SEVEN years ago Juliana and Mark Waugh, of New Lambton, lost their daughter, Sarah, 18, when she was thrown from a horse in an incident that was tragically, and shockingly, preventable.
On Friday – only weeks after the deaths of Olivia Inglis, 17, and Caitlyn Fischer, 19, in separate horse-related incidents that shocked and saddened the community – the Waughs’ campaign for greater regulation of the industry will take a step forward.
They will speak at the opening of the “People.Horses.Culture” conference at Randwick Racecourse about what has driven them to push for a code of practice to protect inexperienced riders interacting with horses, and a national register of horses allowing people to check on their histories.
“We will put a face to what happens when things go wrong,” Mrs Waugh said.
“This is a very significant conference because it’s people in the industry recognising the need for a change in the culture. There’s a tsunami of change happening, and it’s going in the right direction.
“Seven years ago when Sarah died and we started asking questions, the response we got from almost everyone was very defensive. We now know a lot more about how many people die in horse-related incidents and what can be done to protect inexperienced riders.”
A State Insurance Regulatory Authority report in January found that of more than 24,000 hospital admissions for horse-related incidents in Australia between 2008/09 and 2013/14, about two thirds, or 68 per cent, were female, with the majority between the ages of 10 and 29.
Male hospital admissions were “more evenly distributed between the ages of 15 and 64”, the report said.
The number of horse-related injuries was on “an increasing trend”.
It found 133 horse-related fatalities were reported to Australian coroners between July 2000 and June 2014, with 18 per cent involving children and young people under 20, and 56 per cent male.
Sarah Waugh died in March, 2009 at Dubbo while taking part in a NSW TAFE jillaroo course for inexperienced riders. She was unaware she was riding a racehorse supplied to TAFE that had competed in a race only six weeks earlier.
In 2011 coroner Sharon Freund found the horse was “patently unsuitable” for use by beginner riders, that TAFE had made “no meaningful risk assessment” of the contract arrangement to supply the horses, and a TAFE inquiry into Sarah Waugh’s death was “not worth the paper it was written on”.
“Everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong,” Mrs Waugh said of events leading up to her daughter’s death after the horse bolted and Sarah was thrown.
Since that time the Waughs have pushed for issues about horse riding to be assessed and considered in the same way that workplace health and safety issues are considered.
The establishment of a national register of horses to allow them to be tracked, and their histories to be checked, and a code of practice, are both being considered by the NSW Government.
Mrs Waugh said one of the most shocking relevations after her daughter’s death was the lack of regulation around horses.
“I kept asking myself, how have we let this be unregulated for so long?”
The “People.Horses.Culture” conference features sessions about safer equestrian workplaces and why culture matters, an Australian Skills Quality Authority update on equine training in Australia, a Safework NSW update on development of a NSW horse code of practice and coaching qualifications.
Mrs Waugh said the recent deaths of Olivia Inglis and Caitlyn Fischer were devastating and tragic and showed the inherent dangers relating to interaction with horses. Both deaths have been attributed to accidents, but Mrs Waugh said she hoped they would be thoroughly investigated.
“Sarah’s death was not an accident. If it had been it would have made it much easier to bear,” she said.