Thoughts on Jersey Fresh

On Saturday evening after Jersey Fresh I was chatting with a few different people about the tragic accidents that had occurred that day. Everyone I talked to had opinions, which varied both in intensity and subject matter, but when they asked me for my own thoughts I really struggled to put them into words. It’s easy to know how I FEEL about it; I’m completely devastated and heartbroken for the family and friends of Philippa and for the owners and connections of Ouija. But feelings are one thing and thoughts are another.


My honest answer at the time was a very dejected “I just don’t know”. Two lives were lost on the same cross country course in one day; one equine, one human. That’s as bad as it gets, truly the darkest kind of day for any sport. But at the same time, it’s my sport, the sport I live and eat and breathe. Your knee jerk reaction is to defend it to it’s critics, but this day was pretty indefensible. I spent the whole weekend mulling it over.

I believe that having horses and riders die on course on a regular basis is totally unacceptable. I can’t comfortably stand beside the people saying “at least she died doing what she loved”. While I don’t disagree with the sentiment, to me the words feel a bit empty, a bit naive, and somehow seem to lessen the enormity of exactly what was lost. Don’t get me wrong, if it’s my time, I’d rather go out doing something I love. But that doesn’t mean I want to die at a competition in a rotational fall that could also kill my horse and would undoubtedly leave permanent scars on the psyche of everyone unlucky enough to witness it. On the other hand, I also can’t join in with the people that are lambasting eventing in general, saying that it’s too dangerous and the sport – especially the cross country – needs to end.

It truly is my happy place

I truly love and believe in the sport of eventing. Call me an optimist, but I think there is a middle ground here. There is a way to keep the sport intact and true to its roots, and still make it safer. I don’t know what that is, obviously none of us do yet, but I have 100% faith that it exists. I also have 100% faith that we can find it.

Note that I said “safer” and not “safe”. This sport will never be safe. No horse sport will ever be safe. There is an inherent risk involved any time we choose to be around or throw a leg over the back of a very large animal with a mind of it’s own. There is simply no way to prevent every single accident, and that’s something we just have to recognize. But we certainly can make improvements to minimize the occurrence of them, and the severity of them when they do occur.

I have seen a lot of comments on Facebook and horse forums saying that the “powers that be” in eventing, specifically the USEA, have continually turned a blind eye to the fatalities. Setting aside the fact that JF was an FEI event, I still don’t think that’s a fair statement. Studies, reports, and data-gathering have been happening for years. In most recent memory, USEA has been trying to raise money for a collapsible fence study.


The first question is “Has any of it made any difference”? In some ways no, obviously people and horses are still dying. In some ways yes, we’ve seen frangible pins help prevent countless possibly serious accidents. The next question is “Are we doing enough”? Personally, I don’t think so. But I also recognize the fact that a lot of it comes down to funding, and the fact that studies take time. So do solutions. Changes take even longer.

This is a multi-faceted problem; finding the answer is going to be incredibly difficult and ongoing. In order to fix the problem, first we have to understand what’s happening. No small task when every single fall has a completely different set of circumstances surrounding it and completely different things that possibly could have been done to create a different outcome. I don’t think there is only one answer; I think there are several. We just have to find them and put it all together.

That brings me to the next line of thought: what can I do to help? I’m not a scientist, I’m not an engineer, I’m not an upper-level rider, I’m not a course designer. I personally can’t fix this problem. But I do know one thing: change requires money, and I’m 100% capable of controlling where mine goes. Really want to help the sport of eventing? Let’s support the organizations, the events, the venues, the officials, the course designers, and the course builders that are dedicated to making everything safer for horses and riders. Let’s give constructive feedback to our governing bodies. DONATE TO THE STUDIES. If we really want to save our sport and help make it safer, let’s figure out what we can do to help, educate ourselves, and put our money where our mouths are.

This is the best feeling

There are a lot of people out there screaming that something has to be done. Unfortunately, that’s all most of them are doing – screaming.  If all the people screaming and arguing on social media were willing to donate even just $20 to a safety study, how much better off would we be? How much more could we accomplish?

To those who look at the tragedies of this weekend, or really this whole year so far, and say “never eventing” – I get it. Once the fear of something overcomes your love for it, it’s no longer the right thing for you. This isn’t the right sport for everyone. Horse sports are already risky and this is perhaps the riskiest one. But I still love it, my horse still loves it, and I’m not ready to give up on it. For everyone out there who feels the same way, I ask you – what are we going to do about it?

