Police are appealing for witnesses after a horse and rider were found dead on a country road in Belper, Derbyshire.

A passing motorist came across the body of 21-year-old Helen Fletcher, an experienced horsewoman, at 10:55 am on Saturday morning along with her horse, staggering in the road. Minutes later the horse collapsed and died.

A post-mortem of both horse and rider is underway to ascertain the cause of their deaths. According to the motorist there was no other traffic in the road; Derbyshire Police believe the horse may have fallen ill and thrown Miss Fletcher onto the lane. It might also have collapsed onto Miss Fletcher before standing up again.

“We may never know what happened but are hoping that the post mortem will show what killed the horse,” said a spokesperson for Derbyshire police. “There is nothing to suggest it was hit by a car.” The results of the post mortem will not be known for some time.

Miss Fletcher was a hotel manager at the Talbot Hotel, Belper and had owned her horse for seven years.

Police are appealing for anyone with information to telephone 0845 123 3333.