Recent tragic incidents involving the loss of young talents have left the equestrian community deeply affected as we are grieving and struggling to make sense of these devastating events. Hannah Serfass was only 15-year-old when she tragically passed away on April 30 during a hunter/jumper competition at Fox Lea Farm in Venice, Florida. Just a few days later, on May 4, we mourned the loss of Sienna, a 23-year-old Australian model and exceptionally skilled equestrian, who sadly succumbed to her injuries after a fatal riding accident.
The emotional impact of losing someone from our community can be destabilizing, and coping may be difficult as we strive to honor the legacies of our fellow equestrians. While grief is a personal journey, and individuals may cope in different ways, there are some things we can do to help navigate the emotional impact of such loss:
- Create a Support Network: The outpouring of grief and support seen through the popular hashtags #RideForHannah and #RIPSiennaWeir demonstrate the immense impact these young riders had on their peers. In times of loss, it is helpful to connect with fellow equestrians who may be undergoing similar emotions. By actively reaching out, whether through online platforms or in-person gatherings, we can share stories, memories, and extend support to one another.
- Engage in Memorial Activities: Honoring the memory of those we’ve lost can provide solace. Organized memorial rides, events or fundraisers in the name of those who passed can be done to celebrate their passion for the sport and ensure their legacy lives on. These events can bring the community together, fostering a sense of unity and support. An inspiring example is the event organized by Hannah’s parents to commemorate her life, where they warmly invited everyone to attend in person. In lieu of sending flowers, the Serfass family kindly requested that attendees pay tribute to Hannah by bringing a blue ribbon along with a personalized message. This heartfelt gesture served as a beautiful way to honor her memory and showcase the lasting impact she had on the equestrian community.
- Promote Safety Education: By taking the lead in promoting safety and educating fellow riders about the significance of wearing helmets, utilizing safety gear, and adhering to safe riding practices, we can cope with a sense of empowerment rather than helplessness. Disturbing statistics from the National Institute of Health highlight the increased risk associated with horseback riding compared to sports like motorcycling, football, and skiing. These statistics can serve as a wake-up call, emphasizing the need to actively engage in raising awareness and help prevent future tragedies while safeguarding the well-being of riders.
- Seek Professional Help: If the grief becomes overwhelming, it is essential to seek help from a mental health professional. They can provide guidance and support during this difficult time. Therapists and counselors with experience in grief counseling can help individuals process their emotions and develop healthy coping mechanisms.
In the wake of these recent tragic incidents that have deeply impacted the equestrian community, the emotional toll of losing someone from our community cannot be understated. As we strive to honor their legacies, creating support networks, and promoting safety education, we can find strength and unity in the face of grief, while working towards creating a safer and more compassionate equestrian community.