Concerned members of the eventing and veterinary worlds met in Lexington, Kentucky this weekend to manifest immediate changes in the sport following the recent deaths of horses and riders at competitions. No one has more firsthand experience and more clout in their statements than former Olympic rider Darren Chiacchia of New York; he has made a near-miraculous recovery from injuries suffered this winter in Florida. Darren spoke at this weekend's meeting.
In the wake of several serious accidents to riders and horses in eventing over the last few months, USEF President David O'Connor and USEA President Kevin Baumgardner announced last week tha they would hold an emergency "Safety Summit" on June 7-8, 2008. Statement from Kevin Baumgardner and David O'Connor.
The goal of the Summit was to bring together all those concerned about the sport - riders, coaches, veterinarians, course designers, fans - in a quest to better understand what might be contributing to these accidents and to identify and agree on steps that can be taken to better protect horses and riders.
Preliminary reports suggest that action has been taken to supply frangible pins for more "breakaway" fences and that USEF will pay for necropsies of fatally-injured horses to determine the cause of death. Also, judges may have the authority to "yellow flag" or even "red flag" a rider and a reporting system for dangerous riding practices may be in the works.
Earlier this week, the FEI announced a "fall and you're out" rule change that will be used in the upcoming 2008 Olympics. It requires fallen riders on cross-country to retire rather than remount.
I am sure that USEF or USEA will supply official details in a day or so, and the information will be posted here. This post is just to report that the Summit did take place and action will be taken. One report said that 250 people attended the meeting.
NBC Sports' web site has an unofficial report summarizing the two-day meeting, if you just can't wait for the official summary from USEF and USEA, but I would be careful about hanging any hats on any of this until it is sorted out by affiliated/unaffiliated status of events and the levels of riders, which could affect events from Pony Club to advanced horse trials and three-day events.
Stand by for more news!