Lively discussions, presentations and proposals provided a vibrant atmosphere at the FEI Eventing Forum & National Safety Officers (NSO) Seminar 2023 hosted by the French Equestrian Federation (FFE) which concluded at Haras de Jardy (FRA) today.
A total of 108 delegates from 24 National Federations (NF) attended, and once again the Forum was moderated by decorated American Olympian, FEI board member, chair of the FEI Eventing Committee and USEF Chief of Sport David O’Connor, alongside Geoff Sinclair, chair of the FEI Eventing Risk Management Steering Group (RMSG). (For Canada, TD and Bromont organizer Sue Ockendon and RMSG member/NSO Rob Stevenson attended.)
The busy three-day program was preceded by a one-day course led by frangible device MIM’s founder Mats Björnetun and course builder James Willis on Thursday 19 January which was attended by 72 NF representatives. This included the latest technology updates on the fitting of frangible devices correctly, and advice on adapting currently-used devices to the new standard.
Friday morning began with a tour of the spectacular Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games venue in Versailles, with representatives from the Paris 2024 Organising Committee, namely Anne Murac; a delegation from GL events Equestrian Sport including Sylvie Robert, Jean Morel and members of the team responsible for the design, planning, installation and management at the site on behalf of Paris 2024; FFE’s Head of International Relations Quentin Simonet and Technical Director Sophie Dubourg; and finally, footing specialist Paul Jacques Tanvez (FRA) and Laurent Bousquet (FRA), a member of the FEI Eventing Risk Management Steering Group, acting as guides.
Social License and Media Training were the first topics to be tackled following the visit in Versailles, followed by a discussion on sanctions to help improve safety and the future development of 5* events with detailed feedback from the Organisers of Badminton, Burghley, Lexington and Pau.
The remainder of the first day was dedicated to discussions around Risk Management statistics and trends based on comprehensive data collected since 2004, and also highlighting 2022 had recorded the lowest number of rotational falls at FEI level since reporting had started. The delegates also discussed standards for cross-country courses; the potential to make safety stirrups mandatory; as well as the use of the Horse Form Index within the community. Throughout the Forum, the delegates were also presented a number of technology and design related innovations to increase safety from enhanced biometric data to boot design.
Among the breakthroughs from the weekend, a proposal made by Sweden’s Staffan Lidbeck regarding cross-country flag rules and the addition of penalties for displacing a flag was met with overwhelming support.
Lidbeck referred to the system currently used at national level in Sweden, where at present the rule is zero penalties for jumping clear through the flags, 7 penalties when a flag loses its upper attachment, and 20 penalties for a run-out or when a horse jumps the fence with no part of the hind end going through the flag. A show of hands confirmed the majority of the delegates agreed to the concept, with consensus that further discussion needed to take place regarding the proposed number of penalties to be applied.
Talking about the effect of the new rule on the sport in Sweden, Lidbeck’s fellow-countryman and leading Eventing Technical Delegate and Course Designer Lars Christensson said, “I think it has made riders respect fences more, and they ride more correctly. We will be going the right way if we introduce this in the sport.”
A range of subjects covered during the Forum were also discussed in seven different Breakout Groups (refer to the agenda here) on the Saturday, with the findings and different solutions and ideas presented to the entire delegation. The final day focused on Risk Management statistics and programs being conducted by National Federations with National Safety Officers from eleven countries – Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, The Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden and USA – making individual presentations and sharing their safety initiatives at a national level.
The Forum came to a close with Risk Management Group chair, Australia’s Geoff Sinclair, thanking David O’Connor and members Laurent Bousquet (FRA), Jonathan Holling and Dave Vos (USA), Great Britain’s Mike Etherington-Smith for driving much of the work of the group in previous years, Stuart Buntine (AUS) who has now replaced him, Rob Stevenson (CAN) and Staffan Lidbeck (SWE). “They are a great group of people and of course we are also very grateful to the FEI Eventing team for all the hard work,” he said.
David O’Connor was pleased with the outcome of this year’s Forum and thanked the delegates for their positive involvement. “All the topics we have covered have been raised in the spirit of consultation so that we can make the right decisions for the future of the sport,” he said.
“By working together and in the same direction at both national and international level, we become increasingly effective from an educational, communications, procedural and standards perspective, and we know just how important this is to minimise risk within the sport, and increase engagement and appreciation for Eventing.”
“It’s been a great few days with great conversation, interacting and exchange of ideas, we now have a lot of action items and discussion points going forward and I’d like to thank you for your help, your participation and your contributions,” he concluded.
Video recordings from the 2023 Forum and Seminar will be available here in the coming days and a fully detailed report will be published within the next fortnight.
About FEI Eventing Risk Management
Since 2004, the FEI has embraced a holistic approach to risk management, with thorough data collection and analysis in order to have a detailed overview of what is happening in the sport to understand the trends, and to monitor the effects of the different actions put in place to mitigate and minimize risk. Part of the holistic approach also requires having a broad view on the different risk factors, including data analysis on fences and the use of frangible technology but also other mitigating factors.
For more details on the FEI Eventing Risk Management Policy, Action Plan, Seminars, Statistics, the Horse Form Index, National Safety Officers and other related topics, click here.