“The welfare of Olympic horses should no longer be overlooked and neglected”

This blog is an excerpt from the PARIS 2024 HORSE WELFARE CAMPAIGN MAGAZINE  which is free to download and read online.


Eventing competitions consist of three different events: a cross-country test, a dressage test and a show jumping test.

The cross-country event is particularly formidable for horses and Jet Set was the fourth horse to die during the cross-country round in 2021 (counting only official international competitions), thus adding to the loss of Pakistani Olympic hopeful Kasheer (aka Riverbreeze) and Nightcaps on the same day in May in Australia, as well as Hendrix in Britain in June.

It is imperative that we protect horses better and check their state of health perfectly before taking the decision of their commitment.

Recommendation #35

Improve the protection of horses by fully checking their clinical condition before deciding whether or not to allow them entry to the Olympic Games.

It should also be remembered that horses are not the only ones who pay a heavy price for this sport, but that many riders die regularly too. In an interview with the newspaper l’Equipe in 2019, following the death on a cross-country course of two great French riders, Maxime Debost in 2017 and Thaïs Meheust in 2019, rider Arnaud Boiteau takes stock of the dangers of this event and the different solutions put in place.

Asked about the progression of safety in cross country, he explains that it has greatly improved because “now, the specifications impose a third or a quarter of the obstacles are designed to collapse if a certain pressure is exerted. They collapse when the horse hits the rail and could tip over, reducing the risk of a rotational fall. This is a major development: horse and rider may hit the ground but without harm. And then, the course designers are constantly thinking about the best way to build courses that force the riders to slow down, to ride with their heads. And protective equipment is progressing, in particular airbag helmets and vests.”

There is still a need to improve the safety of riders and horses at these events in terms of obstacle design and innovations in horse protection.

Recommendation #36:

Continue to support equipment manufacturers who work on horse protection as well as those who work on rider protection.

Collaborate on the development of better leg protection for horses for 2024.

Recommendation #37:

Equip the cross-country course with 100% frangible obstacles designed to collapse in the event of a fall or impact.

The most dramatic falls, for horse and rider, mainly occur on fixed obstacles (which by definition do not collapse when the horse hits them), on poorly designed obstacles, or those that do not encourage the rider to slow down the pace.

To avoid reliving the accident on the cross country in Lexington and seeing a horse impaled again on a protruding part of an obstacle, each obstacle must be thought out with safety in mind.

Recommendation #38:

Check that the design of the obstacles complies with the regulations and that the profile, the angle of attack, the top or any other area does not have any right angles or protruding parts.


The horse has difficulty getting used to changes in light. They are easily blinded when passing from shadow to light and vice versa. Care must be taken to avoid any change in luminosity or backlighting in the approach and landing areas, whatever the time of day.

The quality of the ground conditions and horse biomechanics can also be a risk factor for osteoarticular and tendon lesions. Tests on the ground surfaces have already been carried out, but new measuring devices have been developed since the last games in Tokyo and it would be interesting to evaluate them before the Olympic Games in Paris.

For example, the “Equine Track Tester” is a device that realistically simulates the loading of the ground by the forelimb of a horse in sporting conditions. Its patent was filed in early February 2022 thanks to close collaboration between ENVA, IFCE and INRAE.

Recommendation #39

Assess the quality of the cross-country course surface using validated measuring tools and test new, patented equipment for the evaluation of cross-country course surfaces in the various equestrian disciplines prior to the events.



This blog is an excerpt from the PARIS 2024 HORSE WELFARE CAMPAIGN MAGAZINE  which is free to download and read online.