Safer flags for eventing

IN a step to prevent a repetition of French event horse Icare d’Auzay’s tragic accident changes are to be made to on-course flags in the cross country phase of events.

On August 20 2007, British Eventing (BE) will introduce a new regulation relating to the type of red and white jump flags and poles used to indicate direction on cross country fences.

In order to reduce the risk of injury to horse or rider (Icare d’Auzay became impaled on a cross country flag at Badminton this year and was subsequently destroyed) all flags and flagpoles on certain fence types must meet four criteria based on construction, material, design, and how the flags are secured to the fence.

A number of manufacturers currently supply flags which meet the criteria and British Eventing will keep a list to help event organisers source the required flags.

The types of fence required to use these safety flags include: corners; fences of less than three metres jumpable width; related fences which because of their design offer a jumpable line of less that three metres width; fences where horse might jump close to a flag; fences jumped on an angle where knocking a flag is a possibility.

The flags and poles on these fences from August 20 used must fit the following criteria:

• the flag poles must be made of a material that cannot shatter, break or splinter, such as suitable plastic or carbon fibre or any other appropriate materials;

• there must be no points anywhere on the flag poles and any sharp corners and/or edges on the flags must be rounded;

• there must be no ‘open ends’ of any part of the flag poles which may come into contact with horse or rider;

• flags must be secured in such a way that they ‘break away’ and/or move away from the fence if/when struck by either horse or rider in such a way that the chance of horse and/or rider being injured is significantly reduced.

All flags and flagpoles to be used in these situations will need to be approved by the BE field staff.

BE sport director Mike Etherington-Smith commented; “Safety of horse and rider is the number one priority in our sport and any steps which can be taken to further improve it will be taken.

"This rule is a safety measure to avoid potential accidents and it is hoped that all organisers will understand the importance of introducing such flags as soon as possible. We understand Anthony Fooks will use safety flags during Wilton Horse Trials over July 28 – 29 and Nigel Taylor has already used them at Aston Le Walls, so this new safety initiative is already underway in the field.”

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