Details were sketchy but even they were gruesome: A three-day event horse at the Badminton Horse Trials in England in May somehow bumped into one of the flags marking the course and was stabbed in the chest by the pole. His injury was so severe he had to be euthanized.
To make sure that that never happens again, on August 20th 2007, British Eventing will introduce new regulations for the type of red and white jump flags and poles used to indicate direction on cross country fences. In order to reduce the risk of injury to horse or rider all flags and flagpoles on certain fence types must meet four criteria based on construction, material, design, and how the flags are secured to the fence.
While these rules currently only apply in Great Britian, event organizers around the world are surely looking closely at their XC equipment.
The types of fence required to use safety flags at UK events include:
- fences less than 3 meters jumpable wide;
- related fences which because of their design offer a jumpable line of less that 3 meters wide;
- fences where horse might jump close to a flag;
- fences jumped on an angle where knocking a flag is a possibility.
The flags and poles on these fences from 20th August must fit the following criteria:
- the flag poles must be made of a material that cannot shatter, break or splinter, such as suitable plastic or carbon fiber or any other appropriate materials;
- there must be no points anywhere on the flag poles and any sharp corners and/or edges on the flags must be rounded;
- there must be no ?open ends' of any part of the flag poles which may come into contact with horse or rider;
- flags must be secured in such a way that they ?break away' and/or move away from the fence if/when struck by either horse or rider in such a way that the chance of horse and/or rider being injured is significantly reduced.
All flags and flagpoles to be used in these situations will need to be approved by the BE Field Staff.
BE Sport Director Mike Etherington-Smith commented; "Safety of horse and rider is the number one priority in our sport and any steps which can be taken to further improve it will be taken. This rule is a safety measure to avoid potential accidents and it is hoped that all organisers will understand the importance of introducing such flags as soon as possible."
Information for this post supplied by British Eventing. Photo of "The Lake" courtesy of Mitsubishi Motors and Kit Houghton.