A horse owner has credited her hat for saving her life after she was kicked in the head while leading in a youngster.

Claire Balysz from Foxhills in Romsey was leading in a 16hh warmblood youngster from a pen into a stable on Tuesday 21 July when the horse kicked out.

“There were no issues with his behaviour, he was being like a dog on a lead and we stopped so he could pick at the grass on the way,” she told H&H.

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“As we moved off, he suddenly and unexpectedly jumped forward and catching me on the upper back and shoulder as he did so.

I ended up lying under 700kgs of horse. I was wearing a hat, it undeniably saved my life. I have severe damage to my left knee, bilateral broken ribs and bruising from my face down.

“My hat was covered in hoof marks as the horse scrabbled to get up and my head was between his front legs.”

Her surgeon said it will take Claire around 12 months until she will be fully recovered.

Last May H&H reported that serious and fatal head injuries are just as likely to happen on the ground as they are when mounted, according to a study.

Equestrian related admissions at the University of Kentucky Trauma Registry revealed that there were equal rates of head injury for both riders and handlers over a five-year period.

All three of the deaths recorded were handlers on the ground rather than riders. One was caused by a kick to the head, another a kick to the chest and the third after a fall from a trailer when loading a horse.
As a result of the survey researchers have concluded the “findings reinforce the need for protective equipment usage at all times around horses.

However, many riders only wear a hat when riding.

Mrs Balysz — whose daughter Eleanor was on the 2014 Pony Europeans team — is now urging others to think twice.

She has around 24 horses at the yard so is used to handling horses.

“My surgeon reiterated about my hat saving my life,” she added. “It was a freak accident, unexpected, and I don’t always wear a hat when turning out or bringing in, something or someone was clearly looking after me last Tuesday as I hesitated and walked back to get one.

“I would like to raise awareness that the dangers are not just when we are on board these majestic animals and while it isn’t ‘the done thing’ to wear a hat on the ground, it probably should be happening a lot more.”

Saturday (1 August) is International Helmet Awareness Day. For more information click here.