Oliver Towned Sports Illustrated photo


from the May 3rd issue of Sports Illustrated 

A few people sent me emails asking about the Sport’s Illustrated photo, and I just had a chance to pick up a copy of SI this weekend.  Sports Illustrated published this photo of Oliver’s fall from Ashdale Cruise Master in their “Leading Off” photo section, right along side Luke Walton of the Lakers falling on an OKC Thunder player and a baseball player breaking his bat.  
Last week, Kim made a comment about Oli’s photo in Sports Illustrated and pondered “aren’t we happy to see eventing in the mainstream press…errr…maybe not.”  Right now, it seems to me that eventing is not mainstream enough to receive consistent major coverage, but it is just mainstream enough to receive attention when things go wrong.  
Every time I watch the video, I am reminded of what I said after seeing the live feed: it would be a miracle if he wasn’t dead or paralyzed.  It’s simply astounding that he walked away from the hospital the next day.
Oliver’s fall — Warning: not for the faint of heart



  • Anonymous says:

    Looking at the photo close-up and watching the video a few times you will realize how Ashdale Cruise Master focused on the location of his rider and directed every fiber of his being in the opposite direction, thus saving Townend’s neck and potentially life. Look at the eyes, ears and direction of the hooves in the photo! This is why we owe the horse a good ride XC and, when they save us anyway, we owe them everything!!! I know because I have a photo showing my own horse doing the same for me at Blair Castle in 1998. He is still a pampered member of the family at age 21!!

  • Polly says:

    It is good to see that fall from a different angle…..I can’t tell if he was coming in too fast but otherwise it looks to my amateur eye like they were right on for that fence. It doesn’t even look like ACM was distracted by the steps beyond, as so many had surmised. Jeeze Louise, what a shocker for both after such a good ride leading up to that fence. I’m so glad they both turned out OK.

    John, can you dig up video of Alex Hua Tian and Jean’s fall at the open corners when the frangibles gave way? I can’t find it anywhere but it gives a fine example of how those pins should and do work. The collapse saved those 2 from a very different outcome, thank goodness. As I remember the fall from the live feed, it was pretty much exactly the same as Oli’s….

  • PlayerHater says:

    I just want to echo what “Kim” said. A few weeks ago during the eventing going mainstream discussion, this is exactly what I said would be the type of thing that would push eventing into the mainstream for 3 seconds before people moved onto something else. Just a caveat for those that think the general public wants to see anything other than the crashes. Pictures of this fall and Tina Cook’s at Badminton have been plastered all over the mainstream media. How many pictures o have you seen of WFP’s or Paul Tapner’s winning rounds?

  • Anonymous says:

    I think it’s great. The rider is ok (now), the horse is fine, and that’s a crazy action shot in probably the #1 sports magazine in the world. This is no different than any other sport. They show this stuff all the time. I’ve seen footage in the mainstream news media that literally showed a guy collapsing and dying on the court. It wasn’t something I found all that entertaining but it’s still news. These sports are done in a public domain, your gonna see stuff like this. Just because a bad thing happened doesn’t make the press on it such a bad thing.

    you’re nevery going to satisfy the animal rights activists, so don’t worry about offending them. They will always be offended with what eventing is. If the sports gets some more attention in the public, then maybe it can become more legit. People are risking life and limb of themselves and their horses for peanuts right now, that’s gotta change. Any press is good press at this point, IMHO.

  • Tate says:

    This picture truly illustrates the fact that Ollie was able to walk away from that fall because of the inflatable air vest. I really think it would have been a totally different outcome had he not worn it! I was speaking to a friend of mine who competes at the Advance level about the air vests. She was saying that almost all riders at the top levels are wearing one but you aren’t seeing so many at the lower levels. A bit ironic. Get an air vest people. I know they are expensive but they may save your life! Or atleast your ability to walk.

  • McKenna says:

    I am still amazed at how he and his horse walked away fine. As others have said…those air vests….lifesaver eh? I know that there is a certain amount of force that has to be put on the vest in order for it to break i.e. you have a little fall it won’t break because it didn’t have 50 lbs of force (I think that’s right?) first off does anyone know if it’s true and second if it is do you think it will get passed to just ride in that which kind of goes along with 2 a. :) Do you think it will ever get passed to ride with just that…ahhh the .2 vest debate :)

  • Tate says:

    The vest inflates once the draw sting is engaged. The cord from the vest is attached to your saddle or breastplate so once you fall off it pulls the cord and engages the inflation. Kind of like the cords on jet skis that turn the engine off once you fall. So it doesn’t matter about the force…

  • AEM says:

    This perspective really does illustrate how well the air vest protected OT’s neck.

    Tate, at MCTA this weekend I saw A LOT of air vests at all levels. I competed in mine at Novice. :)

  • Lisab says:

    This is how a lot of sports get attention in the beginning. Nascar had some horrific crashes that were captured vividly and the thrill seekers got interested and started talking. Then luckily, Nascar got smart. Started profiling the drivers and crew. Even if the driver was an a-hole. It got attention. There started to be viewing and betting and beer guzzling.
    I’m sure folks that race cars don’t appreciate all the negative attention either. But most of the attention now is positive with some negative.
    I would REALLY like to see them post Peter and Henny’s helmet cam! Even if it’s not Rolex. But that’s a serious good horse/rider combo.

