An experienced rider was crushed to death by her own horse when he ‘somersaulted and fell on top of her’ – an inquest has heard.
Clare Bedford, 31, had been competing in a one-day event at Solihull Riding Club on July 13, when tragedy struck.
She was nearing the end of the cross-country round, having successfully jumped 15 fences on her horse, Dougal.
But the animal – which weighed 500 to 600 kilos – is thought to have clipped fence 16, sending him ‘rotating upside down’ before coming to land on top of Clare.
An inquest, which began today (November 26) at Birmingham Coroner’s Court, said medics rushed to her aid and the Air Ambulance was sent to the scene, but Clare had suffered unsurvivable injuries.
She was pronounced dead at the scene, half an hour after the fall.
The inquest, held in front of a jury of seven women and four men, heard the triangular shaped fence was just under a metre high – and all fences had been thoroughly checked before and during the event.
Dawn Raftery, who was marshalling fence 16 at the time of the tragedy, was the only person to witness the incident.
She told the inquest she believed it had been ‘a complete and utter freak tragedy’.
“Clare was approaching normally, after jumping fence 15 clear. The horse was not out-of-control at all,” Ms Raftery said.
“I took my eyes of her for a second to press my stop watch and heard a clattering of hooves. I looked up and the horse appeared to have stumbled and they were both rotating upside down, landing clear of the fence on the other side.
“They landed together but Clare was underneath. Dougal, the horse, had already recovered. I grabbed him and pulled him clear.
“I radioed through immediately to say a rider had fallen and it didn’t look good – it was an emergency.
“I knelt down and placed my hand on Clare. I talked to her. Her mum came over and I cuddled her and moved her away a little bit.
“There were no concerns over the horse. He was sweating but as it was nearing the end of the course it was to be expected.”
Ms Raftery, a member of Solihull Riding Club with around 46 years riding experience, added: “Being a rider myself i’ve had some horrible falls. This appeared to me to be a complete and utter freak tragedy.”
Twelve to 13 medical staff were quickly on scene after the incident, but despite their efforts there was ‘no response’ from Clare.
Histopathologist Dr Gerald Langman gave the cause of Clare’s death as a traumatic rupture to the heart muscle and tear to a major vein.
He said the injuries came about as a result of the crush.
“With these sorts of injuries, nothing can be done. The injuries were unsurvivable,” Dr Langman added.
Philippa Starkey, former centre manager at Solihull Riding Club, said the one-day event included three separate disciplines – dressage, show jumping and cross-country.
She said the grounds team and stewards would have checked the area was safe, fences were secure and grass was an ‘adequate height’ before the event.
“All the safety requirements were in place for this event. Paramedics and first aiders were present,” Ms Starkey said.
“Riders are required to wear a hat with no peak that is safety marked, and a body protector. Clare was wearing these on the day.
“Jump 16, which is known as the Pheasant Feeder, was inspected throughout the day – it wasn’t damaged and there was no need for repair.
“Before the tragedy, around 26 to 28 riders had already jumped that fence with no issue at all.
“Horses are big heavy animals. He was approximately 16.2 hands high and around 500-600 kilos in weight.
“From a planning point of view, there was nothing else that could have been done. From my perspective, it was a tragic, sad accident that couldn’t have been prevented.”
After the tragedy, married Clare, of Long Lawford, Rugby, was described as ‘an amazing woman who excelled in all aspects of her life’.
A JustGiving fundraiser, launched by husband Matthew to raise money for Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance, raised more than double its target.
On the website, Matthew wrote: “Clare was competing on her horse at Solihull Riding Club and was injured in a fall only a few jumps from the end of the course.
“Unfortunately, although the paramedics and air ambulance attended, they were unable to save Clare’s life.
“Clare was the woman of my dreams. An amazing woman who excelled in all aspects of her life and it is a great tragedy that she had only 31 years to do so.
“She is greatly missed by all who knew her and I am lost without her.”
The inquest is expected to last three days.
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