The owners of a horse who drowned during the South Shropshire point-to-point last month are pursuing a claim of negligence against the hunt.

Six-year-old Farley Lane fell into the River Severn on 5 May after unseating his rider at the fourth fence during the meeting at Eyton on Severn (news, 15 May). He was found dead three days later, having been carried 34 miles downstream.

His joint owners, Sue Jordan and Wendy Bayliss, claim the drowning could have been prevented had the course been fenced and if more stewards had been on hand to stop the horse before he ran into the river.

“If people had acted immediately to stop him, he wouldn’t have drowned,” said Ms Jordan. “After the race the clerk of the course was not interested that a horse was missing.

“After 40 minutes I had to ask them not to start the next race because a horse was still missing — eventually a farmer took us down to the river to look out for him because organisers heard a horse had been seen passing under a bridge.”

Mike Dodd, long-term partner to Ms Bayliss, is handling the matter on behalf of the owners. He is claiming £5,000 for loss of the horse, and £2,500 for distress caused to each owner.

“On the day, the hunt didn’t take this seriously, and I’m still waiting for answers,” said Mr Dodd, adding that Ms Bayliss, who trained Farley Lane, is still in considerable distress.

He has also written to the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), questioning why its inspector of courses passed Eyton on Severn as fit to race when the river was not fenced.

He added: “I think the BHA is partly to blame, and I want them to ensure racing does not take place next to exposed water.”

After the accident, clerk of the course John Beddoes told H&H that organisers had done “everything they could” to retrieve the horse. He also said it was “physically impossible” to fence the course.

But Mr Dodd claims he has pictures taken just days after the incident with “yards and yards” of electric tape erected in the field to prevent sheep from straying into the river.

South Shropshire hunt chairman Marek Kwiatkowski said the claim has been passed on to its insurers, Lycetts. He declined to comment further until the matter was resolved.

Christopher Cox of Lycetts told H&H: “We will conduct a thorough investigation.”

BHA spokesman Owen Byrne said 15 point-to-point courses in the UK are sited next to a river or body of water, but declined to comment on whether the BHA would take any action.

“We will be writing to Mr Dodd in due course,” he said.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (26 June, ’08)