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University of Kentucky researchers address equestrian eventing sports safety
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 29, 2010) —A team of a dozen UK faculty and students is working to improve safety in the equestrian sport of Eventing. Eventing, an Olympic sport and part of the World Equestrian Games, includes dressage, cross country and stadium jumping. During the cross country phase, severe injuries to the rider and horse can result from a rotational fall when the horse catches its front legs on the jump and summersaults over, sometimes landing on the rider. These falls occur infrequently, but the consequence can be so severe that a worldwide effort is under way to reduce their occurrence and improve Eventing safety.
The U.S. Equestrian Federation and U.S. Eventing Association are sponsoring a UK College of Engineering project to improve Eventing safety by working with international researchers and eventing organizations to understand the dynamics of the sport via motion tracking and analysis. UK will develop new safety designs and materials as well as develop in situ testing methods and work with course designers and builders to put the project results into use.
According to lead UK researcher Suzanne Smith and Matt Fine with the USEF, UK has been researching both frangible and deformable devices on jumps that 'activate' (break-away or have appropriate give to them) with a sufficient force. Frangible pin safety devices have been available in the sport for about 10 years, but are limited in their use. Traditionally cross country jumps do not move or break when hit, so new designs and new materials that maintain the character of the sport are important.
Recently, the UK team developed a wood/foam composite rail that was incorporated into a Kentucky-style rail fence practice jump at the 2010 Rolex Three-Day Event held April 22-25 at the Kentucky Horse Park and prepared a hands-on demonstration and information session for course designers and builders who were attending the event. They also prepared sessions for the American Eventing Championships and will attend the U.S. Eventing Association Annual Meeting in December.
UK engineering faculty and students from mechanical, materials, and biosystems and agricultural engineering along with construction management are working together on the project.
For more information, also see the current issue of Odyssey, "Engineering Horse & Rider Safety."
Isaac Scherrer, a new University of Kentucky mechanical engineering master's student, has worked with Suzanne Smith on the jump safety project. Isaac will continue work this fall doing testing, high-speed filming and data analysis.