University of Vermont AAHS

Horse Accidents with Injuries: April through June 2003

Compiled by
Robert O. Dawson
AAHS Secretary/Treasurer

What kinds of injuries result from horse accidents? From what kinds of accidents do serious injuries result? Here are brief summaries of stories from English-language newspapers and similar sources throughout the world reporting on deaths and injuries to humans from accidents involving horses.

The full story is often available on the web site of the newspaper that reported the accident. Sometimes, those archived stories are available without charge and sometimes for a small fee. The name of the newspaper and the date of each story have been included in the summary to facilitate locating the full story.

A.            Accidents While Mounted, Driving or Riding

            The Newcastle Herald in the United Kingdom reported on March 29, 2003 that two riders were flown to hospital in separate accidents.  A helicopter took a 34-year-old woman to hospital with multiple injuries after she fell from a horse at about 4:30 pm.  Later, the helicopter took a 54-year-old man to hospital after he suffered spinal injuries from being bucked off a horse.

            The Canbarra Times in Australia reported on April 3, 2003 that 36-year-old rancher Peter Robinson spent the night in rugged country while he was mustering sheep.  His horse got caught in wire and rolled on him. He was kept warm by his two stock dogs snuggling up to him and was rescued the next morning by his brother.  He is scheduled for an operation in which surgeons hope to replace part of his shattered right leg with part of his hip.

            The Western Morning News in the United Kingdom reported on April 16, 2003 that an American on vacation had to be airlifted to hospital after she fell off her horse while riding on Exmoor.  She fell from her horse, which then rolled on her, causing back and pelvic injuries.  An ambulance spokesman said she did not suffer head injuries.

            The Australian Associated General News reported on April 19, 2003 that a 34-year-old woman suffered multiple injuries when she fell from her horse during a competition.  She is believed to have head and internal injuries after the horse fell on top of her.

            The Daily Oklahoman reported on April 26, 2003 that 14-year-old Amanda Jo Westermier was killed while participating in a rodeo.  She had just finished her barrel run and was waiting to leave the arena when her horse rolled over on her.  She was taken to hospital by helicopter, where she was pronounced dead.  The previous weekend she had the best run of her life—16.28 seconds.

            The Honolulu Advertiser reported on April 28, 2003 that four horses spooked while pulling a carriage with 9 passengers through Waipi’o Valley on the Big Island in Hawaii.  They tipped over the wagon and 3 of the passengers were slightly injured.

            Austria Today reported on May 19, 2003 that horses pulling a carriage suddenly bolted, throwing the driver onto the pavement.  When the passenger tried to stop the carriage, he was also tossed out.  Police finally stopped the runaway horses, but not until they had damaged 18 automobiles.

            The Express in the United Kingdom reported on May 26, 2003 that Prince Charles was lucky to escape serious injury when he fell off his horse while playing polo.  He landed awkwardly, but soon got to his feet.  Although his right arm seemed in pain, he remounted and finished the game.

            The Western Morning News in the United Kingdom reported on May 27, 2003 that 41-year-old Jacqui Grossart was killed while riding a horse outside her parents’ home.  The horse reared up and then fell on her.  Her parents witnessed the accident.  Jacqui was a rising star in the specialized sport of equitation, which involves coaxing the horse through a series of obstacles and different tasks at speed.

            The Miami Herald reported on May 31, 2003 that 23-year-old Susana Gutierrez was killed while riding a horse in a park.  Something spooked her horse. It jumped over a two-foot fence and started galloping on a paved road.  When it reached a speed bump, it began to skid, which is when she was thrown off.  She died of a head injury.

            The Times Union in Albany, New York reported on June 1, 2003 that 17-year-old Christine Davies died from injuries she suffered while taking horse jumping lessons.  Her horse made a jump and caught its foot, causing the animal to stumble.  Davies’ foot came out of the stirrup and she fell off the horse.  The horse hit her, causing internal injuries.

            The Daily Telegraph in the United Kingdom reported on June 13, 2003 that 38-year-old Heather Bell was riding with two friends when she was thrown from her horse. A low-flying RAF plan appeared to frighten the animal.  The Ministry of Defence is investigating.

