Alberta equestrian athlete dies after fall in Florida competition

A 33-year-old equestrian rider from Fort Saskatchewan, Alta. died after a fall during a competition in Florida on Saturday.

Katharine Morel and her horse Kerry On both died after a rotational fall during competition at the Rocking Horse Winter III Horse Trials in Altoona, Fla., according to a news release by Equestrian Canada. A rotational fall is when horse and rider somersault, with the horse landing on its back, James Hood, the high performance director for Equestrian Canada, said in an interview Sunday.

“Rotational falls are generally the most dangerous falls we see in equestrian sport. And they often have very serious injuries that result from them,” said Hood.

The horse and rider fell while jumping a fence on a cross-country course at the United States Eventing Association recognized competition.

Morel was taken to hospital in Tavares, Fla., where she died of her injuries. Her horse, an eight-year-old thoroughbred mare, suffered fatal injuries and died shortly after the fall.  

Morel began riding Kerry On five years ago, and the pair were working their way up through the competition ranks. 

“Katharine was just entering onto our radar of international events,” he said. She was competing in Canada and the U.S., and though she wasn’t on the national team, Wood said she was a “target athlete” moving toward that level.

“She was a great developing athlete and a great person,” he said. Wood, who is new to his position, didn’t get an opportunity to meet Morel, but he said she is being remembered as a person who had great love for her horse, and who was committed to her sport. 

Wood said Equestrian Canada will work with US Equestrian to investigate the fall. He said Morel competed in a similar event at the same venue last month and placed fourth.

Falls and injuries are tracked internationally, and Wood said that over 10 years the number of rotational falls has decreased.

He also said it’s very common for Canadian riders to live or train in warmer climates, especially in winter. 

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