The body that represents racehorse trainers is trying to establish how often horses are spooked by low-flying military aircraft – after one of its members suffered what she believes was a “deliberate” attack.
Ann Duffield and her husband, George – the former top Flat jockey – were on the gallops near their Sun Hill yard in North Yorkshire on 9 September when they spotted a Chinook helicopter approaching their string.
“George said ‘God, he’s coming right at them’,” she told H&H.
“The pilot circled the first five [horses in the string] then came back and hovered over the second bunch who were going up the hill, panicking the horses.”
Mrs Duffield said the “gung ho” pilot – from RAF Odiham in Hampshire – then dipped below a nearby farmhouse, before flying over the horses again “as low as he possibly could, maybe 50 feet above us.
“It was indescribable – the noise was unbelievable,” she said.
Mrs Duffield said the pilot’s actions “left jockeys hanging on to neckstraps for dear life”.
The Ministry of Defence (MOD) confirmed it is investigating.
Rupert Arnold, chief executive of the National Trainers Federation (NTF), said it was “almost unbelievable” that the pilot could have been acting deliberately.
“But one wonders if official guidelines are being breached by pilots with their own agenda,” he added.
He is asking riders to report their experiences, in an attempt to establish the scale of the problem.
“If it turns out these incidents are frequent, then we have a basic systematic problem,” he said. “We will then make representations to the MOD on behalf of the whole equestrian sector.”
If you wish to report an incident of low-flying, contact the NTF, tel: 01488 71719 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound (29 September, 2011)