Woman dies after being thrown from spooked horse in Palo Alto

Animal bolted down roadway at 40 miles per hour, witnesses said

A Santa Clara woman out for a horseback ride with two friends in Palo Alto died on Dec. 17 after her horse threw her, Palo Alto police said.

Lorie Kerr, 57, died of cranial cerebral injuries, according to the Santa Clara County Coroner's office. She was riding northbound on Deer Creek Road from Arastradero Road at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. The friends were on their way to the horse-boarding facility Pagemill Pastures, located at 3450 Deer Creek Road. All three horses became spooked for an unknown reason, Sgt. Wayne Benitez said. The horses galloped north, but Kerr's horse broke away and surpassed the other two.

The other two riders lost sight of her. When they finally caught up, they discovered she had been thrown from the horse and struck her head on the pavement, he said.

Witnesses said the horse was going about 40 mph and Kerr was not wearing a helmet, Palo Alto Fire Deputy Chief Catherine Capriles said. The incident occurred near 3500 Deer Creek, she added.

Capriles said that Kerr had no pulse and was not breathing when fire personnel arrived on scene. Responders initiated CPR, but all signs indicated that she was deceased. She was declared dead on scene at 2:50 p.m.

Kerr boarded her horse at Pagemill and supported a petition to keep land for the facility that was being taken back by Stanford University, which owns the property, according to her posting.


Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


19 people like this
Posted by Deborah
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 21, 2016 at 9:25 pm

[Portion removed.] I've put ten to twenty hours a week on a horse for the past fourteen years. I've ended up on the ground more than a few times. I've cracked three helmets, but have yet to experience any injury - not even mild concussion. There is something about the way people end up falling from horses where they are very likely to hit their heads. Riding helmets, like motorcycle helmets, are designed to do a very good job of protecting the head. This headline puts emphasis on wrong thing.

11 people like this
Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 22, 2016 at 10:08 am

I'm a firm believer in helmets. One saved my brain from being scrambled in a bike crash that left me with all ribs broken on one side, fractured clavicle and a punctured lung.

That said it's an individual's choice to wear one. [Portion removed.]

9 people like this
Posted by Penny
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 22, 2016 at 10:21 am

Condolences to the family.

11 people like this
Posted by So sad. Suggestions on how to avoid brain injury.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 22, 2016 at 10:31 am

So sad. Suggestions on how to avoid brain injury. is a registered user.

We can fix broken bones. Our ability to fix broken brains is less developed. Fitted, buckled bicycle helmets can reduce the risk of head injury in a bicycle crash by 85% and traumatic brain injuries by 88%. I don't know about horse riding helmets, but I bet there are similar stats.

Wear your helmet and buckle it every time you ride. Encourage people you care about to wear one. Wearing a helmet is required by California law if you are bicycling under 18. Regardless of your age, it is the smart thing to do.

To best protect your brain, your helmet must fit properly: snug and level on your head with no more than two finger-widths between your eyebrows and the rim of the helmet. Buckle it with no more than two fingers fit between the strap and your chin. (Same rules apply to bike and horse riding helmets.)

I am so sorry to hear about this terrible accident. (May I point out we don't know if she was wearing a helmet or not.) I wish this poor woman's family and friends comfort in their grief. May her memory be a blessing.

15 people like this
Posted by Horseman
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 22, 2016 at 11:02 am

My condolences to the family for their loss and the horse. Tragic all around.

Back in the day growing up, I rode a horse almost daily for 26 years, and I admit without a helmet given it was not common at all back then unless you were doing steeple chase. In fact, my horse spent his last few years at the ranch mentioned in the article off Page Mill and Deer Creek roads when I moved to Palo Alto. But we never rode on streets or in built up areas where the chances of a horse being spooked is serious an which can result in the rider being thrown. Moreover riding on payment is extremely hazardous for a shod horse with metal shoes given they can easily slip.

BTW, my horse really loved the ranch there off of Page Mill. And it makes for such a scenic entry into Palo Alto to see horses in the hills.

13 people like this
Posted by QHMare
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 22, 2016 at 11:03 am

Condolences to the family and the riding buddies who had to witness this tragedy. There is additional despair for it to have happened so close to, and forever be associated with, the Winter Holidays.

As an equestrian (who wears a helmet 95% of the time) and horse lover, I always wince at the terminology "getting thrown." This implies that the horse was *trying* to get you off his back. Aside from bucking horses at rodeos, unstarted horses, perennially ornery horses, and horses in severe pain, the horse's desire to dislodge the rider is almost never the case.

The horse in this incident was spooked and bolting. He was not attempting to throw the rider, who, understandably unable to keep her seat on a 40 mph animal, fell off.