            The Arizona Daily Star reported on June 13, 2003 that 44-year-old Cynthia A. Mraz dies after losing her balance and falling from her horse when it began to gallop during a trail ride at a guest ranch.  After she slipped from the saddle, her foot was caught in a stirrup and she was dragged an unknown distance.  She sustained injuries to her head.  She was not wearing one of the helmets offered by the ranch during an intermediate-level “loping ride.” 

            The Allentown Morning Call in Pennsylvania reported on June 14, 2003 that a 23-year-old woman died from head injuries she suffered in a horseback riding accident.  The accident occurred at a horse farm.

            The Times Union in Albany, New York reported on June 18, 2003 that a young rider was injured after she hit a tree in a practice ring during the Saratoga Skidmore Classic Horse Show.  Because she was complaining of double vision, officials called an ambulance.

            The Press-Enterprise in California reported on June 23, 2003 that the county fire department rescued a rider who was injured after falling off his horse in a remote area.  A helicopter plucked him from the slope where he had fallen and flew him to an ambulance.

            B.            Injuries While on the Ground

            The Express in the United Kingdom reported on April 30 2003 that Mandy Marx, 49, a horse breeder, lay dead in a barn for two days after apparently being trampled by one of her thoroughbreds.  She had three broken ribs and internal injuries consistent with being kicked by a horse.  A coroner reported an open verdict because she could also have suffered from a heart problem which may have contributed to her death.

            The Press in New Zealand reported on May 3, 2003 that a 30-year-old Danny Campbell, a harness racing driving champion, was killed when a yearling in his stable kicked him just above the heart.  The horse was about to be long-reined and was wearing hopples.

            The Sunday News in Lancaster, Pennsylvania reported on May 4, 2003 that a two-year-old Amish child was injured when the child was kicked by a horse.  The child was taken to hospital.  No further details were available.

            The Evening Mail in the United Kingdom reported on May 24, 2003 that a firefighter was kicked in the face by a horse as it tried to break out of its trailer while being transported.  The horse was sedated but still managed to injure the fireman.

            The Canadian Press reported on June 14, 2003 that 30-year-old Amy Dundas, a gifted rider with a promising future on Canada’s national equestrian team, died after being kicked in the head by a horse.  She was trying to settle a horse into its stall on her family’s farm when she was struck by a hoof.  The horse was a stallion, about 6 or 7 years old.  Dundas had competed on the horse.

            The Portland Press Herald reported on June 15, 2003 that 34-year-old Russell Norton, owner of a horse and buggy service, suffered a head injury after his horse became agitated and lunged over him with the cart.  He was standing at the horse’s head attempting to calm him from agitation from the sounds of a nearby motor vehicle when the horse lunged over him.  The horse fled the scene and was later found at Norton’s barn.  Norton remained conscious but could not remember what happened.

            The Western Morning News in the United Kingdom reported on June 21, 2003 that a 63-year-old man from Wales, on holiday, was injured after a shire horse pulling a special bus bolted through a village after being startled by a motor vehicle revving its engine.  The horse ran down the main street and dropped to the ground at the Ship Inn as it tried to round a tight corner.  The holidaymaker was trapped against the wall, and suffered cuts and bruises to his leg and arm.

            C.            Accidents Involving Motor Vehicles

            The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio reported on April 10, 2003 that 19-year-old Allen Miller lost about half of his right ring finger in an accident between his horse-drawn sulky and a pickup truck.  Miller was thrown from the sulky and his finger was crushed when the horse stepped on it.  The pickup truck backed into the path of the horse pulling the sulky.  The pickup driver was cited for failure to yield the right of way.

            Austria Today reported on April 17, 2003 that a 20-year-old kindergarten assistant was surprised while driving home when she encountered six horses galloping down the road toward her.  One of the horses hit her car, smashing the windshield.  The driver and horse both suffered slight injuries.  Police speculate that noise from a nearby construction site spooked the horses, causing them to break out of their pen and run down the road.

