12-10-2012, 11:39 AM
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As a person who was competing at the higher levels in eventing during the 70's I will say a couple of things. Yes, the course designers were under a LOT of pressure to build bigger and nastier courses on XC because the general perception was that the XC course should be the determining factor on which combination won. The fences kept getting bigger and harder, like it was some contest between the designers on who could wreak the most havoc. Finally, there really was a revolt in the riding community.
Yes, I fell....yes I had horses fall.....yes I remounted....but I never had a horse badly injured. I did, on two occasions, retire a horse on XC as I just didn't feel the horse was right after a couple of steps. It turned out that they were both determined sound by a vet when rested. To say that the riders DIDN'T CARE was an irresponsible statement. Anyone riding at that level worked years with their partners getting there and did not take falls lightly.
Today's rules do not allow remounting when a rider falls, and I disagree with that. There are many times when a rider falls and they are uninjured and could continue on. I do agree with retiring when a horse falls.
Today, the XC courses are much less difficult in the size and scariness department, but are far more technical. The angles are tough and the jump faces are ridiculously narrow. The new fad. The times are measured much tighter allowing the easy accrual of time penalties. More importantly, more people complete the XC courses. Now, the winners had better START winning in dressage. THAT is the place where they weed out the winners and losers now.
So, there became a big push to have more elaborate movers in dressage. The WB's (actually, mostly crosses) started becoming the rage. BUT, they had more trouble with the long format (oversimplifying here).
The long format was tossed for a number of reasons. Time, cost, the need for LARGE facilities. Somewhere, in the deep recesses there just might have been relief for those bringing the WB's into the game.
I miss the long format, personally. It REQUIRED riders to present a very fit horse and hours every day were devoted to getting my intermediate and advanced horses in the peak of condition. It was almost a science to peak the horse out at the crowning event of the season.
Now, I see much less fit horses competing since the short format has become the norm. As a result, I believe we are seeing MUCH worse accidents on XC as exhausted horses are unable to answer the questions asked. The falls, as Maura mentioned, are becoming more and more rotational falls (which were rarer in the 70/80's).