Both Red Hills Event Horses Suffered Fatal Heart Failure on Cross-Country Course

(abbreviated from a press release issued by the Red Hills Horse Trials in Florida)

Tallahassee, FL — Post mortem examinations completed bythe Large Animal Clinical Sciences Department of TheUniversity of Florida on two horses which died during therecent Red Hills Horse Trials competition, revealedthe cause of death of both animals was PulmonaryHemorrhage. “Despite the excellent organization of the RedHills Horse Trials, the competent veterinary team on site,and the rapid response in both cases, nothing couldbe done to save these horses and there are no known methodsto have prevented these rare occurrences,” the reportstated. “According to Eleanor Green, DVM, Chief of Staff, LargeAnimal Hospital, University of Florida, complete postmortem examinations were performed on both horses, Saturdayevening, March 15, 2008. The owners gave permission toshare information about the cause of death.

Preliminary results have indicated that Direct Merger,ridden by Jonathon Hollings, died because of PulmonaryHemorrhage, which is bleeding into the lungs.

Leprechauns Rowdy Boy, ridden by Missy Miller, also had a PulmonaryHemorrhage; in addition, and during the fall at the jump,the animal sustained a severe fracture between the thirdand fourth cervical vertebrae of his neck.

Fatal Pulmonary Hemorrhage is a rare condition in eliteequine athletes, yet in cases of sudden death duringexertion, it is at the top of the list of possible causes.The scenario is similar to sudden death from heartdisorder in basketball players, in that the occurrence isvery uncommon, while a heart disorder would be the mostlikely cause when a young, healthy athlete dies acutelyduring exertion. It is exceedingly rare for two horsesto be affected on the same day during the samecompetition,” the report concluded.

Dr. Mike Sigman, DVM, Veterinary Delegate of the FederationEquestrian Internationale (FEI) which oversees EventingCompetitions worldwide, headed the Veterinary team at theRed Hills Event. Sigman said “consideration for horsesafety and response to incidents is always exceptional atRed Hills. Both incidents were handled as well as possible.Everything that could have been to aid these two horses wasdone. If we could have saved the animals we would have.Unfortunately no one could have helped them. When speed isinvolved in any sport, accidents will happen.”

Thomas Barron, Board Chairman of the Red Hillsorganization, said, “safety of the mounts, riders andspectators is a top priority of this event everyyear. Our Safety Plan is reviewed and revised after eachTrial. We have Emergency Medical personnel on site as wellas Veterinarians. Nothing is left to chance. We requireriders to wear appropriate safety gear, as do other eventsof this kind. But like any sport, there are always risksinvolved. We deeply regret the accidents which took placeover the weekend.”

“Since its inception,” Barron continued, “the Red HillsCourse has been designed by Mark Phillips, U. S. OlympicEquestrian Coach and riders planning to enter the event areprovided a description of the course, terrain and coursedifficulty well in advance. Mark Phillips is arecognized authority in his field. His courses are designedto safely test the ability of horse and rider. There willalways be situations where a horse will refuse to go overan obstacle for some reason, and this weekend was noexception, but the refusals were scattered about the courseas they have been in previous years.”




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