54 thoughts on “Thoughts on Jersey Fresh

  1. your point about donating to safety studies is critical – it’s so easy to sit behind a computer lambasting event organizers or course designers, calling for change. but taking that next step of actually participating in the change tho… that doesn’t happen as much as it could.

    we also must recognize when an event has gotten it right – recognize instances where things fit safely together in a way that stays true to the heart of this sport. Rolex this year i believe is a good example of a cross country course staying true to its roots of testing endurance and stamina, bravery and heart – while not punishing the horse or wearing it down unnecessarily with the same technical test again and again.

    regardless, there’s a lot to think about here, and i’m also trying hard to separate my raw emotional response from a more complete thought process on how to understand it and move forward. mostly tho, for now my thoughts are with Phillipa’s and Ouija’s families.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I totally agree. I watched Rolex this year in awe of a demanding course that seemed very fair the intelligence of the horses and riders. There weren’t many visual “tricks” (like the Vee at Badminton). The riders, for their part, did an admirable job of knowing their horses and pulling up when things were too tiring or too mentally taxing for the horses. It was a great example of things being “right”.


      1. I agree with everyone’s thoughts on Rolex… that was a tough track but it wasn’t sneaky and visually tricky. I think it would be good to compare the course design there with that at JF and see where the differences lie. Amanda, I also agree with you 100% in what you’ve said here. It’s completely unacceptable that horses and riders continue to die on XC, but I do believe that there IS a solution out there somewhere. I’m not ready to quit on eventing yet, either. Thank you for the link to support the studies that will help get us there.


  2. First, let me say that Eventing is not my discipline — it never has been, and it never will be — it’s just not my thing. However, I am an equestrian, and as such, I care deeply about our sport as a whole. I’m not sure if deaths in Eventing have increased over the last 20-30 years, or if now with the internet and especially social media, we are just much more aware of them. Regardless, these tragedies are heart-wrenchingly awful, and happen all to often for my personal tastes.

    Change takes time, money and effort — I know all of that and logically, I can respect that. However, we need to DO MORE RIGHT NOW. The frequency of deaths on course is not acceptable and it needs to change. Thanks for sharing the donation link — I sent a small amount of money today to the collapsible fence fund. Because even though I’m not an Eventer, we are all naive and ignorant if we think that what happens in and to Eventing won’t impact all of the equestrian sports.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree Tracy, the impact is far-reaching whether people want to see that or not. Thanks for wanting to be part of the solution. I do think that while we need to do something immediately, it’s hard to do something without knowing what to do. There’s always the possibility of making things worse instead of better.


  3. This spoke to me: “Once the fear of something overcomes your love for it, it’s no longer the right thing for you.” I promptly stopped eventing when my fear overcame the endless training I put into it. I don’t even jump anymore.

    I’ve seen some upsetting posts saying people in these accidents (fatal and not) are inept and have no business being there, and are poor horsemen for ending up in them. That is not the case, and it’s so upsetting to insult the memory of talented horses and riders. I don’t know what the right answer is either, but pointing fingers and blaming poor training is not the answer.


    1. I agree with you, I think it’s in poor taste to blame the riders, and beyond naive to think that human beings will never make mistakes. There will always be errors, either by the horse or the by the rider. The crux is figuring out how to make it so that these mistakes are not paid for with a life.


    2. I also agree that it’s in very poor taste to blame the riders or “poor training”, especially since Jersey Fresh is an FEI event and each horse/rider pair had to qualify to ride there; Joe Schmo with his backyard horse couldn’t just show up and ride this weekend. Pointing fingers is definitely not the answer, but I’m not exactly sure what is.


  4. Olivia and I were fence judging on Saturday at Jersey Fresh, and Philippa’s fall happened across the field from where we were. We also had 5 horse and rider falls at our jump combination alone, so I’m still trying to process everything and trying to figure out how to comment on such a tragic weekend.

    I’m not an eventer and eventing is something I don’t know that much about, so I’m not sure that I can make a constructive or educated suggestion to increase the safety of the sport without doing more research. What I do know, however, is that I never want to watch 5 horses go down in front of me or hear the thunk of a horse flipping over a table jump ever again. Fence judging at Jersey Fresh is usually one of my favorite weekends of the year, but Saturday was definitely a very tough day. My heart goes out to the friends and families associated with Philippa, Skyler Decker and Ouija, and the entire eventing community. It was an incredibly sad, horrible weekend at Jersey Fresh, and I don’t know how to fix it.

