FEI Eventing Risk Management Steering Group meets in Lausanne

David O'Connor (Image: FEI)
David O’Connor (Image: FEI)

The FEI Eventing Risk Management Steering Group held its first meeting at FEI headquarters in Lausanne (SUI) this week. Chaired by David O’Connor (USA), the group has been set up to look at ways to minimise risks in eventing and coordinate this on a global basis.

The Steering Group brings together an extensive breadth of experience and expertise:

  • David O’Connor (Chair), former FEI Bureau Member and Olympic Eventing champion in Sydney 2000
  • Mike Etherington-Smith (GBR), international cross-country course designer and equestrian consultant
  • Daisy Berkeley (GBR), FEI Eventing athlete representative and international athlete
  • Rob Stevenson (CAN), former international Olympic athlete, cardiologist and Canadian National Safety Officer
  • Geoff Sinclair (AUS), FEI Eventing Technical Delegate and former President of the Australian Equestrian Federation
  • Staffan Lidbeck (SWE), FEI Veterinarian and Swedish Eventing team coach
  • Laurent Bousquet* (FRA), international Eventing athlete and coach of the Japanese equestrian team
  • Philine Ganders* (GER), FEI Level 3 Eventing Steward and member of the German National Federation

The meeting established a framework for the group’s work, which includes investigating new ways to reduce horse falls and the number of serious injuries to riders and horses, using research from around the world. Other key areas are the evaluation of statistical analysis, including rider qualifications and performance history, and a review of fence design. Safety equipment, education of riders and officials, and the roles and responsibilities of officials will also be reviewed.

 The group will ensure worldwide communication and sharing of information, with the FEI as the point of contact for research ideas. It will build on extensive work already done by the FEI Eventing Committee, National Federations and external parties, and will produce a list of recommendations to the FEI Eventing Committee by the end of February 2017. A presentation of the findings will also be made at the FEI Sports Forum in April next year.

 A risk management summit will be held in February 2017, building on the annual meeting of National Safety Officers (NSOs), to also include riders, coaches, course designers and technical delegates.

 “The meeting was a great starting point for the group,” David O’Connor said. “There are a tremendous number of questions to be asked and we are all very serious about trying to find answers to those questions. 

 “We all love this sport and acknowledge that it carries inherent risks, but we owe it to everyone in the eventing community to do everything we can to make it as safe as possible for our athletes and for our horses.”

 FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez said: “This marks an important point in the acceleration of our efforts on safety. The sport has suffered such terrible losses this year and these affect us all very deeply. The wide-ranging expertise of the members of this group will play a crucial part in our ongoing work to make the sport as safe as possible.”

The FEI has conducted and continues to conduct in-depth research into ways to reduce the level of risk in the sport, with risk management audits, data collection and evaluation completed on an annual basis, plus the appointment of NSOs in all countries where eventing competitions are held, education and training, course design and cross-country guidelines.

The FEI is committed to ensure that, at each level, responsible riders are participating with progressively trained horses in order not to be exposed to a higher risk than that which is strictly inherent to the nature of the competition.

 Full details can be found on the FEI website: http://fei.org/fei/disc/eventing/risk-management 

Some of the information we found interesting in the FEI reports included:

  • The total number of competitions keeps growing with a 85% increase from 2005 to 2015.
  • Total number of starters keeps growing with a 62% increase from 2005 to 2015. The average number of starters per competition is 30.
  • Starters at one-star level represent nearly 50% of the total number in FEI competitions and together with the two-star level make up 80% of the total number.
  • For 2015, the overall percentage of falls (5.60%) has slightly increased compared to 2014 (5.59%), and is slightly higher than the 2009-2013 average of 5.37%
  • The average for the period is of 3.92 unseated riders for every 100 starters (1 unseated rider every 25 starters) and 1.68 horse falls for every 100 starters (1 horse fall every 60 starters).
  • The distribution of falls per competition format shows an established trend with a higher percentage of falls in CCIs (6.74%) with an average for the period of 4.93% for CICs.
  • The percentage of rotational horse falls (higher risk of injuries for horse and rider) has decreased from 0.45 fall every 100 starters (1 rotational horse fall every 224 starters) in 2005 to 0.19 rotational horse fall every 100 starters (1 rotational horse fall every 536 starters) in 2015.
  • 4.99% falls with no injury every 100 starters (1 fall with no injury every 20 starters), 0.41% falls with slight injury every 100 starters (1 fall with slight injury every 245 starters), 0.19% falls with serious injury every 100 starters (1 fall with serious injury every 520 starters) and a 0.0058% fatal falls every 100 starters (1 fatal fall every 17,317 starters).
  • Relating the risk of an injury to the number of fences jumped, the average of the period 2005-2015 shows a risk of a serious injury every 16,121 fences jumped.

 2000 Hartington report here

 2016: An Audit into Eventing Incorporating an Analysis of Risk Factors for Cross Country Horse Falls at FEI Eventing Competitions Charles Barnett here

 * Laurent Bousquet and Philine Ganders did not attend the first meeting, but will be part of the steering group.