Fourth rider this year dies at horse trials

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A RIDER was killed at the Burghley Horse Trials in Lincolnshire yesterday, bringing the number of deaths this year in equestrian events to four.

Simon Long, aged 38, was crushed when his horse fell on him. There were immediate calls last night for safety to be improved at horse trials. The Burghley course was designed by Captain Mark Phillips.

Statistics from the British Horse Trials Association (BHTA) show that 12 riders have been killed in competition accidents since 1989, which makes the sport more dangerous than Formula One racing.

It is understood that the tragedy happened when the Irish-bred mount refused to jump over rails and veered away from the course. The nine-year- old horse, Springleaze Macaroo, then flipped over a fence and fell on top of his rider, crushing him with its bodyweight.

Doctors and paramedics spent 30 minutes attempting to resuscitate Mr Long at the scene of the accident but nothing could be done to revive him. The horse was unhurt and was led away by officials.

Michael Tucker, a spokesman for the Burghley Horse Trials, said there would be a full investigation into the death.

The Federation Equestre International, which represents riders competing in all international equestrian events, is also conducting its own enquiry into the high number of deaths in the sport.

"This is a devastating blow to the horse trials world," said Mr Tucker. "Safety is an issue which is constantly under review and there will be a full investigation."

This latest incident follows the death of Polly Phillips at the Scottish Horse Trials Championship two weeks ago when her horse Coral Cove rolled on top of her after falling at a fence. A fellow member of the British team, Peta Beckett, died earlier in the season when she was crushed by her mount. Another rider, Robert Slade, also died in June in a similar accident.

In 1993, the BHTA set up a working party into safety standards within the sport after four riders died in a single season.

The result of the investigation was a restriction on the use of table fences, which required horse and rider to land on top a small platform rather than to attempt to clear it.

All major events must now be held with paramedics on site and with ambulances fully equipped with resuscitation equipment. Fences are also roped together instead of being nailed so a rescuer with a knife can quickly dismantle obstacles in the event of an accident. But there is little that can be done to protect the human frame if a horse, with an average weight of three-quarters of a ton, lands of top of it at high speed.

Captain Mark Phillips, writing in the Independent yesterday, said: "All the fences are difficult. Some involve jumping up, others down, some in water and some out of water - a whole number of different things, really. We try to be fair to the horses and yet test the riders' skills at the same time."