Event riders urged to speak up after Ian Olding's accident

Abigail Butcher, H&H news editor

22 May, 2009

Event riders are calling for true striding at combination fences and a clearer system of rider reps following the death of Ian Olding at Belton Horse Trials last month.

Experienced and popular rider Ian, 47, died on Sunday, 26 April when his horse somersaulted at the table element (pictured right) of a combination fence halfway round the Lincolnshire course (news, 30 April).

The combination was made up of an angled pheasant feeder (12), followed by two long or three short strides to a table (13a) then another two long strides to another angled pheasant feeder (13b), in front of which were two lifelike wooden figurines.

J-P Sheffield was the last rider to go across country before Ian's accident and said they had discussed the fence in the collecting ring.

"It wasn't a big enough fence for people to complain, but they were worried," he said. "I kicked up a fuss about distances at Weston Park last year. It only takes one person to fall."

In the weeks since the accident, the eventing world has been awash with discussion about the jump and whether the "complaints system" for riders at events is working. BE has a system of unpaid "rider reps", who liaise between riders and event officials.

A letter written anonymously to H&H, copied to British Eventing (BE), stated: "The distance between the first two elements of this fence was a worry to every rider I spoke to", and accused the designer, Sue Benson, of either making a mistake or trying to make the fence "more tricky". The writer said no riders had officially complained because "the BE establishment does not look kindly on competitors who question their judgement".

Belton rider representatives Caroline Powell and Jeanette Brakewell told H&H they believe the system does work, but that it could be improved.

"A lot of people don't speak out, because if they do, and the course then rides fine, they will look stupid — but I think this will change from now on," said Jeanette.

"So many people feel bad about not having spoken out about that fence. I feel bad, Ian was a good mate."

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Hi Gary, I think it is very important that riders speak out ,and have a forum that is effective. The course designers that I know don't build fences to trick riders, but I think the fences are being made to look less like jumps and more like sculptures. We need to make the jumps a little more plain, so they still look good but are not confusing for the horse. We also need to make more of the jumps out of collapsible material, so if the horse or rider makes a mistake they don't pay for it with their lives. Will be good to hear from others on this matter. Cheers Geoffrey
Sue Benson is being made a scape goat by some top riders, because they feel guilty for not speaking up about their concerns prior to this incident. The system is in place for riders to have their say, indeed they all pushed to have rider reps...so why wait until after an accident to point fingers and apportion blame?
It is utter rubbish to say that BE does not look kindly on competitors who "question their judgement". BE are very open to discuss with riders any concerns they may have, and have been eager to ensure horse and rider safety at every level.

The writing of anonymous letters to an equestrian publication does little to enable riders or BE to work through such a tragic situation...
I understand riders concern anout challenging issues however lessons are there to be learnt, that issues will be raised whatever the cost to themselves. We can all say "if only" let this not happen next time a concern of riders health and safety could be an issue.
About a year ago, Gumble had a special on Real Sports about eventing. It is a wonderful sport! But there are improvements that can be man in the future, ie: all fences resting on pins so they can be breakaways instead of solid.

But it was very interesting to see the viewpoints of a mother who had lost 2 daughters to eventing falls and Darren who had been in a coma for a while for his eventing fall in the big leagues - and he still rides.
wow, it sure seems like a dangerous sport.... I just came in to read, I have no comment.. everyone, be careful. :)


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