Equestrianism: Inquiry to focus on safety in eventing after leading rider is crushed by horse

Click to follow
The Independent Online

An urgent inquiry into the horrific death of leading three-day eventing rider Caroline Pratt, who was crushed by her horse on Saturday, will examine whether safety standards in the sport need to be improved.

An urgent inquiry into the horrific death of leading three-day eventing rider Caroline Pratt, who was crushed by her horse on Saturday, will examine whether safety standards in the sport need to be improved.

The inquiry into the incident at Burghley Horse Trials, will be conducted by investigators from the Health and Safety Executive and leading officials from British Eventing, the governing body of the sport.

Ms Pratt, 42, from Middlewich, Cheshire, was thrown forwards by her horse, Primitive Streak, when it failed to clear a jetty in a water jump during the cross-country section of the trials. The horse did a somersault and landed on top of Ms Pratt, who was lying in about two feet of water. Although paramedics attempted to revive her at the scene, she died later in hospital.

The tragedy was witnessed by hundreds of spectators, near the jump and watching around the course on closed circuit television. It was also recorded by BBC television cameras.

Ms Pratt, one of the sport's leading riders and who narrowly missed being part of the Athens team, was the 21st eventer to die since 1981 when records were first kept. She is the third to die following an overhaul of safety standards in the sport after the deaths of five riders in 1999.

It was disclosed afterwards that Ms Pratt had raised concerns that the time allowance to complete the course might be too stiff for riders and was among those who had asked for the steeplechase section to be shortened. Instead, riders were given an increased rest break. Cross country is recognised as the most challenging of the three disciplines which make up eventing - the others being showjumping and dressage.

Eric Smiley, the International Equestrian Federation riders' representative, said fellow riders were "devastated" by her death but said all riders at Burghley were well aware of the potential dangers linked to the sport and stressed that she had not been concerned by safety standards. He said: "We know the risks we take on board, we wouldn't do it if there was no risk. If you take the challenge out of life, we are going nowhere."

Leslie Law, who won individual three-day eventing gold and team silver at Athens, also told a press conference yesterday at Burghley: "We do not want a cross-country test where everybody gets inside the time and yesterday no-one did, because of the holding ground. We accept it is a high-risk sport and that is why we do it."

Burghley officials stressed that Ms Pratt had already ridden the course once on a different horse, that the fence was below maximum height and that only one rider had fallen at the fence last year.

Andrew Finding, chief executive of the British Equestrian Federation, the umbrella body, said: "When something as serious as this happens, we will always look at what improvements need to be made. A full review of the situation will take place and if things need to be done, they will be done."

Comments