Equestrian athlete from Fort Saskatchewan dies after fall during U.S. competition

Fort Saskatchewan's Katharine Morel, 33, died after an accident on a cross-country course at the Rocking Horse Winter III Horse Trials, in Florida on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. Courtesy, Tricia Dahms

An Alberta athlete and the horse she was riding died following a fall during an equestrian competition in Altoona, FL. on Saturday.

Fort Saskatchewan’s Katharine Morel, 33, died after an accident on a cross-country course at the Rocking Horse Winter III Horse Trials, Equestrian Canada said in an announcement on its website.

The organization said that Morel was riding her eight-year-old mare named Kerry On when the horse suffered a “rotational fall.”

Morel was taken to hospital and later died of her injuries. The horse also suffered fatal injuries and died shortly after the crash.

“Falls do happen and accidents do happen where a horse and rider combo hit a jump or things aren’t where they need to be,” said James Hood, the high performance director for Equestrian Canada.

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‚ÄúToday, the equestrian industry lost not just an exceptional athlete, but an exceptional person, as well as the horse she loved.”

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Morel had discovered Kerry On when the horse was three years old and trained with the animal for several years before their competitive debut in 2019.

Morel trained out of Sandridge Stables in Sherwood Park. The co-owner of the stables said Katharine had been training there for about six years.

“We will miss Katharine so very much and she has been such a huge part of our community and she has been so welcoming to the younger riders that come along,” Tricia Dahms said over the phone Monday afternoon.

“She makes everyone feel like they can do it and she was really a team player. And we’re just reeling from this terrible tragedy.”

Dahms is down in Florida and was there when the fall happened.

“Katharine has worked hard to get where she has and she was competing at a pretty high level with Kerry. So in five very short years, she’s come a long way,” Dahms said.

“They just hit a bad stride coming into the jump and it resulted in a fall from which they didn’t recover,” she explained.

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“We’re all incredibly devastated because Katharine was very accomplished. She was absolutely capable of what they were going out there to do and so was her horse.”

Dahms said they’ve received an outpouring of support from the community in Florida since Saturday’s incident.

“It’s a risk that we all take every time we get on a horse and it’s not just jumping and it’s not just eventing and it’s not just cross-country,” Dahms said.

“I know riders who have been killed in a trail ride on a pleasurable afternoon on a Sunday. It’s that horses are horses and we take that risk every time we get on. And as a horse community, we understand that and we manage that as much as possible.”

Equestrian Canada said it will work with US Equestrian to investigate the fall.

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