Horse and Hound this week reports on  new initiative from the FEI -Fédération Equestre Internationale (or International Equestrian Federation for those of us not multi-lingual) which is aimed at horse riders being able to assess their current level of performance in cross country  events and thus enter competitions appropriate to that level and so reduce the number of falls due to inexperience or inadequate fitness.

They are bringing in the “EquiRatings Horse Form Index” so that riders can plan their competition season at the “correct” level for their current ability and thus ride more safely.  It is a way of looking at that ability and performance objectively. Horses are graded at “excellent”-i.e. you should be fine at this level, go for it, to “significantly low”-i.e. I wouldn’t if I were you.

What it does not mean is that the rider will be stuck at that level permanently. It is meant to assist riders to make informed choices about their competition campaigns and to move up the levels safely and when they are objectively gauged to be ready for a certain level.

It does not replace the Minimum Eligibilty Levels for competitions (MER’s) and will almost certainly be used in conjunction with advice from a trusted trainer to help horses and riders to move upwards in difficulty in competition more safely.  Of course we all have to start somewhere and eventually step forward and take on new challenges, but there is no point in taking unnecessary risks. The FEI also points out that sometimes a trainer is not confident one of their clients is competent enough to ride at a certain level, but the client is desperate to do so, which can create a conflict. Objective evidence such as this can help with what they term “those difficult conversations”.

It will also help in providing data which in turn can provide statistics on safety issues.  Rotational falls have halved from 1 in 327 “starts” to 1 in 663 starts since the FEI started collecting data on them in 2010, but this can still probably go lower. A fifth of 29 rotational falls in 2021 -18%-resulted in serious rider injury.

But we do have to accept that if riding and particularly the challenge of cross country and eventing is to continue in much its present form, we cannot eradicate ALL risk. The main point is to reduce the risks to as few as possible while maintaining the integrity and indeed the thrill of the sport whilst giving the rider sufficient knowledge and information to make reasonable an sensible decisions about how and where they want to ride. It’s all about managing risks.

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