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Horse raced weeks before teen Sarah Waugh's death

Amy Dale, Daily Telegraph

June 6, 2011 7:29 pm

A EX-RACEHORSE competed in a professional event just six weeks before a girl fell from his back and died during a TAFE class, an inquest heard yesterday.

The revelation of the horse's recent racing history came as students in Sarah Waugh's class at Dubbo TAFE told of hearing her "screaming'' and saying she "couldn't pull [the horse] up'' as the four-year-old gelding "bolted'' down a campus laneway.

The 18-year-old, who dreamed of becoming a rural vet, was pronounced dead at the scene on March 24, 2009 from head and neck injuries only weeks after beginning a course to obtain a certificate II in agriculture.

The inquest was told there was "a cloud of dust'' that obscured her fall.

During the opening of a week-long inquest into the Newcastle native's death , counsel assisting the coroner Donna Ward said Dargo last competed in a race in Binnaway, north of Dubbo, on February 7 under the name of Snakey Thought, just six weeks before Sarah's death and only a fortnight before he came to the TAFE to be used in the beginners jillaroo course.

The court heard the horse had been assessed by the TAFE staff and deemed suitable for use.

Ms Ward said the inquest would examine whether measures need to be introduced to "regulate'' the recreational horse riding industry, including matching horses to riders based on experience and ability.

"Horse riding is an inherently dangerous activity,'' she told the court, saying the activity carries a greater risk of injury or death than football or motor sports.

Juliana Waugh told the court her daughter said no other student on the course "understood Dargo'' but she was very fond of him.

"She said none of the other students wanted to ride Dargo, they didn't understand him and they treated him badly,'' she said.

Mrs Waugh, who estimated her daughter had completed about 50 riding lessons prior to starting TAFE, said she had also been told by Sarah of an incident where another student fell off Dargo and no longer ``felt safe to ride him.''

One of the students who was riding with Sarah when she died told the inquest he remembered the group's instructor Sara Falkiner yelling at her to "pull the horse up'' and bring him back to the group, but she was unable to stop him galloping down the laneway.

"It was terrifying,'' William Alridge said.

"Have you ever seen a horse go that fast?'' Ms Ward asked him.

"Only at the races,'' he replied. Another student, Tahlia Peterson, described using an ex-racehorse with beginners so soon after competition as "odd''.

"He wouldn't be educated for beginner riders if he'd only come off the racetrack two weeks prior,'' she said.

"He'd be educated to run.''

The inquest continues at Glebe Coroner's Court.

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