As part of the German National Federation’s (Deutsche Reiterliche Vereinigung (FN)) Task Force Eventing, installed in 2014 (see also yesterday’s report), a further group of the task force dealt with the course design – also in order to take a leading role concerning flexible fences. Apart from the analysis of deformable fences, the task force is also concerned with the analysis of relevant fall forms, video analysis of (almost) falls in 4* competitions, analysis of photo galleries and hits on fences.
Over the past years, due to accidents, the calls for ‘droppable’ or better “deformable” fences increased – especially to avoid rotational falls. Nevertheless, Rüdiger Schwarz, member of the FEI Eventing Committee and international course designer, urged to caution: “Deformable obstacles are not safe for all types of fences. For example, a horse will have greater respect for a solid log in front of water and the rider also won’t start to get negligent in his riding. However, for other fences we’ll have to think about if they are safer when deformable. We’ll have to keep in mind not to create new dangers, though.”
Safety fences should fulfill the following criteria:
- For compact height-width obstacles (e.g. tables) of a certain width, a touchdown of the horse has to be possible
- Parts that are falling down must only move in horizontal direction and need to fall down close to the fence
- Falling or moving parts or bars must not get into the flight zone or landing zone of the horse
- The original height of the fence may not be substantially exceeded
- Triggering the mechanism, especially in obstacle combinations, should not result in loud noises in order to keep from irritating the horses
- Need to look and behave the same for all competitors
- Should be fast and easy to reassemble
- Should be cheap enough so they can also be afforded by hosts of smaller national competitions
Existing and already tested safety systems are the Reverse and Frangible Pin system, that has been in worldwide use for about four years. Disadvantage of the construction with metal pin and tether is the rather long rebuilding time which leads to longer interruptions of the competition. Another well-known alternative is the MIM-system, that has been developed by Swedish Mats Björnetun, and works similar to a foldable hinge that is kept together by a special clip. When triggering, these obstacles can be reassembled in about ten seconds.
Meanwhile, solutions for compact fences have been developed – for example the MIM NewEra system (by Björnetun) that has been further developed for tables and corners. Until now, it is not yet FEI certified, but has good prospects to get a certification.
Another new joint development by the national coaches and engineers is the “Warendorf Safety Model”. The model is still a prototype in testing. The mode of operation is based on a system of rollers. When pressure is applied, the tabletop moves forward slightly (4-5 cm, the MIM table about 40 cm) and lowers immediately. In contrast to the MIM system, the system of rollers allows for stepless adjustment of the pressure point. So the system could also be used in pony competitions. “Additionally,” so Rüdiger Schwarz said, “we can test if tables perhaps need totally different pressure point as logs.”
It is a positive development that there are many thoughts about safety of solid obstacles. However, there are still pending issues, even for the MIM table that may be certified shortly and the MIM corner: Do the systems suffice for the landing phase? Do the tables disappear under the horses quickly enough? What happens if horses jump on the table? It is obvious that it will not be easy to test all these scenarios but the leading role of the FN is an important step.