One rider’s favorite Rolex memory

As you all know, Canadian Rolex rider and former Olympian Chelan Kozak’s blog has become one of Eventing Nation’s favorites because of Chelan’s brash commentary and photos like this:

nobody remembers this night
Chelan was inspired by our One Shining Moment post to write about her favorite Rolex memory and spontaneously emailed it to me last night.  We have too many posts to publish as it is, but if you are ever wondering how to get onto Eventing Nation’s homepage, then just send me something like this — fun, edgy, and thought inspiring:
From Chelan:

As a revisiting 4star rider at Rolex (My last run there was a full phase, BD senior had fewer wrinkles, Clinton was President, and a thinner DOC had not yet won Olympic GOLD…) one might assume that my FAVE moment was running XC again, getting to the 4star level as a rider once more, etc. etc. etc. Not so, dear reader, not so. 

My FAVE moment happened after my personal performance was over. I had finished SJ, was still in the monkey suit- Red coat slightly faded, but still fits after all this time, BTW… not bad for a 41 year old who first ‘sported the Red’ in 1994. I spotted Oliver Townend, who I do not know personally and had never met. As I am wont to do, I acted on impulse and seized an opportunity. Elbowed my way past his 3 deep entourage to meet him and shake his hand. ‘Why?’, one might ask. She seems a little old to be a star struck autograph seeker, one might say. Not star struck, I was just overwhelmed that he was alive and felt the need to tell him so. So, I shook his hand, introduced myself and told him how happy I was that he was still here with us. Meant every word. 
So, how does a seasoned (okay, OLD-ish) Advanced eventer who has been around for decades (I first saw Rolex in 1988) get so wrapped up in Ollie and Co? Simple- it never should have happened!!! Nor should Tara or Kristy have fallen quite so hard at the Hollow, nor should Dorothy have had such a bad spill at the ‘Park whatever they call it now instead of the coffin’. Michael Pollard had a tumble at the ducks, which I did not see live or footage of, so can’t comment on first hand. Word is the frangible pins could have done their deed there too. As most are aware, one of the pro logs smashed in two at the head of the Lake and was rapidly replaced. 
I am not an expert on the frangible pin vs. pro log technologies, so will not even begin to spout off on things that I know little about. What it DO know is that we got lucky. What I DO know is that this level, we should not rely so heavily on luck! Simply put, five falls where there were pins, and each of those not releasing is BAD NEWS. Its bad news for rider safety, horse safety and our sport. 
I have heard many arguments for and two against the pro logs. The ‘for’ is pretty obvious, the against seem to be two-fold. 
1) I have heard it stated that horses will figure out that they break and get more clumsy. Really?? Truly?? So, first of all, I’d hope that horse was good on the flat and sell him damn quickly. Secondly, our horses are amazing, and I revere what they do for us cross-country, but can we actually intimate that a horse will begin to tell the difference between a pro log and a real log, particularly at 570 mpm? 1,200 lbs, brain the size of a walnut, I think not. 
2) I have heard the concern that they break too easily. Ummmm, isn’t that the point? The entire raision d’être of the pro log is to prevent a rotational fall, our arch enemy in the XC field. Prevention of a very bad fall leads to a less dramatic, and ‘safer’ fall, or no fall at all. This does not make for pictures nearly as spectacular as the one front and centre on EN today, but again, Isn’t that the POINT? It is supposed to seem a little anti climactic, since danger is averted. Kind of like those moments driving when you ‘almost’ rear end the guy ahead of you because your were so focused on your cell phone. Then you don’t actually hit, and no one is the wiser. 
As I make my way down off of my soapbox, another point that needs to be mentioned here is that Air vests clearly save lives, and prevent injury. I sincerely hope that they are mandatory at the upper levels ASAP. In the meantime, get one of them- both brands have pros and cons- just pick one and wear it every time you go out of the box. Any rider who doesn’t is foolish. 
So, back to my FAVE moment. Oliver lived, the others lived, and the horses are all okay. However, this happened too much because of luck. The fact that we have what appears to be far safer technology in the pro logs means in my head that we need to use them more and realize that the frangible pins are not working like they are supposed to. They certainly did not do their job at Rolex. Five tries, five failures. I don’t care what math you use, that is a dreadful display of performance and it needs to change. The lives of the riders, horses and the continuation of our sport depend on it. I call on our educated, talented and hard working course designers and builders to examine this issue very closely. I know they are as passionate about the successful continuation of our sport as I am.
The only thing that I would add is that, while I agree with Chelan’s conclusion that Rolex generally supported the use of Prologs and that course designers need to consider the technologies more closely, the experts that Visionaire and I spoke to after Rolex and wrote about [/2010/04/crash-notes-from-rolex-xc.html] felt that there was not enough evidence to suggest that the frangible pins did not work as desired in the Wonderful Will or the R-Star crashes.  Furthermore, there are many situations where frangible pins have worked as desired, including, from what I hear, with Alex Hua Tian and Jeans at the Badminton corners.  A lot of smart people who know much more than me believe strongly in frangible pins.
I hope that any vertical log that I canter up to in the future is using either Prologs or frangible pins or some better technology.  I’ll leave it up to the experts to decide which is best. But one thing I learned from Badminton is that jumps don’t have to collapse to be safe–designing geometrically safe fences is an important step as well.


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