    Here’s the link to donate towards Philippa’s daughter’s college fund, if you’re interested:


  5. Wow. You put most of what I have been thinking in to words. I’ve been less and less enthusiastic about eventing over the years due to my own fears but I remember how I felt about it years ago, I lived for it. It hurts me to see it going this direction. But personally, while I can agree studies should be done, I don’t feel comfortable donating. There are much easier and less expensive changes that can be done RIGHT NOW than taking money from supporters to conduct studies. Change the courses. Change time requirements. Make it less technical. “Safety studies” is a bit of a smokescreen to satiate those screaming, in my opinion. Yes, changes will take time, but there are changes right now that can be carried out to alter competition so it’s not so cutthroat and so incredibly challenging.

    Sidenote, I read an interesting article yesterday on Facebook on how dressage is ruining the sport. Not saying I agree but the author made some fantastic points on how collection and submission are making our horses think less for themselves and with increasingly technical cross country courses they are losing the ability to negotiate when riders make an error. Interesting indeed.


    1. I think it’s really hard to make well-thought out, meaningful, educated changes that will actually improve safety without ruining the integrity of the sport, because we just don’t know yet what will actually help. Aside from just plain dumbing it down by taking away height and speed, which still might not help (remember, one of the Australian girls died in a 1*). Making it less technical would not necessarily have helped in Philippa’s case, since she fell at a very run of the mill, stand alone, “gimme” type fence. I think there are too many holes in our understanding, as of right now, to make any rash changes without possibly making things worse.


      1. A one star is still a huge deal. They are technical courses even at one star so I have a hard time accepting that as an example. Granted ALL horseback riding is dangerous, we all know this, but there is an “XC eventing” trend happening. I personally consider any started events upper level but that’s just me. But I agree with you, finding a starting point will be difficult. I will still say the technicality and speed is a great starting point. It wouldn’t be “dumbing down”. It would still be XC, it would still be challenging and still be fun, but without the insanity that is some of the combinations and long hard gallops In between. I’m not sure when “we” decided XC needed to be increasingly made more and more and more challenging but these courses are nothing close to what it used to be. Personally I think it was for the wow factor and the fact that no one is ever satisfied with anything and t must always be bigger and better…and that’s ridiculous to me with a sport that involves horses over solid obstacles and great speeds.


    2. Was this the article by J. Wofford? Even though it was an old article, I thought it was still really relevant, but I’m just not sure how I feel about it. It seems that better dressage training should improve everything, but I also understood what he was saying.


      1. I have read the article by JE and he says that it is a combination of asking horses to become more submissive, thereby taking away their initiative and becoming more reliant on the rider for everything. This type of horse does not make a good cross country horse as they need to have more initiative. He also cites the increasing technicality of show jumping as a cause of this declining initiative. It is a great article by someone who really knows what they are talking about. It was in Practical Horseman, not sure when. Oliver Townend has also written about this topic though I don’t know when/where. Personally, I don’t see why we can’t construct certain x country fences out of the same material the Puissance jumps are made from. These walls are 6ft plus and if a horse hits one, part of the “wall” is just knocked out and the horse is fine. Makes sense to me; why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?


    3. Interesting- this isn’t the first time that I’ve heard the increased difficulty of the dressage phase is becoming detrimental to the XC phase.


    4. I’m not sure that I get your logic here. You agree that studies should be done, but you don’t “feel comfortable” donating? That seems a bit hypocritical to me. The fact is, making fast and rash changes without taking the time to really understand the implications of said changes could be just as dangerous, if not more so. We don’t have an exact answer as to what the problems are, so how can we possibly make smart, well-educated changes that will actually WORK? You think that it has to do with speed and technicality, but what if it has to do with fence design, or some other aspect we haven’t pinpointed yet? Changing the speeds could actually make it worse. Not wanting to donate is one thing, and totally fine, but supporting the idea of studies without actually supporting the studies just seems conflicting and a bit backwards-thinking.


