An inquest has heard how a woman was killed when her horse stumbled down a bank on Exmoor on Boxing Day.

Fiona Warstat, of Minehead, Somerset, was hacking with her friend, Claire Rumary near Porlock when the accident happened, the inquest at Taunton was told yesterday (9 May).

The coroner’s court heard that Mrs Warstat, 48 was an “excellent” rider with more than 30 year’s experience.

“All of a sudden her horse lurched to the right,” said Ms Rumary.

She added that both horses were going “fairly slowly” and it was not clear why Mrs Warstat’s horse behaved as it did.

Ms Rumary’s horse was spooked by the accident. When she had regained control, she saw her friend several metres down the slope against the base of a tree.

She tried to call emergency services but was unable to get a signal, so ran to cottages at a nearby farm to get help.

The inquest heard that Devon and Somerset Air Ambulance found landing challenging due to the terrain and low cloud, but nothing could have saved Mrs Warstat.

She died from a brain injury, despite wearing a hard hat which was still on after the accident.

Mrs Warstat’s husband, Stuart, told the hearing: “I have every confidence in her riding ability,” and thanked Ms Rumary, the air ambulance and the people at the farm.

West Somerset coroner Michael Rose said: “I think it would have been impossible for anyone, the most experienced rider, to control that horse.”

He recorded a verdict of accidental death.

Mrs Warstat, an expert on the behaviour and training of dogs, leaves her husband and two teenage children.