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Thursday 1 June 2023 Dublin: 15°C
Allegra "Tiggy" Hancock. Photo: Matt Browne/ Sportsfile.
# horse riding
Young Carlow rider was fatally injured after horse landed on her at water jump, inquest hears
Allegra “Tiggy” Hancock’s mother said her death was a “tragic accident”.

A RISING YOUNG star of Irish equestrian sport suffered a fatal injury at a horse-riding centre in Dublin after her horse landed on her after stumbling at a water jump obstacle, an inquest has heard.

Allegra “Tiggy” Hancock (15) was pronounced dead at Children’s Health Ireland at Crumlin on June 16, 2021 –  where she had been rushed by ambulance after sustaining serious injuries while riding at the Greenogue Equestrian Centre in Rathcoole, Co Dublin,

A sitting of Dublin District Coroner’s Court on Monday heard post-mortem results on the body of the talented event rider revealed she had suffered catastrophic blunt trauma injuries to her abdomen and liver.

Tiggy, a student at Kilkenny College who came from Corries, Bagenalstown, Co Carlow had been attending the riding centre in Dublin as a member of Horse Sport Ireland’s high performance eventing programme.

Her mother, Jane Hancock, told the inquest that her daughter had been training at the centre since 8.45am and had already completed lessons in showjumping before the accident happened shortly after 1.30pm.

Ms Hancock, who witnessed the incident, said Tiggy’s horse had hit a roller on the water-jump on a cross-country course and both rider and animal “just went over it.”

The inquest heard that Tiggy was an accomplished and experienced rider who had won a bronze medal representing Ireland at the Under-16 European Eventing Championships in Poland at the age of 13.

In reply to questions from the coroner, Aisling Gannon, Ms Hancock said she had no concerns about the training her daughter was involved in on the day.

“It was just a tragic accident,” Ms Hancock remarked.

A trainer with Horse Sport Ireland, Becky Cullen, who also witnessed the fall, said it appeared like Tiggy’s horse had not registered the obstacle.

Ms Cullen described the deceased as “an extraordinary child who was capable of riding beyond her years and as good as many senior riders.”

The cross-country riding trainer said the jumps on the course were relatively easy for someone of Tiggy’s capability and had been jumped by a group of less experienced riders earlier that day.

She said the horse being ridden by Tiggy was also “very capable and experienced.”

Ms Cullen said the course was not particularly challenging on the day as she had decided that the training would be kept simple and used for “confidence-building.”

The trainer said one of the positive developments to arise out of Tiggy’s death was greater awareness within the sport about the safety of jumps on cross-country courses.

Tiggy’s Trust, a foundation which was established in the teenager’s memory by her family, is using any funding raised to provide training and education for children in equestrian sports as well as providing mental health support to young people.

The trust has also created a series of videos to help riders understand more about cross-country fences and how they can be made safer.

Ms Cullen said such obstacles were now being viewed from how they were seen by horses with people recognising the need for contrasting colours to be used in their design.

She noted the obstacle where Tiggy fell on the day was “brown water with a brown jump and brown sand.”

A former advisor to the high performance eventing team, Ken Mahon, who also witnessed the accident, said the horse had “flipped” after striking the water jump.

He said Tiggy had hit the ground first before the animal landed on top of her.

Mr Mahon said she had sat up slightly and complained about not being able to breathe before slumping back down on the ground.

He said Ms Cullen had unzipped her body protector before emergency services arrived on the scene.

The inquests heard paramedics attempted unsuccessfully to resuscitate her after she went into cardiac arrest and suffered a collapsed lung.

Another eyewitness, Sarah Love, said she had seen the horse landing “full force” on the rider and it was obvious that Tiggy was badly injured.

Garda Michael Noctor told the inquest that there was nothing suspicious in relation to the teenager’s death.

“It was an extremely tragic accident. She was a talented young woman who should have been able to do it blindfolded. It was a freak accident,” said Garda Noctor.

The inquest heard that Tiggy had attended her local GP in 2018 and 2020 after suffering other falls from horses but there was no issue of concern about them.

The coroner said she would request Horse Sport Ireland to provide national guidance on cross country jumps and the need to regard them from the vision of horses.

“That is very helpful. That would be very positive,” replied Ms Hancock.

She observed that Horse Sport Ireland had taken on board some issues but changes were happening slowly and that it was “a learning process” for the organisation.

Ms Gannon said the death had also been referred to the Health and Safety Authority but it had no remit as Tiggy was not an employee of the riding centre.

Returning a verdict of accidental death, the coroner offered her condolences to Tiggy’s family for what she described as “a very tragic accident.”

Seán McCárthaigh