Equestrianism: Safety rails in coursedesign

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MIKE ETHERINGTON-SMITH, the director and course designer of the Blenheim International Horse Trials, has used some partly sawn rails as a safety feature in the construction of some of the cross-country fences which riders will tackle here tomorrow. They were designed before last weekend, when Simon Long became the fourth rider to sustain fatal injuries in a competition this year.

Etherington-Smith, who is also responsible for next year's Olympic courses in Sydney, has authorised the top rails on four fences - the seventh, 19th, 23rd and 24th - to be sawn two-thirds of the way through. "If a horse were to hit one of these in a such a way that might cause it to fall, the rail would give way," he said. Safety measures also include putting platforms into the tops of any fences that horses might be liable to bank. If the forecast temperature of 30 degrees proves correct there will also be several amendments - notably shortening the steeplechase course by half a minute and the addition of a five-minute halt on the second section of roads and tracks.

The question of safety was given urgent consideration here yesterday, during a board meeting of the British Horse Trials Association. It was agreed that a separate committee should be formed with outside help from other high-risk sports, such as motor racing, mountaineering, skiing and horse racing.

After yesterday's first full day of dressage, Kimberly Vinoski, a 26- year-old American, held the lead on Over the Limit, who was her winning partner in the three-star event at Kentucky in April. Vinoski, who is helped by Captain Mark Phillips, the US team trainer, was due to ride in this year's Pan-American Games until Over the Limit bruised the sole of a foot.

Gary Parsonage, who had been named for the British squad in next week's European Three-Day Event Championships in Germany, has suffered a similar disappointment. His Magic Rogue, who has a wonderfully consistent record across country, has been demoted to first reserve as the result of a minor injury. Nigel Taylor takes Parsonage's place on the squad with The Frenchman II.

Results, Digest, page 31