The number of air ambulance call-outs to riding accidents has increased by 40% in the last year, statistics released by the Air Ambulances Foundation (AAF) reveal.

“We believe that this rise is indicative of an overall recognition of the benefits of air ambulances,” explains Laurie Farquhar of the AAF. “Particularly in inaccessible rural areas, air ambulances can be by far the fastest, smoothest method of getting patients to hospital. These remote areas are popular with horse riders, so when riding accidents occur, it is frequently appropriate to launch an air ambulance rescue.”

Every air ambulance mission costs £1,000, so the rise in riding-related call-outs represents an additional cost to air ambulances of £120,000 in just six months.

Jon Scourse, executive director of the Air Ambulance Foundation, explains that the AAF needs to raise “substantial funds” in order to maintain services and expand into those regions not currently covered by an air ambulance.

“Add to this the need to upgrade 10 helicopters to meet new regulations – at a cost of £500,000 each, per year – and it becomes a real possibility that some air ambulance services will be at risk,” says Jon.

Among the riders who have been rescued by air ambulance is international show jumper Nick Skelton, who sustained serious injuries from a fall at a show in summer 2000. The nature of his injuries (his neck was broken in two places) placed huge importance on the speed and smoothness of his journey to hospital.

Now fully recovered, Nick believes he owes his current fitness to AAF: “Without that air ambulance, I doubt whether I would have come through the accident without a permanent injury. I’m so lucky to have fully recovered and owe a great deal to everyone involved.

“The riding community in particular greatly values the air ambulance service, who last year alone were called out on over 500 missions relating to riding accidents. They are doing a wonderful job.”

Other riders who have been rescued by air ambulance are also whole-hearted in their support of the AAF. Tammy Boutcher, 57, suffered a broken leg and damaged knee ligaments when her mare spooked on a remote part of Exmoor.

“I now realise that air ambulances are not a luxury but an absolutely essential lifesaver,” says Tammy. “Nothing can beat them for speed and getting into inaccessible places.”

The Air Ambulance Foundation is the national fundraising body for the UK’s 15 regional air ambulances, which receive little government funding making them dependent on donations.

To make a donation to the Air Ambulance Foundation or to organise a fundraising event, contact (tel: 01256 492852) or visit: www.theaaf.org