I have been asked several times why I keep holding down my camera’s shutter release button in the event of an incident at an event and more so in burst format. I’m accused of doing it for the money shot and I have even been called macabre for doing so on occasion, so please let me explain. I should say many things fall into the description of ‘incident’ from a fall of horse or rider to a stop or near stop. I will start by saying almost all my fall photos will never be seen publicly unless the rider involved is happy for them to be shared. Several could have made me a pretty penny if sold to press but I don’t believe in that being in the interests of the sport.
This is only a fraction of the full sequence. The rider involved was happy for these photos to be shared and they were used to further safety equipment research. Note both horse and rider were uninjured in the fall.
I will say firstly in the event of a fall, me continuing to press the shutter button for a few seconds will not delay my ability to assist if required in the aftermath of the incident (I have on several occasions needed to catch horses, help riders etc) so there is no harm at that stage of me doing so. Secondly and most importantly there are a few main reasons why my photos can be incredibly useful, namely;
Confirming/ruling out a penalty – Judges and riders are only human and on occasion things are missed, or too fast to interpret. My photos have been used by fence judges, riders and event stewards at all levels (including 4*!) to help confirm a decision. Some riders may wish I hadn’t been stood at a particular fence, the most amusing being the rider who swore blind he had not had a run out at Gatcombe but my photos proved otherwise, apparently he argued for some time until my photos became apparent to support the fence judges. In turn though I have saved several riders from receiving penalties where it wasn’t immediately sure whether they had passed between the flags.
Confirming/ruling out a horse fall – my photos have been used to confirm whether a horse fall has taken place, namely if both hind quarters and shoulder simultaneously touched the floor. My most noted example is this fall (again at Gatcombe!) where the horse slipped on landing. Its belly touched the floor but nothing else, was soon back on its feet and proceeded to jump clear if I remember rightly!
Fall/safety investigations – This is the most important reason why I will continue to take photos even in the most serious of falls. Often photographs are the only concrete evidence of a fall, as the human mind is an amazing thing and will often change facts. Photos can confirm how and why a horse/rider fell and in turn prevent future falls. Going on from there they can and have been used by doctors/vets/physios in aiding diagnosis and treatment and are also used by safety equipment manufacturers for the development of products. At one event I had actually been videoing at the same time as taking photos with a second camera when a horse fell badly landing on its neck. Thankfully it walked away albeit stiff, the event vet and the rider’s physio used both the video and photographs to assist in its treatment, and it went on to be placed in the top ten at a 2* six weeks later.
On another occasion due to a fence’s location and the required position of the fence judge in front of the fence I was the only person on the landing side of the fence. The horse and rider suffered a near rotational fall but from the judge’s perspective it had looked like the horse had pecked on landing. I captured the full fall from cause to landing, I then caught the horse whilst the fence judges attended to the rider prior to the Dr, vet and groom attending. Both the Dr and the vet viewed my photos before they were then passed on to the event steward. The rider also requested a copy (which they were provided free of charge) as they had little memory of the fall themselves.
This instance was actually save of the century by Tina Cook. Looking at the full sequence is fascinating as highlights how the horse uses its neck as a 5th leg, and how a rider can help the horse to recover in a sticky situation.
Riders actually often request to see fall or near fall sequences even if they or their horse have suffered no injury or ill effects. They appreciate being able to see just what happened as the details are often unclear (especially when sitting on top of the horse) due to the speed and often shock of the incident.
So I will continue to keep clicking in the event of incidents as will the majority of my compatriots. The photos are not to share widely to use as click bait or to make money but instead there to help improve the safety of the sport.