A horse breeder is petitioning the government to have the minimum height aircraft can fly over equestrian yards raised.

Planes and helicopters can currently fly 100ft from the ground, but Lady Julie Daly, of Lillingstone Equestrian, a stud in Buckinghamshire, wants the law adjusted so aircraft must keep a minimum distance of 200ft above stable areas.

Lady Daly has contacted the Ministry of Defence (MoD) regularly since December 2008 about the number of military aircraft flying over her yard.

She said: “I requested they moved the flight path slightly to avoid the yard. But I was told that if they protected horses in one area, they could not easily refuse a similar request.”

Lady Daly breeds the rare Bohemian Equus Kinsky.

She claims that in February her husband Michael photographed an EH 101 Merlin helicopter as it flew at a height he estimated as 80ft.

She said: “The MoD is being evasive and irresponsible.”

Sheila Hardy of the British Horse Society (BHS) said deaths had already been caused by horses being frightened by low-flying aircraft — one in 1996 and two more in 2003. But since then, she said the MoD had worked closely with the BHS to cut the dangers — and they advocate all riders wearing high-visibility clothing.

The MoD set up a hotline riders can use to check for low-flying helicopters in their area and also offers to set up temporary no-fly zones for events like horse shows.

An MoD spokesman said: “Low-level flying is an essential and demanding skill. Unless there is a pressing need the MoD does not low-fly at weekends or on public holidays so the majority of riders can enjoy their leisure time undisturbed.”

  • To sign Lady Daly’s online petition go to http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/Altitude/

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (16 August, ’09)