A rodeo queen from Florida has died following an accident at a competition last month in Mississippi. The Tampa Tribune reports that Lara Dewees, who would have turned 28 on Monday, died from her injuries the day before her birthday. She was injured following a Feb. 20 competition at which she was trying to retain her 2015 title as the Women's Professional Rodeo Association Southeastern Circuit Divisional Tour Finals Reserve Champion. "When she got to the third barrel, her horse fell and during the fall, her bridle reins flipped over her horse's head," says a GoFundMe account set up to help with Dewees' medical expenses. "Her horse got up and proceeded to run out the arena, but Lara now had no reins. She was trying to reach down by her horse's head to regain control of the reins, but she was going way too fast it was just impossible for her to get them. Her horse continued to gain speed when coming out of the alley way. When her horse hit the asphalt, she lost her footing, spun around and essentially pancaked, throwing Lara face first into the asphalt."
The Tribune notes that Dewees was competing with her newest horse, and that the horse had been trained to continue the barrel race and then go toward the arena's exit gate should the reins get dropped. The horse, Genny, was shod with shoes for running on dirt, and the gate should have been shut so the animal couldn't get onto the asphalt driveway. Dewees suffered broken bones and a head injury and underwent surgery to remove a blood clot from her brain. She appeared to be improving, but "took a turn for the worse on Thursday," possibly due to another blood clot, her grandmother tells the Tribune. Dewees—a national barrel racing champion, accomplished singer, and beloved schoolteacher—was somewhat of a celebrity in her hometown of fewer than 2,000 people in Pasco County. She was also a cancer survivor and the mother of an 18-month old boy. Genny got stitches for several cuts on her legs, but is doing OK.