The three-star European Eventing Championships is set to take place in September 2015 in Blair Atholl, Perthshire, Scotland.
For those lucky enough to get tickets and accommodation to the event, the 2015 FEI European Championships represents an opportunity to be part of history as Europe's elite riders and horses converge on the incomparable settings of Blair Castle. Of course, tickets and accommodation come at a price but it is worth searching online for details of competitions that enthusiasts can enter in the hope of being looked after at the ancestral home of Clan Murray, a truly unique castle that occupies an integral strategic position in the central Scottish Highlands.
Indeed, who would not look forward to waking up in the grounds of a category A listed building, with its award winning gardens and pivotal role in history – it has played a part in the lives of figures as diverse as Robert the Bruce, Oliver Cromwell and Prince Charles Edward Stuart, while in 1844 the castle also hosted Queen Victoria and her consort Prince Albert.
For anyone looking to secure a ticket for the event, you could do worse than visit Equestrian Escapes to purchase a five night trip to The Championships from 9th -14th September 2015.
A new following for equestrian events
There is renewed interest in the sport, given the success of team GB team at The London Olympics in 2012 and, even fresher in the memory, the recent FEI Alltech World Equestrian Games Normandy 2014 – another boon to the popularity of the sport has been the involvement of a Princess Zara Phillips, particularly given the successes she has enjoyed since getting back into the saddle following the birth of her baby. Whatever, the case it is sure to be a festival of the finest in dressage, show jumping and the equine world's finest.
The Championships have a long history, with the first ever event held in Badminton in 1953. However, they have not been without their share of tragedy over the years, with a number of serious horse riding accidents occurring both during and around the time of the championships.
Horse riding can be dangerous
This should come as little surprise; horse riding, like all exciting sports, comes with some level of risk and given the variables – unpredictable horses, poor preparation, poor training and changeable conditions – it is clear that there will always be some risks involved when it comes to equestrian events.
Although elite level accidents are rarely attributable to negligence – for example, that of an instructor, riding school or equipment company - serious horse riding accidents are not unheard of.
As such, those involved with the event will need to ensure that all equipment is up to scratch – for example, that riding helmets meet the required safety standards and are fitted correctly for individual riders. Although catastrophic head injuries are relatively rare in elite eventing, taking these precautions can greatly reduce the risk of such incidents occurring.
The same goes for saddles and reins – these need to be maintained or else risk endangering the health and safety of riders. According to a quick survey of Scottish personal injury solicitor websites , typical horse riding accident injuries include the following:
- Sprains and broken bones
- Head and brain injuries
- Back and spinal injuries
- Fatal Injuries
Fatal horse riding accident
Of course, even taking fundamental precautions can be no guarantee that riders will not sustain injury.
For example, in June 2014 25-year-old German rider, Benjamin Winter, suffered fatal head injuries after being involved in a rotational fall while competing at the Luhmuhlen Horse Trials. Despite wearing an air jacket safety device and a helmet at the time of his fall, the injuries proved too severe.
Winter was a talented rider – he'd won gold as part of Germany's 2006 European Junior Championships team and had also won two team silver medals and one bronze at European Young Rider Championships. He had also competed at 2013's European Eventing Championships in Malmo, Sweden, where he earned a very credible 18th place finish.
"The entire equestrian community is deeply distressed at this terrible news," said Ingmar De Vos, FEI Secretary General, at the time of horse riding accident. "The safety and welfare of riders and horses is of prime importance at all FEI events, but sadly tragic accidents like this do happen."
He added, "On behalf of the FEI and the whole sport I would like to express our most sincere condolences to Benjamin Winter's family and his many friends on the Eventing circuit. He was a truly talented rider who was expected to go right to the top."
The legacy of Winter will be felt in Scotland this September in the figure of world champion eventer Sandra Auffarth. She has confirmed that she will take over the reins of Ispo, the horse the 25-year-old was riding when he suffered his fatal head injury last year.
Auffarth, a rider noted for her intelligence, charm and sensitivity, says that she considered the decision to ride Ispo very carefully.
"Ben was not only a colleague, but also a very good friend," she said. "At the request of the Winter family I am taking on Ispo. Ben was always convinced of this horse. I will do everything with Ispo in his name and in his spirit."
It would certainly be a good news story if Auffarth could win some events while riding Ispo - a horse that Winter rode for five years up until his fall, in that time successfully progressing from junior to senior events.
However, it would be an even better news story if the 2015 European Eventing Championships pass without any rider sustaining serious head, spinal or brain injury.