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Girl 'crushed to death by horse'

A 15-year-old girl was crushed to death by her horse after it somersaulted over a jump during a riding lesson, an inquest heard today.

Jade South was riding black gelding Oz when it hesitated as she approached the obstacle.

The teenager "pushed on" her horse and Oz's front legs clipped the front of jump and somersaulted over it.

Jade, who was wearing a protective body armour and a helmet, remained in the saddle and was crushed as the 16.1 hand horse landed on top of her.

The schoolgirl, from Linton, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, suffered catastrophic chest and heart injuries and died almost immediately.

The incident happened at 12.45pm on October 30, 2008, at Pauntley Court, Redmarley, Gloucestershire, the inquest at Cheltenham Coroner's Court heard.

Jade was riding with the South Hereford and Ross Harriers Pony Club, which she had been a member of for nine years.

The club had hired the course for the day for a cross country rally during the school half-term, the inquest, which was sitting with a jury, was told.

Jade was riding her new horse, which her parents Paul and Claire had bought her around six weeks earlier, and was among a group of experienced teenage riders.

Karen Slaughter, an instructor for the South Hereford and Ross Harriers Pony Club, was in charge of Jade's group and described to the inquest how Oz had briefly hesitated as he approached the 2ft 6in fence.

Mrs Slaughter, who was on foot about 15 metres away, said: "The moment before the jump Oz hesitated and Jade 'pushed on', which is the correct thing to do.

"Oz's momentum took him over the fence.

"Oz's leg clipped the jump and his momentum took him over the fence.

"I saw him somersault forwards over the fence and Jade remained on the saddle."

She said that Oz then landed on top of Jade with the teenager still on the saddle.

Mrs Slaughter added: "It was a very solid jump but it just lifted up about 10 inches with the horse's front legs.

"If he had been further away he would have cleared the fence.

"It was the moment of hesitation that brought him too close.

"Jade was an extremely competent rider who was confident riding Oz.

"I don't think Jade could have done anything else to tackle the jump."

The hearing was told that Jade had ridden the course before but on a different horse and it was the first time Oz had been round it.

Keith Lesley, a health and safety inspector for the Forest of Dean District Council, said the fence was movable and should have been fixed to the ground.

"It is clear that the best practice dictates that the fence should have been fixed to the ground and it was not," he said.

"Although the use of the fence fell short of best practice it did not contribute to the cause of the accident."

Mr Lesley confirmed there were no breaches of the health and safety regulations.

Police investigated Jade's death and said it was treated as an accident with no third party involvement.

A post-mortem examination revealed Jade suffered crush injuries to the chest and heart and would have died almost instantly.

A jury returned a verdict of accidental death saying the "horse had clipped an unpinned fence and the horse somersaulted over the fence, landing on Jade and crushing her".

Deputy Coroner for Gloucestershire Derek Dooley then discharged the jury.

He added: "I offer my condolences to members of the family, although there is nothing I can say that can possibly help you."

Mr and Mrs South declined to comment as they left the inquest.

At the time of Jade's death, her parents paid a loving tribute.

"Jade died doing what she loved doing the best, riding her horse across country with her friends on a lovely sunny day," they said.

"Her love of horses outweighed everything else, even to the extent of choosing to miss a family holiday in order to attend Lea Show.

"Jade grew up in Linton, attending Gorsley Pre-School, Abacus Nursery, Gorsley Goffs Primary and later John Kyrle High School.

"She was working towards her GCSEs, and having done her work experience at Three Counties Equine Hospital, had decided to make horses her life.

"In 1999 Jade joined South Hereford and Ross Harriers branch of the Pony Club and weekends were never the same again.

"Since then she attended many rallies and camp every year where recently she enjoyed helping the younger members.

"We have fifteen years of memories of her as a wonderful daughter and sister to cherish and comfort us in the months and years ahead."