Olivia Inglis, a 17-year-old from New South Wales, Australia was killed in an accident on her horse, Coriolanus, on Sunday, March 6th, 2016 at the Scone Horse Trials in New South Wales. Inglis was a seasoned, accomplished competitor, as was her horse, and they were competing at the two-star level in the cross country phase of eventing. After successfully completing the first seven fences on the course, her horse got his legs caught in the second element of the eighth obstacle, causing both horse and rider to enter into a rotational fall.
Her parents, Arthur and Charlotte Inglis, watched from the stands as her horse fell on top of her, causing fatal damage to her lungs. Equestrian Australia spokeswoman Judy Fasher said, “Olivia was given urgent medical attention, attended by the on-course paramedic, the on-course doctor and the Westpac rescue helicopter service but unfortunately was unable to be revived.” Her horse was placed under veterinary watch, and although it was initially said that he did not suffer any major injuries, he was euthanized several days later, on March 8th, after the Scone Equine Hospital took x-rays, revealing a displaced fracture in his neck. The Scone Horse Trials were cancelled following the incident, so that the show committee and local police could further investigate the fall. Counseling services were offered to anyone who was present at the competition.
Following Inglis’s death, the social media outreach from equestrians all over the world was incredible. The hashtag #rideforOlivia gathered over eight million shares, on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. Inglis’s family asked equestrians to post an image of themselves and their horses enjoying riding. This would serve as a tribute to Olivia Inglis’s life and successful, albeit short, riding career. Many well-known riders, including Michael Jung and Charlotte Dujardin, ranked first in eventing and second in dressage respectively, posted to the hashtag, sharing a favorite photograph of themselves, joining the tribute to Inglis. These images were gathered in the form of a mosaic and presented to Inglis’s family at her memorial service, which was held in Sydney on March 14th.
Arthur Inglis is the Deputy Chairman of Inglis Sales, a well-known thoroughbred horse auction. Inglis Sales released a statement on March 8th, in which Inglis’s parents said, “We have been overwhelmed by the kindness and sympathy from family and friends throughout the school, equestrian and thoroughbred communities.”
On March 10th, Inglis Sales announced that an eventing scholarship would be established in Inglis’ honor, known as the Olivia Inglis Eventing Scholarship. They said, “The Olivia Inglis Eventing Scholarship will provide emerging riders with funding to support their training and competition.” This is considered a tribute to Inglis’s life and passion for horses, and Alan Jones, a speaker at the Equestrian New South Wales Awards dinner, said, “The best way we can honor Olivia is to continue to do what you do well with the enthusiasm and commitment she showed with everything she did.”
This tragic accident has rejuvenated, once again, discussions of safety concerns in the equestrian sport of eventing. Also known as the equestrian triathlon, eventing involves dressage, show jumping, and cross country. Cross country is considered the riskiest, with over 37 deaths related to rotational falls on cross country. The sport was almost removed from the London Olympics in 2012, due to safety concerns raised by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI). In 2008, frangible pin requirements were put in place on cross country jumps so the jumps would give way if a horse was caught in them. This reduced the amount of rotational falls per start at events; however, it did not eliminate them entirely.
More than 600 people attended Inglis’s funeral, held at St. Jude’s Anglican Church in Sydney. She was laid to rest in a teal casket, with fuchsia orchids adorning the top. Her father eulogized her, telling mourners that she “didn’t have a scratch on her,” following the accident. Her two younger sisters, Antoinette and Alexandra, spoke of how she was an inspiration to them.
All images from Eventing Nation.