One of things that I believe is important as a good corporate citizen is to give back to the sport, the industry and the customers that support us. In our case we want to support projects that can really make a difference. Projects where our involvement can be leveraged by others to achieve much more than just what our "checkbook" alone could accomplish.

This blog is about a research project that has the potential to make the sport of Eventing far safer for both horse and rider. Tom Spalding

In 2009 Spalding Labs became the founding corporate sponsor of the Frangible Fence Study Project being done by the University of Kentucky under the sponsorship of the US Equestrian Federation and US Eventing Association.

For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of Eventing, it is a triathlon sport that combines scores from three quite different tests, two existing single-event Olympic sports (Dressage and Show Jumping), the third, Cross Country, being something very unique: running up to 3 1/2 miles over terrain and through water, over forty or more huge fixed jumping obstacles, against the clock at speeds up to 95% as fast as thoroughbred racing speeds. There are usually not more than a couple of hundred horses alive in the world at any time capable of credibly competing at the top level of this sport, due to aerobic and athletic demands alone.

Eventing is also a dangerous sport that can and is being made safer. The safety programs that have been implemented by the USEF/USEA appear to have produced a dramatic reduction in the serious and fatal accidents in 2009 compared to the year before. But there is much more to be done.

The Frangible Fence is not a magic bullet that by itself will make Eventing safe for everyone, but along with the other safety initiatives that the USEF/USEA are undertaking it is a key part of the solution. In fact, I believe the Frangible Fence study, which is investigating an array of safety devices not just frangible pins, has the promise to make the biggest difference to the most serious accident, the rotational fall. In this situation, which tends to happen at the upper levels due to fence heights, the horse fails to clear the solidly fixed top rail, which creates a forward somersaulting fall of the horse with so much rotational inertia that the rider cannot get free from the saddle and thus ends up under the horse. Think how much better it would be to have that rail give way at the right moment.

That is why the safety research efforts of the Frangible Fence Project are so important. The research and development from this will allow the implementation of safer fences based upon sound scientific research. In addition to opening our corporate checkbook, we are undertaking and promoting fund-raising efforts on behalf of this research and then its implementation. Even if you are not an Eventer, I urge you to contribute to this important project to connect good science to practical horse and rider safety.

To donate to the Frangible Fence Project via the USEA click here.

For a copy of the presentation on the Frangible Fence Project delivered by Dr. Suzanne Weaver Smith, University of Kentucky at the 2009 USEA Convention click here.

For information on USEA Safety Initiatives click here.

For Information on Eventing including a calendar of events near you go to useventing.com or click here.