Eventing deaths under scrutiny: Equestrian Australia “committed to safety”

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Australian rider Olivia Inglis died at the age of 17 after a cross-country fall in 2016.
Australian rider Olivia Inglis died at the age of 17 after a cross-country fall in 2016.

A Coroner’s inquest into the deaths of young Australian eventers Olivia Inglis and Caitlyn Fischer in 2016 is under way in Australia.

The first two weeks of the inquest concluded last Friday, and is adjourned until the week starting July 22. The circumstances of both accidents are being examined by Deputy state coroner Derek Lee at Lidcombe.

Olivia Inglis, 17, was competing on her family’s horse Coriolanus in a two-star event at the Scone Horse Trials, and suffered a rotational fall on the cross-country in early March, 2016. Victorian rider Caitlyn Fischer, 19, died as a result of injuries sustained in the one-star event at the Sydney International Horse Trials just weeks later on April 30.

Expert witnesses at the coronial inquiry have included course designers Mike Etherington-Smith and Alec Lochore from Britain, and Australian Grant Johnston, as well as leading Australian eventing rider Paul Tapner.

While not commenting on the proceedings, Equestrian Australia CEO Lucy Warhurst said ensuring equestrian sport is the safest it can be for the thousands of people who participate every week throughout Australia is her priority.

The image Caitlyn Fischer shared for the #RideforOlivia campaign.
The image Caitlyn Fischer shared for the #RideforOlivia campaign. © Main Event Photography/Caitlyn Fischer

The coronial process has been “a challenging, confronting and emotional time for many in our equestrian community”, Warhurst said.

“We are co-operating with the Coroner to ensure we build on the work already done in risk mitigation and improved safety for our participants.

“Olivia and Caitlyn are greatly missed by all of us. We miss seeing them on the course, riding their horses and doing what they loved every single day.

“We share the determination of the Inglis and Carr/Fischer families to reduce the risk of a future serious incident or tragedy in our sport.”

Warhurst said Sport Australia had provided funding additional to the Terry Snow ‘Making Eventing Safer Fund’ to employ the National Safety Officer from a part-time basis to a full-time role. “For the first time, EA will have a dedicated safety specialist who will be available across the eight equestrian disciplines.”

Warhurst said that since the 2016 deaths, Equestrian Australia had taken constructive steps forward and was committed to taking further proactive measures.

Key changes included:

  • Frangible devices are now mandated in 2 star and above cross-country competitions;
  • Mandating the minimum standards of event medical services and equipment;
  • Upgrading event briefings with emphasis on safety and risk mitigation;
  • Improving training and preparation of event volunteers;
  • Purchasing and implementing the EquiRatings eventing safety rating system, and making this information accessible online via the myEA site.

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