Falls in Horse Trials and Three Day Eventing

Horse health management - fallsThe recent increase in the number of rider deaths and horse falls during the cross country phase of horse trials and three day events has lead to rider safety becoming a high profile issue.

A recent retrospective study attempted to address this problem using an epidemiological approach. A number of risk factors were identified that will enable high risk jumps, riders and courses to be identified and assist in the development of safer events (E.R. Singer, F. Saxby and N.P. French, “A Retrospective Case Control Study of Horse Falls in the Sport of Horse Trials and Three Day Eventing, Equine Veterinary Journal 2003 35 (2), p. 139-145)

The highest risk factors for horse and rider falls identified were:

  • Fences sited downhill – the contributing factor being the ability of the horse to adjust the stride length when travelling up or down hill.
  • Fences with a ditch in front – contributed to by the reluctance or apprehension of the rider and/or horse to jump the obstacle.
  • The risk of falling also increased as the total number of jumps on the course increased, and for obstacles jumped later in the course. Both of these factors were attributed to horse and rider fatigue.
  • The risk of falling was 20 times greater for amateur riders compared to professional riders. This increased risk can be attributed to amateur riders having less experience, and riding less hours per week. This also indicates that rider experience is an important contributor to the risk of falling.

Factors for potentially reducing the risk of falls were also identified which included increasing the total number of combination fences over the course. This was attributed to the need to slow and re-balance the horse upon approaching a combination fence.