Competetive, competent?

Competent or Competitive

“he’s a competent driver, bloody dangerous but competent.”

“he’s a competent cook, OK he’s always cutting himself, and he poisons people occasionally, but he’s competent.”

Both these descriptions are nonsense. Replace “competent” with “brilliant” and they make sense. He’s a brilliant driver, bloody dangerous, but brilliant!” James Hunt, the Formula 1 motor racing driver was known as Hunt the Shunt, and had a tendency to insert his car into spaces that weren’t there. But he won races, he was clearly brilliant, incredibly brave, just not someone for whom the phrase “competent” springs to mind.

I f you are on a bus, you want competent. James Hunt might do the job slightly faster on Monday, but would blow the gearbox on Tuesday and spin off on Wednesday while overtaking the number 32 bus with a beautiful display of late braking down the inside lane to the roundabout, just clipping the curb before spinning off into the crash barriers. Brilliant yes, competent, no.

A competent cook puts food on the table at meal times, doesn’t bleed all over the place, doesn’t poison dozens of people with Nobo virus, doesn’t swear at anyone rash enough to help, probably doesn’t invent whelk blancmange or get acres of press coverage for serving very small portions of food to very thin people. Competent cooks fill the stomachs of most of the planet. Brilliant ones fill pages of newsprint with their triumphs, and disasters.

Competent drivers get kids to school every day, collect and deliver stuff of time, form the infrastructure of society. Competent people get the job done day in, day out, without fuss, without bloodshed. Job done, nobody hurt. Not news.

Brilliant has to be on the edge. Brilliant is the elite. You prove you are brilliant by going further, or faster, than anyone else. Competent is for the boring people, the common herd. The activity may be the same, but competent is in the middle, brilliant teeters on the edge. Brilliant is news. Olympic Gold, Dead Horse, Three day Event, dead horse, dead rider, gold medal, Grand national Victory, dead horse, eventing again, another dead rider, more dead horses, gold medal. The news is the peaks and troughs, and the troughs in the horse world are full of the bodies of horses and riders.

But horses are different. With cars, you have James Hunt, and you have delivery drivers. Brilliant, and competent. The DVLA driving test is a test of competence, there are millions of competent drivers, ie those who can get a vehicle from A to B safely.

There are millions of competent cooks. Meal on table, no deaths or injuries. No poisoning. Brilliant is on telly, competent is actually cooking. The caterers who ensure those making the cookery programs don’t go hungry, employ competent cooks. They can’t take the risk of using brilliant.

Then we come to the horse world. This research is scary. “A review of the human-horse relationship” published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science 109, 1-24, 2008. by Martine Hausberger, Hélène Roche, Séverine Henry, and E.Kathalijne Visser from the Université de Rennes and Animal Sciences Group, Wageningen University Research Centre.


Despite a long history of human-horse relationship, horse-related incidents and accidents do occur amongst professional and non professional “horse persons”. Recent studies show that their occurrence depend more on the frequency and amount of interactions with horses than on the level of competency, suggesting a strong need for specific research and training of humans working with horses.

Drivers get safer with experience, and a competent driver is safer than an incompetent driver.

Cooks get safer with experience and a competent cook is safer than an incompetent cook.

Horsemen get no safer with experience and a competent horseman is no safer than an incompetent horseman.


What on earth is going on here? The answer is simple, the elite are defining the terms. Certainly they are defining competent in the terms of an elite activity. If James Hunt takes a car out for morning practice and walks back having destroyed it totally, you give him another one for the afternoon. Not many driving jobs take this attitude. To a builder, this would be an incompetent driver, to Formula 1, he is the tops. But even Formula 1 wouldn’t define James Hunt as competent, he would see it as an insult. He was brilliant.

Competent is not an elite word, and should not be defined by the elite. By definition, the elite can’t understand competent. In competitive terms it means, not good enough.

