British Eventing (BE) has refuted suggestions that novice classes are becoming too hard following the death of a rider in a novice class at Sapey one-day event last week (18 April).

Jo-Anne Williams, 34, from Llanfaethlu, Anglesey, suffered fatal head injuries in a fall at the eighth fence at the Worcestershire venue.

Sarah Roberts, a friend of Mrs Williams, told H&H she believed her death had been caused by a rotational fall, but BE could neither confirm nor deny this.

In the two weeks before the incident at Sapey, there had been three serious cross-country falls at novice or pre-novice level, two of them rotational.

Pony silver medallist Libby Soley sustained a broken collar-bone and collapsed lung at Brougham; novice rider Annie Kirkham suffered 10 fractures to her pelvis and sacrum when falling at Stafford, and Katie Lovell broke her pelvis at Eland Lodge.

BE sports committee chairman Mike Etherington-Smith denied that novice courses had become too difficult.

He told H&H: “Safety is always the number one priority, but, sadly, accidents do happen. Novice courses are different to how they were 20 years ago, but the sport has progressed and that doesn’t mean novice courses are too difficult.

“The fence at Sapey was a very simple one and, sadly, you can’t legislate for these things.”

Worldwide, this is eventing’s sixth fatality since August last year, following the deaths of Amelie Cohen (H&H news, 15 March), Amanda Bader, Kim Hyung Chil (H&H news, 14 December 2006), Mia Erikkson (H&H news, 21 November 2006) and Irish rider Sherelle Duke (H&H news, 24 August 2006).

Read this news story in full in today’s Horse & Hound (26 April, ’07)