            The Orlando Sentinel reported on April 20, 2003 that a horse collided with a motor vehicle when the animal ran in front of the car.  The horse had to be put down.  The motorist escaped without serious injuries.

            The Marshfield News-Herald in Wisconsin reported on April 25, 2003 that 56-year-old LeRoy A. Beechey was injured when the horse and buggy he was driving collided with a stationary motor vehicle in a parking lot.  The horse spooked and ran into the vehicle.

            The New Zealand Herald reported on May 3, 2003 that a horse-drawn wagon collided with an electric tram car resulting in serious facial injuries to the wagon driver.  The horses were startled by a railway train coming out of the station and turned around to the tramlines just as a car passed by.  The driver was struck by the tram when he attempted to get hold of the head of one of the horses.

            The Lancaster Eagle-Gazette in Pennsylvania reported on May 10, 2003 that a horse was put to sleep after it hit a car.  Robin E. Caulkins, 49, was driving and struck the horse.  The driver was taken to a medical facility with minor injuries.

            The Charlotte Observer in North Carolina reported on May 29, 2003 that 31-year-old Cheryl Williams was killed while driving home with her two children when the car rounded a curve and struck a black, full-grown horse at about 10 p.m.  The horse hit the hood, and then went through the windshield.  Williams was killed instantly.  Her children, who were in the back seat, suffered injuries.

            The Lancaster New Era in Pennsylvania reported on June 4, 2003 that 20-year-old Loretta Brubaker was injured when the horse and buggy she was driving spooked and ran into a moving tractor-trailer.  She was admitted to hospital and was reported to be in serious condition.

            The Houston Chronicle reported on June 5, 2003 that a private courtesy mounted patrol trooper was hit by an automobile.  Heather Ewart and her horse, General Sherman, were clipped by the side mirror of a car that was driving away.  Ewart suffered a sore ankle and the horse’s flank was bruised.  Ewart was investigating the car parked suspiciously in an alley when suddenly it sped away. 

            D.            Accidents Involving Horse Racing

            The Omaha World-Herald reported on April 7, 2003 about the risks involved in being a jockey.  According to a study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, during a four-year period in the mid-1990s, researchers found that three jockeys had died from crashes, and jockeys suffered 6,545 injuries that were serious enough for treatment.  More than 15 percent of the injuries were to legs, 11 percent were to arms or hands, 10 percent were to feet or ankles, and 10 percent were to shoulders.  More than one-third of the injuries occurred in or around the starting gate.  Being thrown from a horse caused 55 percent of the back injuries and 50 percent of the chest injuries.

            The Los Angeles Times reported on April 10, 2003 that Laffit Pincay, Jr., 56, the world’s winningest jockey, will soon make a decision about his racing future.  His neck was broken March 1 when he was thrown from his mount in a race on the Santa Anita turf course.  The Wichita Eagle in Kansas reported on April 30, 2003 that jockey Laffit Pincay, Jr. decided to end his career with 9,530 wins, retiring two months after breaking his neck in a spill.  He was injured March 1 when another horse, ultimately disqualified, swung wide into the stretch, knocked him off his mount and rolled on him.  Pincay’s career includes election to racing’s Hall of Fame in 1975, a 1984 Kentucky Derby victory, three Belmont Stakes victories, five Eclipse Awards, and mounts on great horses such as Affirmed and John Henry.  Pincay’s final injury was one of many in his 39-year career.  He broke his collarbone 11 times, broke 10 ribs, had two spinal fractures, two punctured lungs, two broken thumbs and a sprained ankle.

            The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky reported on April 13, 2003 that 45-year-old jockey Patti Cooksey fractured her left femur and right tibia in a spill at Keeneland that involved two other horses and jockeys.  The incident occurred when Cooksey’s mount clipped heels and fell while racing along the rail heading into the first turn of the race.  Two other jockeys suffered minor injuries as they were unseated attempting to avoid hitting Cooksey.  Cooksey is the all-time leader among women jockeys at Churchill Downs with 212 victories.  She has 2, 136 career victories, second only to Julie Krone among women. 

