Saturday, June 22, 2024

British equestrian rider Georgie Campbell dies competing at event in Devon

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As in horse racing, body protectors for riders are compulsory in the cross-country section of eventing. These are, effectively, padded waistcoats made of foam cells which are flexible enough to allow the rider to bend and move but, at the same time, provide an exoskeleton of protection in the event of a fall.

On top of this event, riders can chose to ride with an air-bag type body protector which is clipped onto the saddle and inflates outwards the split second the rider becomes separated from the saddle – much like an airbag activating when a car stops very suddenly. These are not mandatory but down to personal preference, though many eventers chose to use this extra layer of protection.

The British standards on body protectors are constantly updated as they improve and the voluntary air-bag version is incorporated into some body protectors as an all-in-one; some just sit on top of the mandatory one.

However sometimes nothing will save a rider in a rotational fall when a 600kg plus horse flips 180 degrees and lands on the rider. In racing, body protectors are good for saving ribs from flying hooves and the type of internal injury you might get being trodden on by another horse.

But jockeys still fracture a lot of vertebrae and the bottom line is that, sadly, in some cases no amount of body protection is going to save a rider from being crushed.

Though jockeys sustain some serious injuries, because they are going faster and riding shorter, generally they are thrown clear of their falling mount. Counter-intuitively, perhaps, statistics show that during the cross-country phase in eventing – when the speeds are slower and riders have a longer length of stirrup – even though a rider does not have other horses to contend with when they come down at an obstacle, it is more dangerous.

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