A teenage girl has died while competing in the Sydney International Horse Trials at Horsley Park on Saturday. Caitlyn Fischer, 19, from Bairnsdale in Victoria, was fatally injured after she was crushed by her horse in the cross-country competition at the major equestrian event.
Organisers said Ms Fischer was riding the horse Ralphie in the one star competition when the horse’s foot caught on the second fence about 10.40am. he horse then fell on top of Ms Fischer. She was provided urgent medical attention by the on-course paramedic and doctor but could not be revived.
Ms Fischer’s mother Ailsa was at the event and was by her side “almost immediately” after she fell, while her father Mark and brother were due to fly to Sydney on Saturday afternoon.
Elite equestrians have expressed their shock at the tragedy, saying the 1.1 metre high fence was “very rudimentary” and designed as a warm-up jump for rider and horse.
The trials were cancelled and police investigations are underway.
Ms Fischer’s horse, Ralphie, is in a stable condition and remains under the observation of veterinarians.
Equestrian Australia chairwoman Judy Fasher said spectators rushed to help the “young and experienced rider”.
“Her mother was there almost immediately. There was a large contingent of volunteers to run the sport, jump judges, people standing watching,” she said. “It was just one of those horrendous accidents, I’m afraid.”
Bairnsdale Pony Club district commissioner Janine Bromwich said Ms Fischer was a “gorgeous, beautiful girl” and came from a “great Pony Club family”.
She said the competitor had been involved with the club for about 10 years, before she finished year 12 at Gippsland Grammar School and moved closer to Melbourne.
“She was a really intelligent girl,” Ms Bromwich said. “She was part of our state games team and she actually left Pony Club to pursue horse trials.
“Her parents were taking her down to Melbourne so she could compete. She was very, very committed in everything she did … just a bright, bubbly kid.”
It’s understood that Ms Fischer worked for elite equestrian Christine Bates and was sponsored by Southern Stars Saddlery and Wilson Equestrian.
Olympic medallist Shane Rose said he had competed on the same course many times and it was “unbelievable” Ms Fischer had died jumping the fence.
“I have ridden on this venue many, many times. I have jumped the fence that was in question on many occasions. It was a very rudimentary fence. It’s generic in its nature,” Mr Rose said.
“There’s nothing in its nature that would, for me as a rider, give me any concerns about its shape. It’s basically a fence to get the horses confident and going well, so when they get later in the course and they’re tested, they’re in a shape to do it. For it to happen on a fence such as that is unbelievable.” The accident comes only weeks after schoolgirl and showjumper Olivia Inglis, 17, died while competing at the Scone Horse Trials in the Hunter Valley. In a Facebook post at the time, Ms Fischer paid her respects to Ms Inglis, commenting “#rideforolivia” alongside an equestrian image.
Australian equestrian and coach Wayne Roycroft, who will conduct the investigation into Ms Fischer’s death on behalf of the International Equestrian Federation, described the two deaths as “freak” accidents.
“The sport has its dangers, but obviously it’s just a total tragedy that we’ve had these two occurrences,” Mr Roycroft said. “We would almost say they’re freak occurrences. There’s no real answer to how or why. They’re accidents that happen.
“As much as we hate it, to be honest with you it’s part of our sport. We would dearly love to say you can’t have any accidents.”
The Riders Shoppe in Yan Yean, in Melbourne’s outer north, posted on Facebook that it would not be trading any further in light of the latest tragedy.
“Another heartwrenching loss for our adored sport,” it posted. “RIP Caitlyn Fischer.”