Laine Ashker and Frodo Baggins fall at Rolex - A rider injury and a horse death

The following are news releases from Rolex. I am not an eventer and don't want to judge, but I would love to hear eventers' input about this common pattern. Would one solution be for fences to be able to come down, if hit hard enough? Thanks.

Saturday, April 26, 2008
Press Statement #1

Competitor number 55, Laine Ashker and her horse Frodo Baggins, fell at fence 5 at the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event.

Laine sustained injuries but was concious, talking and able to move all extremities. She was transported to the University of Kentucky Hospital. She is currently under the care of the Emergency and Trauma Services staff.

Frodo Baggins also sustained injuries and was stabilized and transported to Hagyard Equine Medical Institute.

We look forward to an update on the progress of both horse and rider.

Martin Plewa
President of the Ground Jury

Saturday, April 26, 2008
Press Statement #2

Frodo Baggins and Laine Ashker fell at fence 5. Ashker sustained injuries but was conscious, talking and able to move all extremities when she was transported to the University of Kentucky Hospital. She is currently under the care of the emergency and trauma services staff.

Frodo Baggins was immediately attended by a team of veterinarians. He was given intravenous fluids and supportive medications for shock and pain. After he was stabilized, he was sedated and transported by horse ambulance to nearby Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, where he was immediately attended by emergency personnel.

Further tests showed that Frodo Baggins had sustained a fracture at the base of his skull, as well as severe lung injury. As the prognosis was very poor, a representative of the family concurred that euthanasia was the most humane option for the horse. A complete necropsy examination will be performed. Everyone at the event is saddened by the loss of this brave horse.

Equestrian Events, Inc.