This is where the problem arises. The elite are welcome to define words how they like, but not when their definitions kill children and animals.

Formula 1 has changed over the last dozen years or so, which is why I chose James Hunt as an example. He was brilliant, but in the old style “Corinthian” or “gentleman amateur” fashion. He was a natural athlete, brave, good looking, charming, appeared to take nothing seriously, certainly not safety. I say appeared because I don’t know enough about motor racing to judge, but his media profile was of the gentleman amateur. Today’s drivers are more focused, much more safety conscious, but they are operating in a more safety conscious sport. The idea that frying in the petrol soaked wreckage of your car, was “the way you would have wanted to go”, is long gone.

But Three day Eventing accepts a level of carnage that Formula 1 got rid of years ago. I think 11 three day eventers died in 2007. But Three Day Eventing and all equestrian activities are run by the elite. Car manufacturers, even Ferrari who only build supercars for the elite, live in the real world of modern safety standards where competent and safe are synonymous. This is because common people go on the roads as well as Ferrari owners.

The Equestrian elite have nearly succeeded in getting equestrian activities out of any areas where they might have to obey modern Health and Safety regulations, and where they might meet the common herd. They have got working horses off the roads, pony rides off the beaches, they do their best to prosecute gypsies with horses. Equestrian activities are sealed off from society, on private land, not open to the public gaze. Which explains their ability to ignore the basic precepts of Health and Safety.

Health and Safety legislation is based on the idea of a Competent Person. The Equestrian Establishment has NO Competent People in terms of Safety. Therefore NO qualified equestrian can possible be a Competent Person in terms of Health and Safety law, because research shows they are no Safer than an Incompetent Person.

The various Equestrian Establishment organsiations, the British Horse Society, British Driving Society, British Horseracing Aurthority etc have got together to get their people onto the Health and Safety executive. They have promoted the idea that anything to do with Horses needs an expert opinion. Too damn right. If you didn’t have a horse expert some one who thinks competent and safety SHOULD go together, might ask difficult questions. Talking of difficult questions,and look at this document.

HEALTH AND SAFETY IN THE RACING AND BREEDING INDUSTRY, Guidelines on Good Practice Fourth Edition – August 2007.

Originally I was going to take the mickey out of the Health and Safety advice to Livery yards which I thought was a pretty good joke, but the Horseracing and Breeding document is far funnier, and written by one of the richest industries around, drawing its customers from bloated plutocrats, royalty, dictators, merchant bankers, hedge fund owners, libel lawyers, celebrities and the occasional horse racing enthusiasts. With the exception of the last, they really can afford to spend a tiny bit on safety. The fact that they don’t, proves that the equestrian establishment think that Health and Safety is in the immortal words of a very rich lady, “for the little people”.

The document rabbits on for 113 pages but contains this

5. Accident and Disease Investigation and Reporting

Strict rules apply to the recording and reporting of accidents at work, or disease occurring as a consequence of unsafe practices. All such instances should be investigated thoroughly by the designated competent person and employers are expected to act on the results. For learners on a Government scheme, additional reporting is required. Further information is given in Section 6

There is a legal requirement for a competent person to investigate safety, yet the research says that competency doesn’t relate to safety, so the “competent” person can’t investigate, because they demonstrably have no clue about safety.

The car industry has no problem. They have millions of competent drivers. The motor racing industry relies on competent drivers to get the Formula 1 teams from one Grand Prix to the next. They can ask them. Actually, they take safety seriously and have experts whose only specialisation is safety.

The Horse world has Mark Phillips who said etc.,

I am happy to admit that Mark Phillps is brilliant, it is the competent bit that worries me.

Health and Safety relies on a competent person. The Equestrian establishment demonstrably can’t provide one. Rennes university research proves this point. My research confirms it.

I actually read the whole of

HEALTH AND SAFETY IN THE RACING AND BREEDING INDUSTRY, Guidelines on Good Practice Fourth Edition – August 2007.