      1. ^this. I’m travelling today and unable to respond the way I would like but I can’t agree with saying studies are great but only if other people pay for them… And I don’t think dumbing down the sport is the answer. There are ways to make courses safer but I would prefer venues/ course designers wait to make the best desicions. Honestly without studies we won’t know what those decisions will be. I’m not actively eventing right now but want riders of all disciplines to be as safe as possible.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes for the time being I don’t feel comfortable. Call me hypocritical all you want, but I would like to see EXACTLY how and where MY donated money will spent, before I just fling it off into the abyss. If organizations can show me that, perhaps I can let go of the very little funds I have left at the end of the month. But for now, its staying put in my bank account and I don’t appreciate being judged for that. I know I am not alone in this thinking. I am saddened where the sport is headed and I want improvements, but throwing money at a problem isn’t always the best answer. None of us know the best answer. I simply disagree with a hasty study and begging for me to donate, thats all.

        If you or Amanda have a breakdown of this information, I would love to see it, since I have been unable to locate anything.


        1. Throwing money at a problem definitely isn’t always the answer, but doing absolutely nothing about it is never the answer. If you’re wanting to know how the funds are being spent, all you have to do is email the USEA and ask, the fund is 501(c)(3) so it’s all transparent. I get not having money to donate, we all have various expenses, but if you’re using “I would like to see EXACTLY how and where MY donated money will spent, before I just fling it off into the abyss” as your reasoning, that’s just shear laziness for not sending a simple email to the USEA.


  6. I have been struggling to put into words how I feel about the past three weeks of eventing. Though I’m a dressage rider now, my heart is with eventing. I love it. It’s where I grew up, and I think the sport teaches so much about horsemanship and sport that it creates an ultimate partnership of equine and human. It’s a real test of bravery, skill, and partnership. A rare thing, I think.

    As I said above, I think Rolex was a phenomenal example of what the top of this sport could be. Not “safe” but definitely fair. Extremely hard, but maybe not impossible. Badminton was nearly impossible. The way the Vee was flagged didn’t feel fair for the horses, as many couldn’t read it properly even if presented well. That’s not okay. Jersey Fresh had similar problems with some fences, it seemed. I think that’s a designer thing. Maybe we all could learn a thing from Derek di Grazia. He certainly seems to understand horse psychology and physiology in a way that is integral to the design process. That’s something that can be taught.

    Philippa’s fall, from what I’ve heard, may have been a freak accident. That’s hard to accept. There’s not a real way to safeguard from freak accidents, we are all at risk. I feel terribly for her family, and can’t imagine what her fellow competitors went through. But, I don’t know how you fix such a thing. Accidents feel like a risk we all must take. I know I take it every time I handle horses. I’ve accepted the risk of the freak accident. I do what I can to minimize it, but I am aware of the risks and accept them. That’s important. I feel if a rider can’t accept the freak risks of going cross country even when prepared, it’s not the right place for that rider.


    1. This particular fall does have the feeling of a true freak accident. However, it does warrant fence design questions (specifically having front edges on tables and/or whether or not a collapsible fence would have possibly made a difference). The fact that there were SO many horse and rider falls that day, plus a horse death, is what really tells another part of the story for me.


      1. Absolutely! When I first heard of her fall, I thought it was at the “problem” fence. Any fence that has a ton of falls clearly needs to be studied and the design issues addressed. That, of course, takes money and time and knowledge.


  7. Since I’ve started the blog and made a lot of eventing blogger friends, I’ve become so much more aware of Eventing and invested in its continuation. Like you, I don’t know the answer, but I wish so badly that I did, or that I at least could pinpoint what exactly seems to be causing more falls. My biggest concern is just that, unlike riders who know the risk they are taking each time they go out on course, horses are all heart and don’t get to make that choice, so whatever happens, that definitely needs to be kept in mind. Thanks for sharing the donation link, and here’s to hoping someone comes up with a magical fix-all.


  8. The thing is that whilst a death may seem an unusual occurrence there are many more close shaves, last weekend an Australian Olympic rider was involved in a rotational fall at the Ballarat horse trials. The photos are terrifying, waiting to see if the horse will get up and will the rider appear from the foot deep water. She made it, so many others haven’t been so lucky.


  9. This pretty much perfectly expresses my thouughts. There were riders at Rolex upset that frangible pins broke for some riders who came after riders that hit said jumps much harder. I was just happy to see the pins working.


  10. Something Tracy mentioned above also stood out to me over the weekend. I would love to know how much, truly, the sport has changed in terms of horse and rider deaths over the years. Are we more aware now because of media? Or has the sport truly morphed into something more dangerous to horse and rider as the technicality has increased and the questions have changed?

