Florida teen and rising star killed during horse competition

A 16-year-old equestrian was killed over the weekend during a horse riding competition in Florida, according to the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office.

Hannah Serfass, who ran track for Wildwood Middle High School and was part of the Sumter County 4H Youth Development Program, was considered a rising star within the equestrian community.

The United States Equestrian Federation said Serfass was competing at the Fox Lea Farm Spring Concours I in Venice, Florida, on April 30. She was riding Quaxx 2, a 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding, during the competition when the horse "tripped and suffered a rotational fall," and fell on the girl.

Serfass was transported to the hospital, where she died, the Federation said. The horse was not injured.

In a statement, the USEF described Serfass as a "very talented up-and-coming young rider" who was "known for her passion for hoses, her natural ability, and her work ethic." She recently won a talent search for show jumping earlier this year, and won several medals at the World Equestrian Center. 

Through a representative, the family requested privacy and did not issue any additional statements.

"Please keep the Serfass Family in your thoughts as they have lost their sweet Hannah," the 4H Club said in a statement to FOX 35.

The Federation said in a statement that it "takes every accident very seriously" and that it would review the accident "to learn what we can do to minimize risk and increase safety in equestrian sport."

Jeanette McDonald is a licensed judge with the United States Equestrian Foundation and a certified trainer who owns the Equestrian Training Center of Ocala.

She said she’s not only heard of accidents like this happening, but has also seen them herself.

"It’s scary," she said, "but it doesn’t always end tragically."

She said horseback riding, like any sport, can be inherently dangerous, but that there are checklists teams go through to keep the sport as safe as possible.

"We go through our checklist to keep ourselves as safe as we can, and then we have to live," she said.

She added that horse jumping takes a lot of practice.

"And it takes connection and harmony with the horse. Because you and him are having to go over an obstacle, then having to land and re-group and go to another obstacle."