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What about something like shortening the courses, or having fewer fences, so the horses aren't jumping exhausted. Does that make sense? I'm not an eventer, so I don't know the rules. What about using the pins that allow the jump to fall down? Would that not reduce the number of rotational falls? p.s. I read that NYT article. With all that is going on in the world, that was front page news, so obviously the non-horsey world is paying attention.
As a horse lover, not eventer, I would never willingly push my horse into such dangerous situations. No prize would be worthy enough to risk his life. I think that every possible precaution should be taken to make competitions safer. In my opinion, riders should not enter competitions, if such safety is not guaranteed.
i know aye, i love to ride crosscountry and jump but if this many deaths are happenening even with top riders something big should be changed i always cringe when i watch the tv when eventing is on.
but its the feeling of u and your horse jumping together is why people push their horses but i guess there are people who do it just for the money and trophy.
Combined training involves a variety of skills. Dressage the first day, The endurance phase the second day with the steeplechases and roads and tracks and finally the cross country course. The final day is to weed out horses who are to stiff to be able jump a course. The entire sport is based on endurance and agility. If you shorten the course of lower the fences then you are not at the top level. Eventing is based on real life skills horse and rider had in the military. Dresage for drill. Cross Country for crossing battle field and jumping for obtacles.
Hi Gary,
This is such a difficult a low level amateur eventer I am having trouble coming to grips with the many accidents that have been happening. I was at Rolex this weekend and was there while they worked on Frodo behind the tarps for well over an hour. We all knew it was not going to be good. The fall happened at the flower box which was a new jump on course last year(I believe). It had been moved to a different place on course for this event. It is not a jump that can 'come down'. There are a number of jumps that use the frangible pins that allow a log to come down however there are many jumps this doesn't apply to. The horses I did see over that jump had no problems. I guess the bottom line is horses and riders are jumping jumps that are solid and unforgiving and that's eventing. After walking the course with my friend we both thought it was an inviting forward galloping course which is opposite to the course at Redhills( where Darren Chiacchia was seriously injured. I have never been there) which is very technical with not alot of 'galloping' jumps. There was also another horse The Quiet Man who was euthanized on Sunday after falling in the middle of a fence on Saturday called The Footbridge which had caused a few problems on course. I will say the day started beautifully with our top level riders having great runs and finishing within in the time allowed which was 11 minutes. After the break things just seemed to fall apart. Too more experienced top level riders suffered injuries after falls off their horses. Both horses were ok. One rider was able to show jump on Sunday and one had to withdraw. The good news is Laine(Frodo's rider/owner) has no spinal or brain injury not to make lite of the injuries she has to battle back from. Sarah(TheQuiet Man) hurt her shoulder from what I understand. In speaking with one of our top level well respected rider/Level 4 eventing coach, some thoughts are there is such a competiveness to win and move up levels, horses and riders end up competing at levels they are ill prepared for. Even a great horse can't go it alone and there are some great horses at top level. Unfortunately they don't have a voice and it makes me very sad when they lose their life. Please don't think I am trivalizing rider deaths. That is beyond acceptance. What is the answer? I don't know. What I do know is as long as there are solid jumps the risk of serious consequences is there. It is an extreme sport and there are many extreme sports outside the equestrian forum and I realize not many involve animals. Sometimes I don't think I want to jump anymore...sometimes I feel like a hypocrite watching these top level events but these horse and rider combinations are amazing to watch and make it all look so deceivingly easy. I am afraid Eventing is going to be a bad word in the Equestrian world. I just feel sad.
Hi Fiona,
I was checking back on Laine Ashker's site to see how she was doing and I somehow ended up on this forum. I was at this years Rolex but was no where near jump 5 where Froto's accident happened. I dont want to drag up a tragic memory, but I have heard so many different stories about what happened to Froto that I was wondering if you could fill me in....I heard he never left he ground and just breasted the jump and then I heard he hit his front legs??? Not that it makes a difference, I would just like to know from someone that saw what happened. In regards to your post....some of those crosscountry fences are so heavy that if they could "come down" if hit hard, thy may cause more damage to the animal and rider then just falling over it. i dont think it would be like getting tangled up in a stadium rail....those logs and such could crush someone from their weight. I just think that the powers that control eventing have to make absolutely certain of a horse and riders capabilities before they can compete at the top levels......even then, accidents happen...look at Superman (Christopher Reeves)...that wasnt a very large fence at all and his fall was catashropic. i feel like they should lower the course and add a different element to test the horses...maybe put Roads and Tracks back in to the competition? Maybe something that doesnt require them to leave the ground but proves a different ability?
I have been reading these very thoughtful observations and, I think one common thread is that the jumps simply do not come down. I did read the NYT article and it seems that cost is one of the factors in competitions skimping on the frangible pins. Is that true? Also, I was speaking with my coach as well and he was saying that some of the cross country rides are truly beautiful to watch - horse and rider are fit and focused and capable. Other rides look wild, uncontrolled and much like the rider is not really at that level. This of course happens in every discipline, but in dressage, for example, if you you ride at a level over your head you are not risking your life or that of your horse. hmmm. I don't know. I guess Badminton is next.
Yes, cost did factor in however I believe the use of the frangible pins has now been mandated since Darren's accident and I agree riding outside your level in Eventing is far more risk taking than in Dressage. The powers that be are looking at changing the qualifications for the higher levels in order to weed out the riders who are not up to the challenge.
Really, That's so interesting! how do you think they will do that? That challenge is exactly what we were talking about in the barn today. So, for example if you do qualify for a specific event, can someone over ride that? Also, at what point can they do so? Based on your last event? Based on what they see while you are actually on course? Another interesting question is, how involved do the spectators get? Can anyone urge/force a rider to pull up? On the other side of the coin, there are some beautiful rides going on out there, but they are definitely being over-shadowed. p.s. I would continue jumping if I were you and not feel guilty at all. You sound like your horse's welfare is your #1 priority!
I am not too sure of the current qualifications as I only event low level however I believe they will make it so that horse and rider have to get more mileage before they are able to go up the levels. Spectators do not get can actually eliminate a rider by 'coaching' from the sidelines.
Its so hard to pass judgement over eventing, Im not an eventer at heart so cant say I love the sport. Its so sad when a horse is injured in any sport but it does make you worry when one sport has more injuries/deaths than the others. I belive if horse & rider are fit and well trained then eventing can be fun and safe but when horses are unfit or not trained to a very high standard then, as in any sport, they become dangerous. Its the same with riders, riders who do not know the sport well,can put themselves & their horse in danger.
I think that they should make the courses a little less brutal, some of the fences are huge, not to mention solid. It should be more about skill than endurance & luck.
Eventing and steeple chasing are considered very dangerous sports. However with the X games they may not be the most dangerous sports anymore. The obstacles are big and solid to give the horse incentive to clear rather than crash into them. Flimsy jumps encourage horses to be lazy and jump into the obstacle. An imposing jump, the horse will jump clear or refuse, not in between. Most jumps are designed to be able to be torn down if it is possible for the jump can fall apart on horse or rider.

The higher events levels are meant to challenge the horse and rider and not be too easy. Generally horses screw up on the easy jumps from over confidence.

Mistakes by both horse and rider do happen. There is no way that mistakes and risk can be taken out of the event. Riders train their horses and themselves so they can compete at this level. Danger is a component. The most probelms horse have are from being over heated rather than from falls. I have seen horrendous falls and horse is fine. Riders get more injured than horses and can die or be severly injured. Christopher Reed was paralyzed from an event jump that his horse chipped and he flew off the horse into the log and broke his neck. This sport is not for the faint of heart.


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