            The Miami Herald reported on April 27, 2003 that 72-year-old Francisco Gatica was seriously injured while walking a horse at Calder Race Course when he was knocked down and stepped on by another horse.  He suffered three broken ribs, a punctured lung and internal bleeding that was stopped.  He was reported in serious but stable condition.

            The Des Moines Register reported on May 14, 2003 that jockey Glen Murphy was thrown at the start of the second race when his mount tried to jump the temporary rail that shields the gap from horses starting from Prairie Meadows’ 6-furlong chute on the backstretch.  After Murphy crashed to the ground, his mount stepped on his chest with both hind legs, resulting in broken ribs, a partially-collapsed lung, a broken collar bone, and a cracked sternum.  Jockeys ware safety vests, which became mandatory just a few years also, otherwise Murphy’s injuries could have been tragic.

            The Grand Rapids Press in North Dakota reported on June 2, 2003 that exercise rider Victor Sanchez was killed after the horse he was riding reared and tossed him during a routine morning exercise run.  Sanchez sustained fatal head injuries when he was caught between the horse and a fence.

            Newsday in New York reported on June 18, 2003 that jockey Norberto Arroyo, Jr. will be sidelined at least six to eight weeks after suffering a fracture of the C7 vertebra in his neck after a race at Belmont Park.  His mount unseated him while galloping out after finishing fifth in the second race.

            The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported on June 26, 2003 that jockey Alex Estrada escaped potentially serious injury after taking a nasty spill in the fifth race.  His horse was racing on the lead when she ducked in near the 3/16th pole and went through the temporary rail on the inner turf course.  No other horse or jockey was involved in the mishap.

            E.            Preventing Injuries from Horse Accidents

            The Western Morning News in the United Kingdom reported on April 24, 2003 about what motorists can do to avoid hitting horses that are grazing on the highway right of way.  First, slow down.  Second, if you see horses on both sides of the road, be extra cautious since one horse is likely to dash across the road to join its friends.  Third, if you stop to admire a horse do not feed it, as that teaches it to approach cars for treats.

            The Australian Associated Press General News reported on May 2, 2003 about the formation of a new jockey’s union.  The Australian Jockeys’ Association pledged to improve safety and provide financial protection for its members.  With two deaths and two permanent injuries in Australian racing every year, it is essential to set up a benevolent trust fund to take care of jockeys and their families.  Twenty-five to 40 percent will suffer some injury in a 12-month period.  The average retirement age is 33.

            The Birmingham Post in the United Kingdom reported on May 22, 2003 about the development of a plastic dressage arena boundary made from polyethylene, the material used in plastic bags and bottles.  The company claims the arena cause no injury to any horses that may accidentally step on them.

            The Age in Australia reported on June 3, 2003 that a new generation of “super-safe” jump hurdles has been developed.  The aim of the hurdles is to make them as forgiving as possible for horses.  The angle of the hurdles has been lowered from 80 degrees to 70 degrees but they will be about a centimeter taller.  The construction of the hurdles has changed dramatically, with yellow polyurethane brush being inserted into rubber tubing attached to the aluminum bases, with the front of the hurdles being heavily padded.

            The Des Moines Register reported a story on June 16, 2003 about improvements at Prairie Meadows race track that have resulted in a decrease in injuries to horses and jockeys.  Previously, there was a belief that the track was too hard, causing injuries to horses.  Then one inch of sand was added to the surface, which made a dramatic difference in the injury rate.  There were 20 racing deaths of horses in 1998.  The track surface was replaced after that year and injuries have declined yearly.

            The Shreveport Times in Louisiana reported on June 27, 2003 that a part of an overall renovation of Harrah’s Louisiana Downs the track has install a new Fontana collapsible rail on the turf course.  The new rail can be taken down and put up in another place in a matter of a few hours.  The benefits of this is that many grass races that would have otherwise been moved to the main track because of inclement weather might stay on the turf because the rail can simply be moved out 10 feet, thus keeping the horses off the deeper, soggier inside of the course.

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