Safety for Horses and Riders in Eventing

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10th September 2008

Safety for Horses and Riders in Eventing - The SHARE Database
by Denzil O'Brien and Dr Raymond Cripps
March 2008
Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation Publication No 08/027

Background
During 1999 and 2000, a marked increase in the number of rider deaths associated with the sport of eventing both in Australia and overseas focused attention on rider safety. There had not previously been any collection of data on the health, social or financial costs of horse-related injuries. If the equestrian community is to develop policies for prevention and management of these injuries and their associated costs, accurate data is needed on which to base such policy development, and any strategic directions for equestrian associations and interested medical/health bodies.

In 2002, a national surveillance monitoring program was established, in collaboration with the Equestrian Federation of Australia (EFA), based on the success of a trial conducted in 2001 in New South Wales and South Australia (Cripps & Pagano 2002). Funded by the Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation and the EFA, this monitoring program was conducted until the end of the eventing season of 2006, providing a full five years of data.

Who is the report targeted at
The report is directed at the policy-makers in equestrian sport. Until this project began, the EFA collected no information on the sport of eventing. There was no central database of competitions, starters, results, falls or injuries. Our findings should provide a useful source of information when policy-makers look at future rule changes, as they will provide comprehensive data about risks of horse and rider falls, as well as correlations between jump types and the risk of falls.

In addition, the report is targeted at other National Federations in the hope that SHARE might prove useful to them in setting up or refining their own data collection systems, in order to fulfil their reporting requirements to the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI).

Aims/Objectives

1. To continue national data collection and analysis, to provide a full five year surveillance of falls and injuries to riders and horses.

2. To develop reporting tools for the EFA and other National Federations (NFs), to allow them to fulfil their international reporting obligations to the FEI.

3. To collect data from New Zealand to allow comparison with Australian and FEI data.


Methods used
This report analyses data collected over this five year period on falls of riders and horses in the crosscountry phase of the sport of eventing, and injuries incurred as a result of these falls. Data was collected from all EFA and FEI affiliated events throughout Australia utilising a Fall Report Form (FRF). Officials’ reports from events were sent to us and, together with official results from the internet, were used to crosscheck falls data, to confirm rider and horse identification, and to identify the number of starters at each level of competition at each event. Event and fall information were processed, and entered into a secure database (SHARE). To complete the data collection process, a follow-up questionnaire was sent to each rider who fell. Data contained in the data collection and analysis system, SHARE, was analysed quantitatively to produce tabulations and figures used in this report.

It demonstrates that it is possible to estimate the rate of rider and horse falls within the context of a sport which attracts nearly 12,000 individual starters each year, and it outlines a method for estimating risk of falls and injuries. It is the first time for this sport that such data has been collected in Australia, and it is the first study to estimate risk against a more complex set of parameters than simply the number of starters in an event. These parameters include the level of the competition, the type of jump involved, whether the horse also fell, and whether this was a rotational fall, whether the fall occurred at a jump or between jumps, whether the rider or the horse was injured, and the effect of the riders’ injuries on their daily lives.

Key findings
The report demonstrates that the system is capable of translation to other National Federations (NFs) for use in collecting and analysing falls and injury data, offering the possibility of a consistent body of data for international comparisons, as well as a sturdy platform for national analysis.

The research which led to the development of this specific data collection and analysis system, SHARE, is important for a number of reasons; not least being that it provides a method for analysing the rates and risk of injury to riders and horses in the sport of eventing alone. The range of horse-related activities which can result in injury is legion, and analysis of injuries resulting from such a range of activities, through hospital or mortality data for example, cannot provide an accurate assessment of the risks associated with eventing alone.

Implications for relevant stakeholders for:
While there have been many studies on the nature and incidence of horse-related injury, many of them focussing on injuries in children (Barone & Rodgers 1989; Bixby- Hammett 1992; Giebel et al 1993), few previous studies have concentrated on eventing alone (Paix 1999; Whitlock 1999; Murray et al 2006). While the risks of catastrophic and even fatal outcomes for riders and horses in eventing cannot be denied, we have been able to demonstrate that in general the injury rate to riders and horses is substantially lower than previously claimed (Paix 1999), and this is important for those who make policy decisions for the sport.

In 2006, RIRDC provided further funding for a one-year trial of the data collection and analysis system, known as SHARE (Safety for Horses And Riders in Eventing) in two other NFs, New Zealand and India.

The former is a well-credentialled country in the sport, with success at World Championships and Olympic Games. The latter on the other hand has barely begun to conduct the sport, and has no current capacity to collect information on falls and injuries. Unfortunately neither NF was able to participate in the trial-New Zealand because the NF lacked the resources to implement and manage the system, and India because they had too few events to justify their participation. Nonetheless this report demonstrates that SHARE is capable of generating comparisons of Australian data with data sourced from other NFs and from the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), the peak international body for equestrian sport.

Recommendations
We do not believe that we are in a position to make formal recommendations to the governing bodies for equestrian sport, but nonetheless we urge the EFA to consider doing the following:

  • Ensure full compliance in reporting on all safety aspects of the sport. This will bring the EFA into line with the FEI’s current practices, and enhance the Federation’s risk assessment and risk minimisation capacities.
  • Adopt a data collection and analysis system such as SHARE. Used in conjunction with the EFA’s existing results database, this will provide the Federation with the capacity to identify, measure and control the risks associated with the sport.
  • Adopt a revised scoring system and require its use by all event organisers. This will provide the EFA with complete information about all falls of riders and horses, particularly rotational horse falls, which have been the cause of 18 rider deaths in the sport in 10 years.
  • Use the data collected as the basis of regular reports on rates of falls and injuries, and provide these to members, organisers, officials, sponsors and funding agencies, in line with FEI reporting standards.
  • In light of general agreement that reducing the number of horses falling is the single factor most likely to reduce the number of injuries to riders and horses, the EFA should review the current rules which permit a horse continuing in competition after falling if its fall is not related to a jump.


British Eventing has recently introduced a rule requiring elimination for all horse falls, including those ‘on the flat’.

The full report can be found at www.rirdc.gov.au/fullreports/index.html
or purchased at www.rirdc.gov.au/eshop