These are the organisations who got together to produce it,

Produced and endorsed by:

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA)

The National Trainers Federation (NTF)

The Thoroughbred Breeders Association (TBA)

The National Stud (NS)

The Stable Lads Association (SLA)

The British Racing School (BRS)

The Northern Racing College (NRC)


The Health and Safety Executive (HSE)

Dr Roger Nourish, head of the Food and Agriculture section of the HSE, writes a very polite introduction to the third edition. For the fourth edition the word third is changed to the word fourth. But he has put his name to it as have to organisations above.


Let us actually look at it.

The legislation is written to apply to all work situations and, at first sight, may seem difficult to reconcile with the particular hazards commonly encountered in the Racing and Breeding Industries. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recognises that working with thoroughbred horses is a potentially dangerous occupation. The key point is that employers have to be able to demonstrate that they have taken all reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risks and hazards existing in all working and training situations.


These guidelines, drawn up in collaboration with the HSE, aim to show how to interpret the legal requirements in the context of the Racing and Breeding Industries using simple explanations and practical examples. They are intended to help you comply with the law and they do not mean that you cannot comply in other ways


These guidelines show practical examples. Actually that is a lie, certainly with regard to horses. There is this information on hygiene in kitchens,

Surfaces and equipment which are used for the preparation of food should be cleaned

immediately after use.

Towels must be washed regularly


The whip, which the British Horseracing Authority insist MUST be carried in races as a safety measure, isn’t mentioned once in this document. But we won’t get anywhere with what they have left out. They do include the necessity for Riding instruction

Riders should have formal theory and hands-on training provided by a competent instructor. (Details of training courses are available from Lantra, The Forestry Commission, Agricultural Trainers and Colleges accredited by these two bodies or from dealers.)

Oh silly me, this is for riders of ATV’s where instruction is obviously vital. There is NO such advice for riders of thoroughbreds.

So no mention of riding instruction, lets look at Fire.

MUST be practised at least annually, preferably six monthly. It is not necessary to actually sound the alarm which might upset the horses. Try placing obstacles in the way to represent fire spots to make the drill as realistic as possible Records of dates/time/persons present MUST be kept

Make fire drill as realistic as possible, don’t use the fire alarm in the fire drill because it might upset the horses. This is from the 2004 assessment. So I went to the 2007b assessment and it is exactly the same.

This is totally stupid. I cannot without being libellous describe the authors of this series of fatuous pointless reports as anything other than incompetent, smug, arrogant pillocks. And that is being kind.

If they thought, the horses could be exposed to the noise of the fire alarm, and gradually acclimatised. They could actually be trained to come to a person on hearing the fire alarm, so they were easy and safe to catch. But no, they are to be left in ignorance so in the event of a fire they can be suitably terrified and the staff will therefore be MORE LIKLY TO DIE TRYING O RESCUE THE HORSES THEY LOVE.


This should be torn up an rewritten by people who don’t belong to the establishment, people who won’t be sitting in their luxury yachts when their stable lads are frying, trying to rescue horses belonging to minor royalty or major plutocrats.

This is shit. Stable staff shovel enough of it, it shouldn’t be produced to kill them.

Find any intelligent advice that relates to horses, not tea towels, in the 2004 or 2007 versions and I will be surprised. It is complacent crap written because employers have to be able to demonstrate that they have taken all reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risks and hazards existing in all working and training situations.

This shows they couldn’t care less. This document is criminal and by HSE standards a classic example of a POOR document.

Incompetent, indifferent. But this combination according to HSE law, is illegal. Does anyone care.

Who can you report I report it to. Her Majesty’s Government, they are her horses.

The Police, her police. Her Health and safety Executive.

Try the legal route, go to the top get a Queen’s counsel.

When the guys on top can get away with this as a safety document, and publish it. What chance have I got? What chance have the horses got.. What chance have children who are taught riding by “experts” got?



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