A rider whose horse trampled her head, face and torso after a fall on the gallops credits her helmet and air jacket for saving her life.

Claire Parnell was riding her KWPN gelding Eddie with a friend in January near her home in Sevenoaks, Kent, when the “freak accident” happened.

“My friend’s horse bucked and mine jumped on to the verge, which completely unseated me,” she told H&H.

“We continued, with me on his neck – he’s such a good boy, he didn’t put his head down – but then my friend thought if she stopped, he might.

“He did, but he swerved round to see where his mate was. I twisted round and went between his legs and he went straight over the top of me.”

Eddie trod on Claire’s leg and her torso, which was protected by her air jacket.

“Then the last thing was, his back foot went straight on to my head and face and took an enormous slice off my face.

“If I hadn’t been wearing a hat, that slice would have carried on up my head.

“I’ve had a few accidents but this was the first where I knew I’d done something serious; I put my hand up and my fingers disappeared into my face. That’s when I knew it was bad.”

Although this graphic picture shows the extent of Claire’s injuries, her PROtector helmet had done its job.

“At the hospital, they said that if I hadn’t had a decent hat on, I’d have had at least severe concussion; they were amazed I hadn’t lost my eye and didn’t have a bleed on the brain,” she said.

“I had a massive laceration on my face and three cheekbone fractures; I was very lucky.

“When you think the impact snapped three parts of my cheekbone but didn’t damage my skull – I was told it was the equivalent of being hit by a car doing 40mph – it just shows what a decent hat can do.”

Claire’s Point Two air jacket had also done its job.

“If I hadn’t had it on, I’d have had a lot of internal organ damage, and the impact would have broken my ribs and sternum,” she said.

“I’m glad I invested in safety equipment, I never go anywhere without it or jump without it.

“If I hadn’t had a decent hat and air jacket, I might not have been killed but it would have caused some serious damage.

“You realise how vulnerable you are. I regularly see a girl riding with no hat, in trainers and on her phone. People say it’s their choice but it’s not, it’s whoever has to deal with it when you’re on the floor.”

James Bebbington, of PROtector, said the team was “very glad to hear Claire’s ok”.

PROtector has always put hat safety as the most important thing, and so has always aimed for the highest standards of certification to provide the safest hats possible,” he told H&H.

“There are a number of different components within the hats that bring them up to the standard, for unfortunate events such as this. There have been other stories like Claire’s where the hats have done their job and we’re very pleased about that.”

Lee Middleton, founder of Point Two, was glad to hear the air jacket had prevented serious injury.


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“We know from letters that come in that they’ve saved a lot of people; it’s great to hear about it,” he told H&H.

“We were the first to introduce air jackets, to eventing in 2009, but they’re not just for eventing and Claire is a perfect example.

“Riding is a great sport but you can be hacking down the road and have an accident, and that’s what the air jackets are for. What we’re doing is making a difference to the sport.”