There is no shortage of tragedy in equestrian sporting, and the history of show jumping accidents at Olympics is definitely no different. Come on, you’re riding for three days on a half-ton animal that may or may get scared by a speck of dirt and throw you head-first into a tree as a result. Show jumping has been a part of the Olympics since around 1900, and like with most Olympic sporting events, show jumping accidents have occasionally dotted the timeline that is the history of Olympic disasters. Here, you can learn a bit about some of Olympic show jumping’s greatest hits (breaks, fractures, concussions, and crunches).
- 1960: Bill Roycroft sustained a busted collarbone and a concussion during a show jumping event, but checked himself out of the hospital and went on to continue the circuit, which helped Australia win the gold medal. Now that’s determination!
- 2007: 21-year-old Eleanor Brennan was training in Florida with Olympic show jumping coaches. Her horse decided it didn’t want to do a jump and flailed around; said horse fell down, breaking its neck. The horse also fell on Brennan and killed her.
- 2008: Karen O’Connor’s pony (not a horse) had to be put down prior to the 2008 Olympics due to an injury to the horse’s ligaments and tendons in its hind leg. It is doubtful the pony had to be killed, but nobody wins any medals with a crippled pony, now do they?
- February 2008: A twelve twelve year old British girl named Shannon Bloomfield was preparing for the 2012 Olympics show jumping circuit when her horse failed to negotiate a jump and fell on her.
- April 2008: Darren Chiacchia, an Olympic equestrian who helped the U.S. team snag the bronze medal in the Athens Olympics, almost died from his horse’s brain fart. The horse plowed into a fence and fell over, successfully crushing Chiacchia to within an inch of his life. The man was comatose for about a week, but woke up and entered a rehabilitation program.
- May 2008: A seventeen year old girl named Mia Eriksson died when she fell off her horse. Mommy and Daddy chose to sue the girl’s trainer, a handful of random people, and even the foremost body of the sport itself. This was the second child of theirs that died from a horse-related accident (and no, their other child was not Kenneth Pinyan).
- May 2009: Ukrainian Olympic show jumping champ Jean-Claude Van Geenberghe died all of a sudden while on his horse. He was not injured due to the event—it has been speculated that he died of an aneurysm. Not caused by the horse itself, but it’s still a show jumping accident, right? And he had a cool surname too.
- March 2010: Courtney King-Dye, Olympic equestrian, suffered a skull fracture while doing show jumping training. The young horse under her guidance slipped and fell, resulting in King-Dye’s accident. She appears to still be alive and is slowly recuperating.
Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), there aren’t a lot of show jumping accidents covered by the media, or if they are, they are done so vaguely. According to some news reports, a dozen equestrians bound for the Olympics died during training in a two-year period, all from failure of the horse to jump, negotiate, navigate or otherwise complete obstacles unscathed.