Show organisers in Ministry of Defence flying zones are urged to apply for low-flying avoidance during fixtures following an incident at Aston-le-Walls Horse Trials last week.

The RAF is investigating after horse owner Christopher Saunders was badly injured when a low-flying RAF jet swooped over the event at Washbrook Farm, Northants.

Mr Saunders, owner of Tiny Clapham’s ride, Great Honour, was fitting the horse’s studs when a jet flew low over the lorry park and caused Great Honour to spook. Mr Saunders suffered a severe jaw injury and extensive bleeding and was treated at the scene by event medic, Dr Michael Whitlock, before being airlifted to hospital in Coventry where he underwent a 5hr operation.

Aston-le-Walls organiser Nigel Taylor had told the RAF that Washbrook Farm was an equestrian establishment running regular fixtures, but he said he had not given specific dates.

“We don’t see jets regularly — over 12 fixtures this year we haven’t had a problem,” said Mr Taylor. “I will apply for exclusion from now on, but I also suggested British Eventing (BE) sends its fixture list each season.”

Anxious to avoid future accidents, BE is now looking at a co-ordinated approach to low-flying exclusions.

“Some events, such as Badminton and Burghley, liaise with the MoD,” said BE spokesman Winnie Murphy. “But we will speak with our regional directors about the best way forward.”

Event secretary Major Leslie Reason is working with the RAF on the inquiry.

“I’ve been pleased by the RAF’s response, and their determination to find out what happened,” he said. He added that he was discussing the possibility of a permanent no-fly zone around Washbrook Farm with the RAF.

■ Contact the RAF low-flying hotline (tel: 0800 515544).

  • This news story was first reported in Horse & Hound (17 August, ’06)