    It seems to me that it would be a fairly simple thing to do – review the data over the past 50+ years of deaths in recognized events and see if the data is trending up. It wouldn’t even be expensive to do. I think that having some real data would be a good starting point. I understand everyone’s emotional response, but would love to see some empirical data as the starting point for evaluation. I’m surprised it isn’t hasn’t been done already.

    Extrapolate further from there – are there specific types of fences causing the majority of falls? Speeds? Distances? Weather patterns?

    I’m not an eventer. But knowledge is everything.


      1. For the people saying the sport has changed drastically over the years, are there more deaths than 50 years ago? Or is that just our perception? I am wondering if our tolerance for risk has waned or if the sport really has become more dangerous as the technicality has increased. It would be interesting to see what is really going on.


        1. I immediately thought the same thing- are we just more aware of deaths and accidents now? I’d like to see a 50 year wrap up of all recognized and FEI competitions that compares deaths vs XC completions.


    1. Its hard to take the data from even 20 years ago and make a direct comparison. The number of people in the sport has increased so dramatically that perhaps a shorter time frame is necessary to see if it is an upward or downward trend. There was a short time period in the 90’s when there were multiple rider deaths in succession over only a few months. This occurred again a few years ago. There have been some studies done, and I believe the USEA has reported on fence types and number of falls, but unfortunately the recorded data also only goes back so far. No matter what, it is tragic every time.


  11. In reading through these thoughtful comments, the phrase “without ruining the integrity of the sport” stood out to me. I’m not sure how much integrity our sport has if 5 horse and riders can fall at a single fence, a rider can die at a separate fence, and a horse can die at yet another fence…all on the same day.
    In seems our sport was completely lacking in integrity on this day – especially to the horses, who don’t get to see the course ahead of time and are galloping bravely forward trusting that it will be fair.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Eventing isn’t my sport and at the high levels my stomach turns and is nervous the whole time while watching.

    BUT as a society I think we are pushing the limits in a lot of places- not just eventing. We want to be bigger, better, faster…

    My thoughts may not be liked but why not make the jumps not quite so massive and tricky, not so challenging that the horses are pushed to their fitness limit…. I just feel like as a society their isn’t a limit as to how far we will push it to be the best.

    Just want to clarify- I’m not saying evening is evil and they don’t care about their horses. The upper levels have shown some of the most love ever for their horses that I’ve seen!

    I could be totally wrong, it’s just my thoughts.

    Ps I can not imagine seeing it happen- I watched hicksted pass away and that was horrible, I’ll never forget that.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I admire everyone that knows their boundaries, some are dare devils and that is the risk they take, the horses do not ask for this, they are asked to do it. I am heart broken for the family for the loss of their daughter and I am equally heart broken for the horse. People take risks and sometimes succeed and the horses are put at risk which is so unfair. It is “the people” that need to stand up as a group and say, NO, this is to dangerous putting their horse first because it is their decision, not their horse. You all know how horses are simply amazing and go above and beyond but it is the rider/owner that should go above and beyond for their beloved horse….


  14. Thank you for mentioning that the USEA is trying to do more, learn more, study more and test more potential safety innovations. While I cannot speak for other equine organizations, staff at the USEA are completely gutted by this. Personally, I am heartbroken. I think everyone can agree that something needs to change in the sport, and I am really hoping this new study can at least begin to move the sport in the right direction. Thank you again for such a thoughtful approach on this very sensitive, and sad subject. Like you said – many people are screaming and not doing anything, when actually if every member donated $5 our entire study would be funded. Just food for thought, but thank you again for donating and writing all well-thought post.


    1. I get that sense from USEA, Shelby, as just a regular, run of the mill, lower level member. I really support the USEA and feel like they’re at least trying. Sure, there are always ways to be better and do better, but the effort is there and plain for everyone to see. I hope there’s funding for even more studies, and I hope people continue to support USEA’s efforts at least with their membership dues and participation. It’s easy to criticize, but unless we’re willing to participate in whatever way we can, all we’re doing is contributing to the problem, not the solution.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Here are my thoughts- as a eventer from 1993-2004 and now having re-started in 2015. Eventing has changed drastically since I was a competitor- 2004 is when they started introducing the short format so that was brand new to me when I got back into riding. In 2004 I had a very serious accident where I very easily could have died. My horse ducked left rather than jump over and down into the water and I hit the log that was in the water complex. I had a vest and helmet on, but still shattered my L4 & L5 in my back and was in the hospital for a few months. That was the last time I’d ride for 6 years. Tried to move on, couldn’t stay away from horses and then couldn’t NOT get back into eventing. I fully understand the risks, having experienced an awful accident, but I’d be miserable without it. In my case, a collapsible fence wouldn’t have helped me, but anything horse-related, especially eventing, will NEVER be risk-free.

