Friday, 31 December 2010

Are Fat People Dangerous?

One of the major themes for 2010 in eventing has been safety, and British Eventing's final magazine of the year devotes many pages to safety, but just when I was beginning to think that British Eventing were at the top of the tree when it comes to safety in eventing and I was feeling pretty proud of the sport we run in this country, Chairman of the BE Safety committee, Jonathan Chapman, starts another epidemic of foot in mouth!

In BE's own membership magazine, he "shares his views on why a rider's health and fitness plays a major role in the safety of Eventing". Now, overall this is a pretty benign commentary piece about being fit and heathly, but here's where I take real issue, and I quote:

"We can have all the body protectors and skull caps, all the best designed fences and frangible pins. But if we, as jockeys, are over weight and under fit we are more likely to become fatigued, and we may make bad decisions, lose our balance and we are far more likely to fall and injure ourselves."

I not sure BE's own research data would support any theory that draws any link between riders' Body Mass Index & cross country falls, quite apart from the fact Jonathan hasn't quantified what constitutes 'overweight'. I'm extremely lucky with my weight, I've been a 32 inch waist since I was 18 and can regulate my weight easily to within a pound or two and ride at around 11 Stone, something I know many people struggle with. There are however many, far better, riders than me, who would consider themselves  'overweight' to varying degrees, so whilst, yes, clearly being fit is a requirement for riding well cross country I think it's ridiculous for Jonathan to suggest the being over weight (whatever he means by that) is a significant contributing factor to accidents on cross country. I think we can rule that out as the major cause of rotational falls, don't you?

Some riders should just stick to riding......


  1. I'm going to disagree with you about this. I think fitness is an important issue in our sport. According to the quote, he said overweight AND underfit. As an overweight and underfit middle age rider, I agree with him. I have ridden at a good weight and overweight and fit and unfit. I am definitely a better rider at a healthy weight and fit. The underfit part is probably more important, but you can't be seriously fit without being at a healthy weight. Thin doesn't necessarily equal fit either, we need to get past appearances and emphasize athletic training and fitness. Both are important and become more important as the difficulty of the riding increases. I think that as riders we need to be more objective and less defensive about fitness in our sport. Most amateur adult riders simply do not have the time for the fitness regime that most professional riders maintain. That's why we are amateurs and we do the best we can at our current weight and level of fitness and try not to foolishly exceed our capabilities.

  2. Totally agree Barbara

  3. I can't disagree with anything you've said Barbara. You're right, it clearly makes a difference to be fit (and therefore of a healthy weight). However 2 points:

    Firstly, there are examples of over weight riders riding at Intermediate & Advanced levels of the sport and doing very well.

    Rider fitness is by no means the over-riding factor in rider & horse falls, if so then shouldn't we have some form of BMI test you need to pass in order to compete?

    Also bare in mind the majority of falls (84% in the UK) occur in the "Amateur Space" (BE90>Novice).

    Personally I think the standard of riding, or more accurately 'the lack of understanding of how to ride an XC course', is the key problem that needs to be tackled. And the more 'accessible' we make the sport the bigger this issue becomes.

  4. I don't ride cross country, but do show jumping, you hear stuff like this too. I don't think BMI should be involved at all, it's not very accurate. Muscle is denser than fat and therefore weights more and a BMI won't take that into account, you can be solid muscle and the BMI still says your over weight.

    Though I think it's important to be healthy and in shape I don't think it's dangrous not to be when competing. I'm slightly over weight but have been in varying degrees of fitness and found that I do better and feel better riding when my cardio is at a better level.