USEA Convention: Saturday Morning Live Thread

9:30 AM-University of Kentucky Safety Device Study: A talk about research performed by UK about different jump safety technology devices.
Frangible Pins: As everyone knows, frangible pins are metal pins that support the XC jump and are brittle enough to break when a horse hits the jump hard enough, thus reducing the force of impact.  Earlier this year, scientists put force measurement devices on a jump in England to help them understand what forces are involved when a horse hits a jump.  Studies with jumps that use frangible pins show that no matter how intense the impact, the force of the horse hitting the jump is reduced to the threshold force breaking point of the frangible pin.  A new hinged gate design was discussed where a vertical gate is used that can break down using frangible pins, with one frangible pin on the backside and the gate portion supported by hinges.
Foam jumps: Researchers are also looking into foam that breaks under similar forces as the breaking point determined best for frangible pins.
Frangible key: Similar to a frangible pin, in that it releases with a certain amount of force, but it also incorporates a small flag that flips up when a horse hits the jump and compromises the integrity of the jump but does not hit it hard enough to break the key.
Plans for research going forward: more analysis of horse motion, focus on practical solutions, device demonstrations for eventers and general public, continuing partnering with British Eventing officials.
10:00 AM-XC Speed Study by John Staples and Reed Ayers, Ph.D.: Wanted to look at why and how people went certain speeds around the XC, and how actual speeds often do not match set speed of level.
Findings: variances (changes in) speed are not as dramatic in long format courses as short format courses.  The study compared a course that hosted both a short and long format at one competition.  Researchers are not sure why this is.  Speed of the horse effects the shape of a jump.  Courses that had more separation between jumps had lower variances of speed.  Different horses have significantly different variations of speeds throughout a course, but the changes in speed are located in similar points (skinnies, water jumps).  
One problem with wheeling a course into set minutes is that riders ride their watches, not the course.  We need to remember that each minute segment is different and requires a different ride.  Future focus needs to be on relating variability of speed to safety.  Significant speed variance wears horses out much more than consistent speeds, and so do changes in direction.  
10:30 AM: USEA Cardiorespiratory Research Team-Catherine Kohn & Mark Hart.  NOT HAPPY WARNING.  Fatalities among US horses at eventing competitions 1996-2008: 51 horse fatalities.  Mean age of horse that died: 13.7, range 8-26 years.  38 died on XC, 5 at the end.  The fatality frequency peaked in 2006, but the trend has increased over time from ’96 to ’08.
Requiring necropsy is an important step to contributing to our body of knowledge.  Many horse owners of horses that dies do not want to allow necropsy.
One big question in the instance of cardiovascular problems: is there some underlying issue with the horse’s heart that is not apparent under normal pre-competition examinations?  They studied 2* and 3* horses at Plantation Field, where they took echocardiograms before and after XC, ultrasounded lungs, took EKG before and after XC, and continuous EKG on XC.  Article from Study.  At FHI, they just collected EKG data on 2* and 3* horses.  They do not have any results yet because they are having trouble extracting data from the medical recording machines.  The researchers did not find any dramatic heart arrhythmias of horses going into competition.  They didn’t see any dramatic structural differences in horse organs before XC, so there does not appear to be any huge unseen abnormalities in horses before XC.
What next: Study heart enzyme increase when heart is inflamed, look at rest and after XC.  Determine how many 3DE horses experience pulmonary hemorrhage.  A mass voluntary study is planned where researchers perform an endoscopy before the event and after the event.  An important point is that this work has just begun.  We can’t study these things without many wonderful people, horses, and events.  Ideally, we want to find something we can see in a horse somehow that tells us that a particular horse is especially at risk for these conditions.
The USEA endowment trust is going to match any donations toward this ongoing study made at the convention this weekend.  I get the sense from these talks that we are finally using the full power of statistics and science to address these issues, and there is a great sense of hope in the room.  Many people stood up after the talk and pledged donations, and it was a surprisingly emotional experience.
11:00 AM-Event Owners Task Force Open Forum: Presented by Mark Hart, Amy’s owner.  A few points made by Dr. Hart: The task force was started when owners in eventing felt underrepresented in the USEF and the eventing sport in general.  Owners are a critically important part of eventing in the US because the national federation does not own any horses, such as in GBR.  The task force surveyed eventing owners about what they wanted.  Results from the survey include desire for a broader base of owners (ownership is getting more and more expensive and harder to do solo), and equine safety.
We need to take measures to try to bring in new owners.  The best way is to consider encouraging syndications, which are common in racing, but have been much less common in eventing.  Dr. Hart also spoke about the Eventing Owners Task Force website that we wrote about on Thursday.  The website is all about facilitating getting riders in touch with potential owners by allowing riders to make facebook style profiles for them and their horses.  The website also contains a lot of info about syndication and ownership.  For example: EVENT HORSE OWNERSHIP IS NOT AN INVESTMENT, its about enjoying the journey.  Fun fact: the horse owner pays every part of journey to US Team competitions until the rider is actually named on the team.  Once the rider is named on the Team, the USET steps in and helps with the costs.  Another random fact from the talk: $18 million dollars has flowed through the American Horse Trials Foundation, which lets people contribute to riders with tax deductible donations.
The rider profiles on the Event Owners Task Force website give the riders an opportunity to introduce and market themselves.  The site is only in a testing phase and has not been released to the public, but it looks really nice.  Having spent hours, days, on web design for Eventing Nation, I appreciate how much effort goes into designing sites.  We will link to the site as soon as it goes public.
The Task Force also wants to increase owner support and activities at competition, which will help bring new owners and corporate sponsors into the sport.  The Professional Riders Organization helped implement a test of this method at Plantation Field.  The goal is to help increase the owner experience at the event and help control costs for riders and owners.  One goal is to convert spectators into owners.  I understand that the issues of wealthy owners may seem removed from the concerns of most eventers, but owners are a fundamental part of the US Team and the quality of the Team will increase with an increase in the funding/ownership base.  
Comments from the post-talk discussion: One great comment in the discussion was about trying to also increase spectator education and involvement.  Event control is different than event entertainment.  The sport needs to be able to have spectators understand what is going on at an event at any time in an entertaining way.  “There is too much ‘Phillip just jumped fence 3’.”  Successful spectator sports bring the competitors to the fans outside of the competitive environment. Personalities drive publicity.  It’s hard to get riders to market themselves.  Riders feel very uncomfortable approaching people they know and asking for money for horses.  The syndication website idea is excellent in that it helps people to approach the riders, reversing the process.  The website also gives legitimacy to the syndication process, rather than a rider just approaching someone and bringing up syndication.
Break for lunch, much more later…

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