A New Zealand coroner is satisfied that the racing fall late in 2012 that cost jockey Ashlee Marie Mundy her life resulted from her mount taking a tumble after clipping the hooves of another horse.
Dunedin-based coroner David Crerar talked of the inherent dangers in the sport.
“Those participating accept some risk,” he said in his findings.
“Those involved in the administration of the industry protect the participants as best they can.
“It is hoped, however, that the death of Ashlee Mundy will prove to be a learning experience for the racing industry and that all of those involved continue to develop safer practices for the future.”
Crerar found that Mundy died at Dunedin Hospital early on December 31, 2012, as a result of brain injuries resulting from blunt force to her head. The injuries were received when Elleaye, the horse she had been riding in a 1400-metre race at Kurow Racecourse the day before, clipped her hoof or hooves with those of a leading horse and fell.
Mundy, 26, of Christchurch, was flown by helicopter to Dunedin Hospital following the fall, which occurred around 4.20pm.
Crear said police inquiries established that there was no evidence of inappropriate riding or any other wrongdoing and that the race was being conducted routinely without concerns being expressed by any of the jockeys.
All horses in the race were checked by a veterinary surgeon and a farrier and no relevant injury or contributing factor was found.
“All jockey witnesses praised Ashlee Mundy as a competent and experienced jockey in whom they had faith and trust whilst racing,” Crerar said.
A post-mortem examination by specialist pathologist Dr Alex Dempster noted that although skull fractures were not caused, the impact resulted in a rotational acceleration injury that caused severe sheering forces to the brain with major neural axonal damage.
Dempster said that, in his opinion, death was due to “diffuse cerebral injury resulting from blunt force injury to the head”. The injuries were entirely consistent with the effects of a fall from a horse at full speed.
Crerar said he was satisfied from the evidence that track conditions were appropriate and did not contribute to the fall.
Mundy, he noted, was recorded by the police and by track officials as being appropriately clad for racing. She wore the necessary safety vest and wore a helmet designed to give protection in a fall.
“Unfortunately, the forces involved with the fall, as were explained by Dr Dempster, were significant. Elleaye was racing at approximately 60 kilometres per hour and came to an almost immediate stop when she fell.
“Ashlee Mundy was projected at speed and from a height of approximately two metres to the track, to a point where she landed almost directly on her head.”
There was no evidence of any failure by any individual to provide or take the appropriate care, he found.