Big data, a tool to reduce horse falls in elite competitions
Rocca di Papa (Italy), May 15 (EFE).- Innovation, the use of tools such as ‘big data’ and prevention have been used by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) for more than 20 years in eventing to reduce falls and avoid injuries.
Horses that compete in eventing, which consists of dressage, cross-country and jumping, have an average height of 1.70 meters and weigh about 450 kilograms.
At Pratoni del Vivaro in the town of Rocca di Papa near Rome, the first stage of the Eventing Nations Cup is a rehearsal for the World Equestrian Championships, to be held at the same venue in September, is an opportunity to determine which organizational and safety aspects need to be improved.
“Each obstacle is monitored, we know what type of barrier it is, the size, the shape and how the horse hits it. All this serves to create a database and with the statistics we can do our work,” FEI Eventing Committee Chair David O’Connor explained to EFE.
Data is collected particularly in cross-country, where circuit characteristics such as climbs and descents, elements such as water, angled jumps and courses of more than 3 kilometers, make it more demanding for both riders and horses.
According to the federation’s own database, in 2021, 19,231 pairs participated in competitions, with an average of 1.12 percent of horse falls, of which 0.95 percent were in cross-country (183 falls).
In 2016, with a similar number of starting pairs, there were 278 falls (1.40 percent); and in 2011 there were a total of 283 (1.73 percent).
Counting all events and including cases in which riders lost control of their horses, in 2021, the average number of falls was 4.98 percent, higher than the previous year (4.34 percent), but lower than the average for the period 2010-2021 (5.33 percent).
For the past five years, the eventing committee has used the system known as the ‘MIM Clip’, which is placed on some barriers so that in the event the horse clips the bar with its hooves, it can bend and prevent riders from falling head-first.
O’Connor said that the method made it possible to reduce serious injuries by half when riders make a mistake and hit the obstacle.
For the eventing committee chair, prevention also plays a prominent role, which is why they decided to separate the competitions into groups based on experience.
“It’s about a change of mentality and education, they know the requirements and prepare for each category,” he argued. “The most important thing is the horses, it’s the number one priority,” he stressed. EFE