The supreme discipline of equestrian sport is the organization of events, which is the triathlon of dressage, jumping and, above all, cross-country riding. However, serious accidents repeatedly cause criticism of the sport. A whole host of measures are now being taken to make it safer. And so-called “deformable obstacles” should ensure fewer injuries. In Lindenhof near Hambach (Schweinfurt district), the only club “Pferdefreunde Lindenhof” in Lower Franconia prepares for its international tournaments – such as national dressage, league jumping up to Class M and cross-country style tests up to Grade 1 June 4-6 – reorganize the course Accordingly.
An exciting sport that places the highest demands on the horse and rider, but also creates a special feeling of happiness: this is how Jerrold Ort, owner of Lindenhof and president of the 140-member federation “Pferdefreunde Lindenhof”, describes the organization of events. The association has been around for 20 years and has already organized 64 national and international championships in the cycle 2*. Numerous Olympic, world and European champions have ridden this vast 3,500-meter facility around Maibacher Berg.
What are the risks of riding cross country?
The fatal accident involving 25-year-old rider Benjamin Winter in 2014 at the European Championships in Lemmoln shocked the German equestrian world. Recently, between July 2019 and February 2020, eight jockeys and some horses died internationally. It was mostly the dreaded spinning fall, where the horse gets stuck on the obstacle and rolls over. There is a high risk of it falling on the passenger and seriously injuring him.
How can such rotational falls be avoided?
Since January 1, 2021, the FEI has made deformable or thrown off-terrain obstacles mandatory in all international event championships from Level 1* to 5*. This applies to all open bulls, open corners, and steep jumps. They can be used voluntarily in national exams, explains Siggi Adler, international course designer and lead jockey from Marktredwitz, who created new courses at Lindenhof. There, all twelve identified obstructions have now been built or transformed. There are 120 obstacles in total.
How does obstacle deformed work?
The Swedish MIM system, developed in the 1990s, has been recognized by the FEI since 2012 and has already been used in some cases. The MIM clamp – a type of hinge – ensures that the top of the obstacle gives way under a certain pressure forward or up. As soon as the horse hits an obstacle with a certain force, the clip breaks and releases the fold-down mechanism. The tilted obstacle element can then be returned to its old position within a minute. The MIM is available in red for a powerful attack and recently in yellow for easier editing, for example when jumping at an angle.
How much does a conversion like this cost?
Siggi Adler states that there are between 700 and 1,200 euros per obstacle. Of the A-level tournaments, the MIM system is sponsored by Germany’s Top Sports Foundation, Jerrold Ort adds. The obstacle itself was built by the club members themselves in the Lindenhof.
What other measures are being taken to ensure the safety of horses and humans?
At every obstacle in the area there is a judge who is connected to the jury by radio, explains Jerrold Ort, who also works on the event organizing committee of the Bavarian Riding and Driving Federation. If he realizes that there are great suspicions or that humans and animals are connected, the pair will be disqualified from the tournament. If a dangerous ride occurs, this will be recorded and the rider will be noted accordingly in other tournaments.
Basically, careful training reduces potential accidents. The head of the association says that it is important that humans and animals grow together as a couple, that both are physically fit, that the riding qualities are correct and that riders can listen to their horse and evaluate its performance.
Siggi Adler knows there is a strict qualification system in place to enter the next higher category. Before the test and also between partial juvenile tests, the horses are checked for condition by the jury and the vet and disqualified if they fail.
How does the cycle affect the hazard or the safety of the horse and rider?
Adler says the difficulties involved in the path lie not only in the profile of the obstacle, but also in the type of subsoil and plowing, the length of the path and the terrain and the physical condition of the people and animals. Riding speed is set. To protect horses, it does not matter who is faster. If the pair is too fast, they can be punished.
Is it also taken into account how the horse perceives its surroundings?
The latest research on this is used when building the course. For example, horses can see contrast, so obstructions in the shade, for example, should be painted much lighter. Or it picks up movements much more quickly than humans and its spatial view is almost universal, so lateral phenomena affect the animal.
With its own app, the course can now be walked on, recognized with the horse’s eyes and improved, if necessary, says Jerrold Ort. He is interested in minimizing residual risks when riding cross-country, “because the welfare of horses is always the focus”.
National and international tournaments in Lindenhof
Under the auspices of the newly elected president of the Bavarian Riding and Driving Association, State Parliament Member Gerhard Eck, a national dressage and showjumping championship up to Class M as well as cross-country tests up to Class A will be held at the Whitsun in Hambacher Lindenhof from 4-6 June. From August 19 to 21 there will be a national and international event championship with A**, CCI2*-L (with German Team Championship for Federal States) and with CCI3*-S. Entry to events is free. The association provides more information at www.pferdefreunde-lindenhof-hambach.de.