A rider who lost a toe in a freak accident while she was wearing flip-flops to lead two horses has warned others of the importance of suitable footwear.

Ellie Brown, daughter of Hickstead director Lizzie Bunn, was turning two mares out last Wednesday evening (21 June) when the horse on her right spooked at a sign.

“She ran to my other side so I had both of them on my left,” Ellie told H&H.

“She went into my mare Twiggy, who jumped on me and landed on my foot. She was messing about, with all her weight still on my foot, then swivelled to look at the sign.

“The next thing, there I was, with two horses and nine toes.”

Ellie described the pain as “excruciating” but added that adrenaline “kicked in”.

“At first I just thought it was broken or bruised and I had to make sure the horses were ok,” she said. “I needed to get my shoe back on and it was as I put my foot in, I realised: ‘I’ve lost my toe’.

“My godfather [and previous Derby winner] John Ledingham came up behind me in a car. He grabbed the horses, got me in the car, then grabbed the rest of the toe and I was taken to hospital.”

Doctors were unable to save the toe, which was taken to hospital in a mug, and Ellie underwent surgery the following morning. She has to spend a fortnight with her foot elevated as much as possible. Warning, graphic image.

“It’s very boring,” she said. “I’d finished my last [osteopathy course] exam that day so had been looking forward to enjoying the show and riding, but this is going to set me back for months.

“I was idiotic to be wearing flip-flops but you get comfortable around horses and think you know them so well, you can read them, but something so silly can cause an accident.

“The good thing to come out of it is, lots of people were coming up to me at the show saying it’s reminded them anything can happen and no one’s exempt; people were saying they put on shorts and flip-flops to do the horses in the heat and this has been an eye-opener.

“I want people to be aware that they’re not in control of everything happening around you, like a pheasant jumping out of a hedgerow or something, and for the sake of your safety, make sure you’re properly dressed. Pumps or espadrilles won’t help, you need a good pair of yard boots.”

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Ellie said she was lucky it was her fourth toe, as the first and fifth are more important for balance, and that she got home in time to watch the speed derby and the Al Shira’aa Derby, although she added: “It would take more than a missing toe for me to miss my favourite week of the year!”

And the other silver lining, as Ellie has told her friends?

“The one bright side is that I should be getting a 10% discount on pedicures from now on,” she said. “Every cloud!”

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