Safety Investigation Follows Equestrian Fall at Kentucky Event

May 1, 2008

American equestrian officials were preparing to impose new safety rules – including suspensions for certain dangerous jumps – in the wake of an accident in Kentucky that killed a horse and left its rider critically injured.

After reviewing the spill that occurred April 26 during the cross-country portion of the Rolex Kentucky three-day event, David O’Connor, president of the U.S. Equestrian Federation, concluded Laine Ashker and her mount, Frodo Baggins, misread a jump over a large flower basket.

The back end of the horse flew up in the air over the barrier, throwing Ashker and the horse’s front end tumbling forward in what is known as a rotational fall. Ashker remained in critical condition April 29 with multiple broken ribs, a badly broken jaw, broken clavicle and scapula and collapsed lungs. The horse was one of two that had to be euthanized during the event.

Although the Olympic sport has taken steps in recent years to ramp up safety, 12 riders worldwide have been killed in the past two years.

O’Connor said the USEF is expected to implement rules imposing automatic suspensions, ranging from three to six months, for any horse and rider that has a rotational fall. The pair also would lose their qualification at the difficulty level where the fall occurred.

“We’ve talked about rider responsibility a lot over many years,” O’Connor said. “You’re talking about just trying to put some teeth behind our responsibility to take care of horses in competition.”

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