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LAKESIDE — Diana Cavender, a veteran of more than 50 parades since she joined the Escondido Mounted Posse six years ago, was killed April 23 when her horse spooked and fell, knocking her to the ground at the Lakeside Western Days Parade. The incident occured about 10:50 a.m. after the posse had concluded the parade, as Cavender and her horse were approaching a staging area. Emergency crews rushed her to Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego, where she died at 5:41 p.m.

“We still had about 75 yards to go when her horse sort of took off and went to the front of the posse,” said Al Pfeltz, captain of the mounted unit. “It reared, from what I can recall, it spun and then suddenly all of its hoofs went out from underneath it and it slammed down on its right side whipping Diana into the asphalt.”

Cavender, 52, was an Escondido resident and horse trainer who was considered the most experienced rider in the posse, which rides in 15 to 17 events each year. She had studied under Texas-based trainer Chris Cox for years. She was not wearing a helmet.

“Most of us are still pretty numb,” said Pfeltz.

A monthly posse meeting at Escondido City Hall scheduled on the Tuesday night following the accident was designated a memorial service for the popular horsewoman, and about 170 people attended, Pfeltz said.

Cavender, a certified public accountant, married her husband, Joseph Manrique, in 2013 after they met in the Escondido Mounted Posse.

“When the tragedy happened, it was an accident,” said Manrique, who rode in the parade and witnessed the incident. “I can say with all my heart she did and she lived and she went out with what she loved to do. The short time I had with Diana, I learned a lot and I shared a lot and we shared a lot.”

“She was a cowgirl from the time she could sit on her pony,” Diana’s mother, Betty Jo Cavender, said. “I want them to remember how close she was to God.”

Her public funeral will be 5 p.m. Friday, May 6, at Emmanuel Faith Community Church, 639 E 17th Ave., Escondido.

Pfeltz said this is the first fatal accident in the Posse’s 68-year history, and a special meeting has been called for Monday, May 9, to serve as a forum for members to review the incident and any potential impact on the posse.

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