State College

Park Forest Middle School student and horse killed in ‘freak accident’

Ashley Stout, 13, of Port Matilda, died after she and her horse, Avant Garde, were involved in a rotational fall. Stout, a Park Forest Middle School student and member of the U.S. Pony Club, was training at the Standing Ovation Equestrian Center in Halfmoon Township.
Ashley Stout, 13, of Port Matilda, died after she and her horse, Avant Garde, were involved in a rotational fall. Stout, a Park Forest Middle School student and member of the U.S. Pony Club, was training at the Standing Ovation Equestrian Center in Halfmoon Township. Photo submitted

A Park Forest Middle School student and member of the U.S. Pony Club died Thursday as she was training at Standing Ovation Equestrian Center in Halfmoon Township.

Ashley Stout, 13, of Port Matilda, was one of the top junior riders in the country and was selected to compete with the junior/young rider training team at the North American Youth Championships in Montana in less than two weeks, SOEC owner Adam Armstrong said.

Stout was riding her horse, Avant Garde, about 9:20 a.m. when the two were involved in a rotational fall. The horse landed on top of Stout, broke its neck and was euthanized, Armstrong said.

“It’s the worst type of fall that could happen,” Armstrong said. “I don’t know what else to say about it.”

Stout was transported by ambulance to Mount Nittany Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead, according to Port Matilda EMS. An autopsy is scheduled for Friday, according to the Centre County coroner’s office.

“It wasn’t just a kid riding in her backyard, having a horse rear up and having an accident,” Armstrong said. “She was riding one of the top prospects in the country. It was a jump she jumped a hundred times in the past. For a horse and rider combination of that experience level, it’d be like you or I trying to jump over a curb and then falling and getting killed. It was just a freak accident. She’s got all the technology, all the safety equipment — everything money could buy and it still happens.”

State College Area School District Superintendent Bob O’Donnell told SCASD parents and guardians about Stout’s death in an email.

“I am deeply saddened to inform you that one of our students, Ashley Stout, died this morning in a horse riding accident,” O’Donnell wrote. “Ashley was a budding eighth-grader at Park Forest Middle School. She was an avid equestrian and her mother wanted the community to know that she ‘was doing what she loved and was so very brave.’ ”

Added school Principal Karen Wiser: “Ashley was a wonderful and enthusiastic young lady and we will greatly miss her.”

O’Donnell also shared an article with suggestions on how to discuss Stout’s death with children. A counseling session for any student needing support is scheduled for 9 a.m. to noon Friday at the school’s library.

“There is nothing more saddening than the death of a child,” O’Donnell said in a statement. “Our entire community grieves for the Stout family and everyone who knew Ashley.”

Bret Pallotto primarily reports on courts and crime for the Centre Daily Times. He grew up in Lewistown and graduated from Lock Haven University.
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