When I was 17 years old, I galloped my show jumper up to a water jump and he refused. I started to turn him away from the jump to re-approach it when several things happened quickly. As I turned, he began to hop up and down and back up. On the “up” part of his hop, one of his hind legs slipped on the tape at the water’s edge and he fell back on top of me. I broke my pelvic bone in three places and was in the hospital for two weeks and on crutches for almost three months.
Looking back, I know that many things converged to cause the accident, but after reading our safety article (page 26), I began to think what could I have done to keep myself safer. For instance, my horse had started to stop at water jumps—I probably shouldn’t have been at that class at all until we were absolutely sure he would jump. My horse also had begun backing up a few steps when he was impatient—I should have taken that behavior more seriously.
Hindsight, of course, is 20/20, but my point is that taking safety seriously needs to be every rider’s top priority. And in the hustle of everyday life and trying to fit in rides or the next competition, that can be pushed to the side.
In our safety article, which focuses on what’s being done to make eventing safer, we focus on frangible technology and data tracking, but many we interviewed talk about another piece of the puzzle—rider responsibility.
Part of that responsibility is training, which, of course, is where Practical Horseman can help. The trainers whom we do articles with don’t just explain how to do something but how to do it safely. In Selena O’Hanlon’s article on jumping up and down banks, she stresses that there is nothing in the effort that “involves a dramatic, heroic leap.” Instead she offers a step-by-step approach that leads to success—safely. In Jim Wofford’s column (page 16), Jim shares his systematic program for getting your horse ready for cross-country. It reviews conditioning and three types of schooling to make sure that you and your horse are ready to ride an entire cross-country course, again successfully and safely.
As our story on safety in eventing reveals, many people are working hard to make sure the sport is safe—and there is still more to be done. But if we all take responsibility of our actions, training and education, we can do a lot to keep ourselves and our horses safe.
Sandra Oliynyk Editor