13 people like this
Posted by Horseman
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 22, 2016 at 11:14 am


I should also mention that if you are experiencing repeated falls from a horse, I would caution you to re-assess your riding ability and habits as well as the suitability of the horses you are riding. Helmet or not, there are plenty of ways to be seriously hurt, paralyzed or die from falling of a horse that a helmet will not protect.

In my 26 years of riding, I was fortunate to have never been thrown or fallen of my horse. I credit this to having a very good riding instructor (when I was 10) and the fact that she made me learn to balance and ride bareback before moving to a saddle. In fact saddles and stirrups can be lethal if not properly used. She also taught us to be on guard for what horses can be spooked by and dangerous riding conditions. Regardless, I would definitely wear a helmet now. And make no mistake, horseback riding can be very dangerous--much more dangerous than bike riding since it involves controlling a large animal with a mind of it's own.

14 people like this
Posted by Unwise Actions
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 22, 2016 at 12:13 pm

As a former trainer, I would never give a lesson to any rider, even an adult, who was not wearing a helmet.

That said, riders over the age of 18 are not legally required to wear a helmet.

What the riders did, however, was extremely unwise: riding on asphalt; riding in a location with a lot of traffic, at a time of day when traffic levels are increasing; riding without helmets. Any of these actions alone would be dangerous, but all three at the same time almost guarantees injury.

Most likely this was the case of either under-experienced, or over- confident riders, or both.

2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 22, 2016 at 12:45 pm

This is a very sad story and condolences to those involved and those grieving.

It is not wise to ride a horse without wearing a helmet, regardless of whether it is legal or not. In a situation like this on a public road it is fortunate that she did not fall off into the path of a passing car or cause a bigger accident. As a driver who has lived in horse country, I know that the danger of falling off a horse is much higher when there are cars passing and to be much aware of the likelihood of a horse being "spooked" by a car it doesn't like regardless of whether the car is being responsible or not. A noise, the color of the car, or any number of things can make a horse nervous when seeing a vehicle. It is very sad for the horseriding community.

2 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 22, 2016 at 1:33 pm

I'm middle-aged and haven't ridden a horse in years (no opportunity), but I did for a number of years until I became a young adult. Didn't have helmets then. Showed extensively, also did trail riding etc. I recall once experiencing a spectacular fall after being thrown - hard ground in Portola Valley. I thought at the time my back might be broken, a fleeting sobering thought. But then, I got up and started walking towards the direction where my horse had run...horses are very instinctual, heavy creatures. Spooking and flight comes easily. Even so, I am astonished at requiring helmets - I guess some ski resorts do too, nowadays? Sorry for your loss.

11 people like this
Posted by Unwise Actions
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 22, 2016 at 1:55 pm

I have to include the fact that, unless the victim of this sad accident was riding a highly conditioned three-year-old
racehorse, her horse could not have been galloping at 40 mph. More likely, they were going about 30 mph-- which still FEELS like about 60 mph!

2 people like this
Posted by sorry about your loss
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 22, 2016 at 3:21 pm

Contrary to some comments above:

paragraph 4 "Kerr was not wearing a helmet"

3 people like this
Posted by Horse Lover
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 22, 2016 at 8:06 pm

Sorry for the horse. My condolences to the familey.

6 people like this
Posted by Acquaintance of Lorie's
a resident of another community
on Dec 23, 2016 at 2:31 am

This is so sad, Lorie was an experienced rider, I had just watched her jumping her horse in the arena a few weeks earlier. I have also ridden that same trail near the ranch many times, as many of us have. It's true, there are many things that can spook the horses on a busy Saturday, but I'm almost positive they weren't riding on the asphalt intentionally, there's a dirt trail on the side of the road that we all rode on, I'm sure whatever spooked the horses caused them to drift out into the street, as well as them running for home. I know several of Lorie's good friends, we are all heartbroken at losing her. May God bless her family and friends at this most difficult time and always.

4 people like this
Posted by Equestrian
a resident of Meadow Park
on Dec 23, 2016 at 1:51 pm

The roads/trails in that area seem to become less safe as the number of people and cars increases.

My condolences to the family and friends who loved her.

Pagemill Pasture people: I know the majority of you don't wear helmets when you ride. Please take heed of this tragic one is too experienced of a rider to ride without a helmet.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

All your news. All in one place. Every day.

Su Hong Palo Alto's last day of business will be Sept. 29
By Elena Kadvany | 18 comments | 5,616 views

Premarital, Women Over 50 Do Get Married
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,718 views

Natural Wines?
By Laura Stec | 1 comment | 1,556 views

Electric Buses: A case study
By Sherry Listgarten | 2 comments | 1,551 views

Stay a part of their day
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 586 views


Register now!

On Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

More Info