  • clb says:

    I think there was also some luck involved with Oliver and ACM’s awful fall that neither of them were more hurt then they were. Watching it happen was horrible…not seeing Oliver move for a couple minutes after the fall was almost worse.
    In my completely NON Professional opinion: Take a look at the picture above. You can see that Oliver’s head and neck are over the top step and ACM’s butt is smashed into Olvier’s face. That would be a HUGE impact and amount of pressure/force on his neck, no? Now, does the Air Vest come up and protect the neck as well..? From what I can see it looks like it protects up to the collar bone only. But, I could be wrong having never seen one in person.
    It is truly remarkable that Oliver didn’t have his neck snapped in half and thankfully ACM was okay too. Thank you Eventing Gods for that!
    Speaking of which, John – do you know if there have been any updates on ACM’s condition? I feel for the poor dude…who I am sure was pretty stiff and sore…having to endure the trip back across the pond.
    Even though my partner in crime and I are only at the lower levels for the moment, seeing that fall and the above picture…makes me want to forego a couple new pairs of shoes and get an Airvest instead…

  • andrea says:

    there are two vests on the market and one of them has a huge neck roll on it but they both work in the same manner.

    type one

    type two

  • Anonymous says:

    The Point Two Vest that Oli is wearing does give tremendous support for your neck. A primary difference between the two Air -Vests is the Point Two vest inflating INWARD versus the Hit-Air jacket inflating OUTWARD, which make the two visually appear different once inflated. The official Point Two website is http://www.pointtwousa.com and does have more information available than the bit of britain link above. The official Hit-Air website is http://www.air-vest.com. In response to McKenna – it does take 75 pounds of pressure to pull the release mechanism, however, this does not mean it will not inflate from a “small” fall. If you are separated from your horse by more than the cord allows, it will inflate. The leniacy provided by the pressure required to pull the realease is that should one “flail” over a jump, ie. get left behind the motion etc. the cord will allow for some tension/pressure without inflating the vest. Any force that separates horse from rider will infalte the vest (hence we see vests inflating on riders as they hop off after completing the course). There have been voiced concerns that in a rotational fall where there horse and rider do not separate on the way down, the vest would not inflate until one or the other moves, potentially inflating on top of existing broken bones, internal damage, etc. only making the situation worse. Is this like saying don’t wear your seatbelt in a car, because of the 1 in a million chance it could possibly hurt you?? Maybe. More questions need to be asked, but it is still a step in the right direction. ((Stepping off my soapbox))

  • Anonymous says:

    Also – it is amazing to notice that the only object ACM is touching is Oli. There is an unbelieveable amount of force being placed on that man’s chest and head. He is lucky not have have had the saddle crushing his face, etc. I cannot imagine what kind of pain that caused. Props for him to making it back to the horse park the following day.

  • John says:

    I have been pretty quiet about the vest debate simply because I don’t know a lot about them. A few months ago we linked to a study that didn’t find vests to cause any harm, but, frankly, that’s the only scientific study I have seen regarding vests. Any safety device for use in cars, for example, is required to go through extensive testing that slows down the development process but ultimately leads to more confidence in what the final product can and can’t do. Most famous riders who ride in air vests have had them provided by the company either as with pay, for free, or at a discounted price. On the other hand, I do find the basic argument that Oli should be dead pretty darn compelling. Until more research is done it’s hard (for me at least) to draw any major conclusions.

  • SillyHorse says:

    I have to completely agree with John about the vests. There has not been enough research to prove the strenths and limitations of these new vests. I think they are a great idea, and look forward to seeing what further research reveals. Situations like Oliver’s, however, are certainly quite convincing.

    I was able to listen to sales representatives from both Air Vest companies at Rolex, and taken with a grain of salt, it was quite interesting to listen to them. I was also able to have both vests inflated on me, for what that is worth. It is intersting to hear different perspectives form doctors and engineers as well as riders who wear the vest.

    Of course, just because we have these snazzy new vests, there should still be emphasis placed on safe riding. Hopefully the air vest does not give anyone over confidence to attempt an unsafe move up at home or in competition, etc. Many injuries can still be prevented without inflatable air jackets.

  • Anonymous says:

    What’s really sad are those who call themselves “trainers” and post links to falls like this and when their students or parents ask what happen? Trainer responds with ” His front legs got hung on the top of the jump. Looks like he just underestimated the height or didn’t have the power at that moment to totally clear it leaving his body to topple over.” Yikes… I hate regulation but statements like this from a “trainer” (who has only competed at on BN) really scares me.

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  • As the photo editor that made the decision to push this photo, I can tell you it was not easy. My first question to any photographer when they have an image like this is whether the rider/jockey and horse are OK. We knew ACM was OK. When reports came from the hospital that Oliver Townend was not only OK, but considering competing the next day, the photo became a must push.

    Believe me, at Eclipse Sportswire we cover a ton of horse events and there are tons of falls that never see the light of day. This photo though, it is an amazing photo and a testament to the advances in rider safety between the helmet and vest. Oliver was even attributing his remarkable lack of injury to both shortly after the fall.

    There really was a lot of thought that went into whether or not this image would even be released to the public. Thankfully, horse and rider were in good condition, and we released the photo. I hope this helps. We really do want to show horse sports in their best light, but this photo immediately deserved to be out there. Thanks.

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