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Pulmonary Hemorrhage Blamed For Fatalities At Red Hills
Tallahassee, FL, USA

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 Hemorrhage. "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 stated.

"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 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."

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