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No Time for a Repeat
Leesburg, VA, USA
from the USEA Professional Horseman's Council

Last year was a great year for eventing in the United States. As we came into 2010 it was easy to breathe a collective sigh of relief that perhaps we had overcome the unbelievably horrible rash of accidents that plagued our sport. The Professional Horseman's Council is deeply concerned about the recent series of falls at several high profile events this spring. It is imperative that we both as individuals and an organization do not sit back and wait for bad things to happen to us. We must remain proactive in our dealings with these accidents.

The USEA has, over the past several years, come up with many great ideas aimed toward making our sport safer for both horses and riders. As time goes on we will naturally find out that some of these ideas are more useful than others. From the one fall rule, reverse qualifications, and instructor certification, to frangible technology and improvements in course design, we have made significant steps forward. All one has to do is look at the great work being done on the Equine Cardiovascular study to see the level of commitment within our membership.

However, there is still so much to be done. We talk a lot in our sport about rider responsibility. The PHC has been a leader in moving this concept forward. We even made the somewhat controversial step in supporting the one fall and out rule. To this end we are putting together a new description of rider representative responsibilities. The job of being a rider rep at an event is too often taken lightly.

We propose that all rider representatives must walk the course, preferably with the officials or course designer, before the start of dressage. Additionally, any concerns brought forward by the rider representative should be documented for future reference. These two simple changes will place a greater responsibility on the rider rep, and facilitate more meaningful and productive conversation between all involved parties. This concept of responsibility should not and cannot end here.

We want to pursue the concept of official responsibility. If an official at an event is found to have been negligent in their responsibilities, they too should be subject to review, fines, or even suspension. Furthermore, this accountability should extend to course designers. If a cross-country designer has an exceptional number of falls on their course they too should be held accountable.

While we would all like it if we had no falls, we do support a concept PRO has put forward. The idea is to set a percentage of an "acceptable" number of falls on course. If this percentage is exceeded the designer too should face review, fines, or suspension. It is widely believed that many of the recent falls were in no small part caused by poor lighting due to the early time in the season. This is no excuse for accidents.

Organizers and designers must look closely at all of their courses to ensure that every jump is visible and safe for the competitors. And of course riders must use their own good judgment and commonsense in determining whether course conditions are safe and appropriate for their horses. The safety of our sport, and likewise its future, is in all of our hands. The PHC is challenging every member of the USEA to continue to work towards our goal of a safer sport. We must never forget that we are all in this together.

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