse, and listening to it and being honest about its ability.

                                  I think that rotational falls, the risk thereof, can be signifcantlly lessed through course design, choosing an approriate horse, being able to ride that horse and proper training of the young horse.

                                  By choosing a horse, I mean awesome jumping horses that don't back off the jumps do NOT make good UL event horses anymore. This is part of our job as riders and horse trainers to choose a horse suited for the job. I personally know someone very well who had such a horse, flipped over a fence and was very seriously injured. That horse is now an UL show jumper. The horses have to have a good enough brain that they remain rideable even when they have their game on.

                                  Also, I think this is where the young horse trainer is very important. I do a lot of young horses, and I endevor to teach each and every one of them how to get their front ends out of the way w/o help from the rider. The horse must back off the jump, the horse must get its front end (legs and shoulders) up on its own. Some horses don't need much help in this department, some need more. This is a critical part of the "5th leg" in my mind. Horse must be able to get itself out of bad jumps.
                                  Unrepentant carb eater


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by horsehand View Post
                                    I'm curious about the age of the horse. I understand it was seven, and doing intermediate. So assuming they started jumping at four, that is only two years experience. Even a talented horse can be over-faced. Perhaps personal ambition trumps development of an upper level horse?
                                    It's hard to say. Most good horsemen move their horses up the levels at a rate comfortable to that particular horse; for some it happens quickly, for others more slowly. USEF rules allow horses to compete at Intermediate level at age 6. It is up to the individual rider when they feel comfortable moving the horse up, within the rules. I'm sure Andrea will be second-guessing herself about the accident for quite some time; I don't think it's fair to start a pile on assuming that "personal ambition" outweighed her love for her horse.

                                    I don't see any reason to question Andrea's judgment and horsemanship; accidents can happen to anyone. Instead, perhaps we should take note that her former horse, Mensa, was developed well enough that Carl Bouckaert acquired it before the Olympics and Michael Pollard earned a 17.6 with it yesterday?

                                    Going back to the original question: yes, the accidents to make you stop and reflect for a moment. But personally, it doesn't turn me away from the sport. I think today's instantaneous relay of information makes the accidents seem worse, and more common, than was previously known. EN had the story up at 1pm yesterday, and by evening it had been shared 600+ times on facebook. Ten years ago, it would have taken a week to spread that far. The story, and people's reactions to it, are more publicized than ever. I don't think the sport is really much better or worse than it was 10 years ago; we just hear about it a lot more with social media. Yes, strides have been made in safety...but you cannot prevent all accidents, and such accidents are more easily blown up into a frenzy.
                                    “A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.”
                                    ? Albert Einstein



                                    • #19
                                      I'd be interested to know how many accidents happen at tables. It would be hard for a horse to get himself out of trouble at one. They are big, square, and look OK not to run out. But its real difficult for them to twist over one to get out of trouble once they've left the ground, or slide over one either.


                                      • #20
                                        SLR, I was thinking the same thing. What if we looked at the statistics of falls at big, square tables? I am VERY well aware that bad falls can happen anywhere, but it always seems like the rotationals that are NOT associated with combinations or drops or banks are at big, upright, table-type fences.

                                        I'd not lament them being changed to loose brush that LOOKS square, or some other type of fence where a mistake is less likely to flip a horse.

                                        By now there must be some sort of database as to which fences are least safe, no?
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