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 by
the Large Animal Clinical Sciences Department of The
University of Florida on two horses which died during the
recent Red Hills Horse Trials competition, revealed
the cause of death of both animals was Pulmonary

“Despite the excellent organization of the Red
Hills Horse Trials, the competent veterinary team on site,
and the rapid response in both cases, nothing could
be done to save these horses and there are no known methods
to have prevented these rare occurrences,” the report

“According to Eleanor Green, DVM, Chief of Staff, Large
Animal Hospital, University of Florida, complete post
mortem examinations were performed on both horses, Saturday
evening, March 15, 2008. The owners gave permission to
share information about the cause of death.

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

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

Fatal Pulmonary Hemorrhage is a rare condition in elite
equine athletes, yet in cases of sudden death during
exertion, it is at the top of the list of possible causes.
The scenario is similar to sudden death from heart
disorder in basketball players, in that the occurrence is
very uncommon, while a heart disorder would be the most
likely cause when a young, healthy athlete dies acutely
during exertion. It is exceedingly rare for two horses
to be affected on the same day during the same
competition,” the report concluded.

Dr. Mike Sigman, DVM, Veterinary Delegate of the Federation
Equestrian Internationale (FEI) which oversees Eventing
Competitions worldwide, headed the Veterinary team at the
Red Hills Event. Sigman said “consideration for horse
safety and response to incidents is always exceptional at
Red Hills. Both incidents were handled as well as possible.
Everything that could have been to aid these two horses was
done. If we could have saved the animals we would have.
Unfortunately no one could have helped them. When speed is
involved in any sport, accidents will happen.”

Thomas Barron, Board Chairman of the Red Hills
organization, said, “safety of the mounts, riders and
spectators is a top priority of this event every
year. Our Safety Plan is reviewed and revised after each
Trial. We have Emergency Medical personnel on site as well
as Veterinarians. Nothing is left to chance. We require
riders to wear appropriate safety gear, as do other events
of this kind. But like any sport, there are always risks
involved. We deeply regret the accidents which took place
over the weekend.”

“Since its inception,” Barron continued, “the Red Hills
Course has been designed by Mark Phillips, U. S. Olympic
Equestrian Coach and riders planning to enter the event are
provided a description of the course, terrain and course
difficulty well in advance. Mark Phillips is a
recognized authority in his field. His courses are designed
to safely test the ability of horse and rider. There will
always be situations where a horse will refuse to go over
an obstacle for some reason, and this weekend was no
exception, but the refusals were scattered about the course
as they have been in previous years.”