    I’m a fan of the collapsible fence study, have donated, and hope others do the same. While I think (hope) collapsible fences will help, I do think the speed of the courses should be looked at. Not everyone can do what Michael Jung did at Rolex and steeplechase these jumps. If Roxie had stopped, he’d have been a goner. Having had a horse that brought me 3 Intermediate completions, after countless Training-Prelim completions, all with ZERO xc jump penalties in our 2 years together, I can attest that the best of horses still aren’t perfect. But in order to be competitive, Jung made the choice to get as close to OT as possible. It’s what he needed to do and galloping hard to the obstacles was how it was going to happen. When a horse is going faster, they’re flatter. That doesn’t work so well when the obstacles are large and WIDE. While I was really pleased to see the Rolex course this year be more open and galloping, and less technical stadium-like, I think the timing of these courses should be looked at. When you have time to set your horse up to jump UP and over the fence, it’s not as fast, but it’s more effective. When you’re galloping at obstacles in order to minimize time penalties, that’s when mistakes can happen. Just my $0.02.

    I shall descend from my soap box now.


  16. It’s important, I think, to note that the time is the one thing that hasn’t changed over the years. You are still required to go as fast as when TBs dominated the sport and skinnies were a bit of a novelty. The addition of the technicality without a change in the speed is what makes the difference. Time at Rolex was a factor because of the footing, not necessarily the design. That is also where the rider needs to know – does my horse have enough gas in the tank? Do we slow down, get time, but complete? Do we call it a day? Marilyn Little fell at a table at Rolex – her mare was clearly tiring. I worry that there is a certain pressure to make a team, and so horses and riders push a bit more than they would in a year when selections are not as important. Phillippa’s fall was a freak – she had been competing with that horse for two years at the level. It will never be safe, but it can be safer. I have no answers, but I do think over all fitness for both horse and rider should be emphasized, even with the short format. But then, you might have a fire breathing dragon on dressage day . . . Which has definitely gotten more difficult. At the end of the day, I want a horse that can think for himself to some degree.


  17. Why are events at which a rider dies not stopped? How is it that we hold the show jumping the next day, make awards and move on in a matter of hours as of nothing happened? I realize it changes nothing, but it shouldn’t be so easy yo carry on under such tragic circumstances.


    1. The riders actually met on Saturday evening to decide if they wanted to continue with the show jumping portion on Sunday. During the 90+ minute hold on Saturday, the Jersey Fresh staff talked with the FEI ground officials as well as some of the riders and trainers and made the decision to finish out the XC that day. All of the riders wore blue ribbons on their coats on Sunday, and they held a memorial tribute to Philippa before the show jumping competition started.


      1. I guess that to me blue patches, votes of riders and a memorial are nice gestures but not nearly enough, given the loss. A young mother will never see her child grow up, and a little girl will live her life absent the love of her mum.

        Our sport, if it is to survive, needs more. An average of 6 deaths a year spread out among the levels will equal the end of eventing without some kind of dramatic change.

        The public won’t tolerate it. Olympic endorsement won’t continue. Sponsors of events will begin to dissappear and parents like myself ( even when both and my wife and I were eventers) will stop letting their kids try it.

        I suggest that if there is a death on course that the competition be immediately cancelled. I am a bit shocked that this isn’t a given already.


  18. Very well written post about the past weekend. I know all the riders decided as a whole to continue the weekend in her memory. It was not a callous decision made by any “powers that be”. I also think people have to be aware of the risks every time they saddle up and your life is a stake you put up in order to play the game (and not just eventing). In any horse activity, doesn’t even have to be a particular “sport” per say. “Safer, not safe” is an important piece to keep in mind.

