The eventing world is reeling with shock and sorrow after teenage rider Zara Buren was killed Monday evening when she was trapped in a marshy bog with her horse while out riding with her mother. She had dismounted but became submerged while waiting for help to arrive. The Hamilton Spectator reported that the teen was rushed by ambulance to the trauma centre at McMaster Children’s Hospital with no vital signs and ongoing resuscitation attempts made en route. The horse was successfully extracted from the bog. Hamilton police are investigating the death.

Zara, who trains with Holly Jacks-Smither and Jill Stedman, was a GRIT (Great Rider Intensive Training) Team member involved in the provincial athlete development initiative. She had recently placed third in the Open Training division at Glen Oro aboard Make My Day (Monkey/Vince W) on Sept. 13th. Earlier in the year she had competed in Florida at Rocking Horse and Ocala Winter II with Meadowbrook’s Pollyanna before the Covid lockdown.

On her Facebook page, Holly Jacks-Smither said, “I can’t put into words the last 12 hours but heaven gained an angel last night … Your infectious smile, your drive, determination, work ethic, love for your fellow riders and especially, what stood out to me most, your love for your horses and the pride and horsemanship you showed everyday. You were a strong force to be reckoned with. You were brave until the very end. An old soul who was not only my student but my friend. We lost one of the best, and I still can’t believe it is real.”

Tracey McCague-McElrea, Executive Director of Ontario Equestrian, stated, “OE is devasted by the sudden passing of Zara. As the youngest member of Ontario Equestrian’s GRIT team, Zara was inquisitive, dedicated, passionate and always lit up the room with the smile on her face. Zara’s passion for this sport could be felt by everyone around her and her drive for excellence was inspiring. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family, friends, coaches.”

Described by many as “a beautiful soul” and “a ray of sunshine,” this talented, hard-working and selfless young rider will be deeply missed. The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Zara’s name to the Oakville & Milton Humane Society.