A Florida equestrian competition turned doubly devastating Saturday after a rider and her horse both died in a terrible fall. Katharine Morel of Canada was riding Kerry On on a cross-country course at Altoona's Rocking Horse Winter III Horse Trials, a United States Eventing Association-recognized competition, when the horse fell while jumping a fence. The type of accident is called a rotational fall, and it results in horse and rider somersaulting, with the horse landing on its back. "Rotational falls are generally the most dangerous falls we see in equestrian sport," James Hood, the high performance director for Equestrian Canada, explains to the CBC. The 8-year-old horse died shortly after the fall, and Morel, 33, was brought to a nearby hospital and died there. Equestrian Canada and US Equestrian will investigate the accident and continue to improve safety methods.
As Equine Ink explains in an unrelated article, rotational falls typically involve a horse's front legs or chest hitting the fence, which acts as a pivot point for the somersault: "The rider usually is thrown out of the saddle and goes over the jump before the horse. In a worst-case scenario, the horse can land on the rider." There are videos of rotational falls here, here, and here; warning, they're difficult to watch, though the riders and horses reportedly survived. Dressage Hub posted a heartbreaking photo of Kerry On's empty stall: "Canadian Katharine Morel and her horse Kerry On won't be coming home from Florida this year." "Today, the equestrian industry lost not just an exceptional athlete, but an exceptional person, as well as the horse she loved," Equestrian Canada says in a statement. Morel, who hoped to make the 2024 Olympics, had been riding the thoroughbred mare for five years. (Read more equestrian stories.)