    But with that being said, I wholeheartedly agree there are ways to make the sport safer. I agree with a lot of what Denny Emerson has to say. One of his points is the time has not changed while course design has and there have been 1* riders clocked at 800mpm in order to make optimum between those technical fences. That is absolutely ridiculous. No wonder horses flip if they catch a leg going that fast at the “gimme” fences. I also agree it is trending more toward the spectator instead of the horse and the competitor. Look at the changes proposed (including that ridiculous name change) to make it more “viewer friendly” and why you get the showy technical fences instead of more straightforward questions that can make it harder for horses to read.

    Maybe a place to start is making more of the big galloping tables brush instead of solid or making fewer fences without a vertical face. I agree rash decisions are not the answer right now, but while studies are being done and technology developed, there are some things course designers could be taking into account without “dumbing down” the challenge and make it easier for horses to recover from a bad jump.

    This may not be the most well written post, I did it from my phone and there are a lot of thoughts going through my head. Hope it’s coherent!

    One last note…I can’t remember who I heard this from, but along the lines of dressage requiring too much submission, horses need to be taught to be generals, not soldiers. Not an easy task nowadays.


  19. I keep thinking about what I texted my friend after a long day at a hunter/jumper show. I should have texted,”OMG! Did hear an eventer died? That’s terrible!”

    Instead, I texted “another eventer died today”

    I hate that, because it lumps a really tragic accident and loss into a group of others. I hate that I react like that, because it doesn’t seem unique to me anymore. It’s just part of upper level eventing, and I hate that.

    I have no passion for this sport for a lot of reasons. Those that do are going to have to do as you suggested, get out there and campaign for their sport. Donate to the studies in hopes of making things safer. Like you said, money talks. I let my money talk by supporting other sports entirely. Are they risk free? No. Do they have their own issues? Yes. I’m saddened and feel strongly for the people surrounding the rider who died this weekend.


  20. I don’t think anyone could hear about what happened at Jersey Fresh and not be stunned. A horse and rider dying in two separate incidents- has that happened before?? Probably? Maybe? But not that I remember. I think you’re right- the sport will never be safe. But it could be safer. I’m so happy with Rolex this year- no major injuries and lots of sound horses after xc. Lots of frangible pins helping when they need to. It would be interesting to have someone compare JF’s course to others. Was there something different that made it more unsafe? So many questions.. so much sadness.


    1. I am far from an eventer, but having been at the event and walked the course, it was not set up to be exceptionally challenging. Riders commented on the technical questions being asked of them on the course, but were mostly commenting on the turns and how the course doubled-back on itself a few times as opposed to the actual fences. Even Allison Springer said in the press conference that the fences looked easy, especially after being at Rolex. I believe the XC ended a bit over 2 hours behind schedule and half of that was because of frangible pins falling when they needed to be. The majority of the fences had pins and fell when necessary, so I don’t believe that was the problem. Of all the falls during the day, most were spread out on the course (except for the two-stride corners that were set in the ring and later removed because of the difficulties it was causing) making no single fence to blame.


  21. Three day eventing certainly isn’t “my sport”, but I just had to comment that I love the way you can articulate and write about a situation so clearly. I’ve always loved your more “taboo” posts that cover so much more than what is on the surface. Thank you for this post.


  22. A well written piece that provokes a lot of thought. Thank you for voicing these concerns, and I’m very glad to see it over on EN. I’m struggling with my own feelings on the topic beyond the fact that it was a heartbreaking tragedy. There need to be changes, that much is clear. I feel that there is the opportunity to find the middle ground – safer cross country without sacrificing the integrity of the phase. I just don’t know if we’ll find it before the next horrible tragedy. I hope we will but I feel that the trend of the cross country at the big events has been bigger, faster, badder, even with the accidents and deaths that have been occurring with both humans and horses. The studies are a great resource and a lot of good has come from the introduction of the frangible pins alone, but I do think that there must be something we can do that’s more immediate, whether it’s course design, or speed/timing or something else. I guess there two things I keep coming back to are heartbreaking and terrifying.


  23. This post reminds me very much of the other one, concerning the well being of the horses (blood). The connecting is that people have to care and participate in the sport. Volunteer, be on committees, wake up and be involved, don’t just rubberneck.

    I haven’t been active lately, and regrettable haven’t read all the comments, which I’m sure are interesting. But I love that you stand up and get involved, Amanda. You have developed an awesome voice and following, and use it so well. Thank you for your awesome blog, for being a kick ass unicorn, and inspiring and educating others.



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