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15-year-old equestrian dies, crushed by horse during competition in Florida

A 15-year-old Central Florida girl died Sunday, following a equestrian accident while riding in a competition at Fox Lea Farm in south Sarasota County.

Hannah Serfass was riding Quaxx 2, a 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding, in a hunter/jumper competition when the horse tripped and fell, according to a statement from the United States Equestrian Federation.

“The fall was unrelated to a jumping effort,” the statement read.

The teen from Webster was a member of the Wildwood Middle High School Track Team.

A Sumter County School District official confirmed her identity Monday but clarified that she was actually home-schooled and participated in extracurricular activities at the school. “The track team was very involved with her, connected with her,” said Jessica Christian, the curriculum supervisor for the Sumter County School District.

Team members were informed of her death Monday morning.

The statement also included an extension of deep condolences to the Serfass family from the federation, the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association and Fox Lea Farm.

Federation spokeswoman Vicki Lowell noted in the release that, “The Federation takes every accident very seriously and will be reviewing the accident thoroughly to learn what we can do to minimize risk and increase safety in equestrian sport.”

Fox Lea referred to the federation statement Monday afternoon after acknowledging the accident in a Sunday Facebook post.

“Fox Lea Farm had a tragedy occur today,” the post stated. “Out of respect to the family, no information will be shared at this time.  We send our sincere condolences to the family, trainer, friends, & the whole equestrian community.  We are all heartbroken.”

Both Sarasota County Fire Rescue and the Sheriff’s Office responded to a call after the Sunday morning accident.

Serfass, a junior rider, was halfway through a hunter/jumper competition course, having just finished jump No. 5.

According to the Sheriff’s Office report, the horse landed successfully and took two or three steps to the next hurdle then planted its left front hoof, “which caused the horse to lean down significantly towards its left front hoof.”

“This action caused the rider to then topple forward and off the horse in the same direction and onto the ground. The horse then continued to fall in the same direction falling over and onto the rider’s head on the ground,” the report said.

Fox Lea Farm personnel and others began first aid, until Sarasota County Fire Rescue responded.

Serfass was taken via ambulance to the Sarasota Memorial Hospital Venice campus, where she was later pronounced dead.

A March 2023 profile by Ben Baugh in World Equestrian Center Magazine lauded Serfass’ “coachability, focus, discipline, talent.”

She rode the entire winter 2022 circuit at the World Equestrian Center in Ocala and competed in Michigan.

A versatile athlete, Hannah competed in gymnastics until fourth grade, her mother Janine Surfas told World Equestrian Center Magazine, and then switched to riding and showing horses.

Hannah also ran track and cross country at Wildwood Middle School.

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