Ten-year-old Sarah Oakley is critically ill in Hull Royal Infirmary, following a fall from a pony that she rode bareback in a field without the owner’s permission.

The accident happened after Sarah, from Cottingham in East Yorkshire, was walking along Snuff Mill Lane with two teenage friends late on Sunday afternoon. The friends came across several tethered ponies, believed to belong to travellers, being abused by a group of youths.

According to witnesses, the girls challenged the group and went to catch one of the poniesthat had got loose. When attempts to lead it back to the others failed, Sarah (who was not wearing a hard hat) tried to ride it bareback. When the pony took fright and bolted, Sarah fell off landing on a concrete path.

Sarah was knocked unconscious and a neighbour, who witnessed the accident, called for an ambulance.

According to hospital reports, Sarah’s skull is fractured in four places and she is currently being kept in a sleep-induced coma to give her brain a chance torecover.

Sarah’s father Peter told HHO: “This is a really difficult time for us, but Sarah had a stable day and night yesterday. The pressure surrounding her brain is starting to fall and the doctors are planning to withdraw the drugs and let her try and wake up.

“Sarah is absolutely pony-mad – she is always asking when she can have a horse. My daughter isn’t the best rider, but she has ridden since she was five and spends all her free time visiting horses kept in a field along from our house.

“I’ve warned her so many times not to go along the lane, but you can’t be with them every minute of the day.

“I hope that Sarah’s accident will serve as a warning to others of the dangers of riding strange horses – just because they are friendly, it doesn’t mean they are used to being ridden.”

At present Humberside Police are not treating this as a criminal investigation, however they are appealing for anyone who witnessed the incident to contact themwith information (tel: 01482 327111).