Last weekend, the eventing community experienced the tragedy of losing 2 horses who were competing at The Fork horse trials. One died following stadium jumping, the other following cross country.
Tragedy of this nature stirs up lots of conversation, especially regarding safety. I am selective with the type of media I engage with on topics like this, but one particularly good post is Me Asking Why by Lauren of She Moved to Texas. Its honest and the comments are (mostly) respectful and thought-provoking. And while it touches on numerous points, I came away from the article asking myself: why do I choose to do eventing (versus another discipline) given the inherent safety concerns with cross-country?
Firstly, I acknowledge that I have the distinct impression that there is increased danger at the higher levels of eventing. I do not know if that is statistically true, but it's the overall impression I've gotten since I joined the eventing community 5 years ago. And its a large part of why I do not have the ambition to compete at the higher levels. By extension, I feel that the lower levels have a much lower degree of risk, and I take measures to be as safe as possible. I'm fine with BN for now and see myself going Novice one day, maybe Training (maybe not).
Furthermore, while solid fences seem inherently more dangerous, in some respects they are safer. On the one hand, they don't fall down if you crash into them. On the other hand, they're designed to support the weight of a horse, so they don't break or collapse when a horse jumps ON a fence (banks it) rather than OVER it. Horses can get themselves out of trouble with solid fences in ways they cant with stadium jumps. Additionally, it has been argued that horses can better read solid jumps than they do stadium jumps, in the way that horses are generally better over quarter-rounds than they are with oxers. The shapes lend themselves to the task from the horse's perspective. Especially at the lower levels, lots of XC jumps are logs or have roll-tops, and are designed to be very inviting to horses. In fact, my horse does better with XC fences than with stadium fences. He reads them easier. Or he likes them. Whatever the case, he's a better, safer horse out in XC than he is in the stadium ring.
Galloping in an open field is a huge draw for me. Its simply exhilarating. And eventing is the only sport that includes it (with the exception of hunter paces, which I'd love to try sometime, but also includes solid jumps). Would I get enjoyment if we galloped along and then came to a stadium jump out in the field? Yes. And in fact most schooling derbies have just that. Its just not part of registered events.
Besides the wind-in-the-hair component, another reason I do this sport is that I understand the rules better in Eventing than any other sport that involves jumping, namely hunter/jumpers. Understanding the rules and the scoring makes me feel more empowered with personal improvement, so I get more satisfaction from eventing competitions than I have from hunter/jumper competitions.
So that, in a nutshell, is why I chose to event even in the face of tragedies at the higher levels of the sport. Thanks to Lauren for the thoughtful post, and for inspiring me to take a good honest look at why I choose this sport.