In its continuing efforts to enhance the safety of its fences, the National Steeplechase Association’s Steeplechase Safety Task Force has begun an evaluation of whether to recommend adding knee lines to National Fences. A knee line is a light-colored strip atop the knee roll that is intended to improve a horse’s view of the fence.
The extensive evaluation, including an examination of knee lines in use overseas, will continue through the current season and beyond if necessary. “The Task Force is following a deliberate process and bringing in outside expertise from many sources,” said Reynolds Cowles, D.V.M., the Task Force’s chairman and a member of the NSA’s Board of Directors. “We need to have a consensus before we are ready to make recommendations for the knee line.”
Members of the Task Force have observed a knee line in use for schooling over fences at Richard Valentine’s farm in Virginia and at the Springdale Course in Camden, S.C. Further observations will be made in schooling sessions at the Camden course later in November. The Task Force also will examine video images of horses jumping fences with and without knee lines.
The Task Force has benefited from the experiences of its members and the insights of member Nathaniel White, D.V.M, professor emeritus of equine surgery at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Va.
In addition to his research into steeplechase safety, Dr. White provided graphic illustration of what the equine eye is able to observe. Because of the equine eye’s limited color spectrum, a light-colored strip atop the knee roll theoretically raises the horse’s eyes toward the top of the fence and provides a target for safe jumping.
Among the outside experts advising the Steeplechase Safety Task Force are James Wofford, a three-time Olympics three-day eventer, and course designer Derek di Grazia. Both are keen students of fence construction and how horses meet those obstacles. Wofford is a sought-after teacher of three-day horses and riders, while di Grazia is an FEI international-level course designer responsible for the cross-country courses at the Rolex Three-Day Event in Lexington, Ky., and the Fair Hill Three-Day Event in Maryland.
The Task Force intends to provide further reports to the NSA Board of Directors and industry stakeholders as its evaluation of the knee line continues.