The BSJA has donated £4,000 to the Diana Princess of Wales Air Ambulance, which serves Warwickshire, Coventry and Northamptonshire, to help keep this vital emergency service in the air.

The air ambulance has flown more than 300 missions since it was launched on 1 October, with horse-related injuries accounting for the second-highest number of call outs during the first month.

Jo Payne, spokesperson for the Diana Princess of Wales Air Ambulance, explains: “The very first call we answered with the air ambulance was to a male rider who had fallen from his horse and sustained an open fracture in a rural area of west Warwickshire.

“A normal ambulance would have taken more than 25mins to reach the casualty. The air ambulance was at the scene in just 5mins and the patient was in hospital receiving treatment within 15mins of the 999 call being received.”

Top international show jumper Nick Skelton, who handed over the cheque at the ambulance’s base at Coventry airport yesterday, is all too aware of the vital role played by the air ambulance service.

He was airlifted to hospital three years ago after breaking his neck in a bad fall, which at the time was believed to have ended his career. Nick has subsequently made a full recovery and returned to Britain’s international squad in 2003.

“If it hadn’t been for the air ambulance my life might have been very different. It deserves all the support that can be given,” says Nick.

The Diana Princess of Wales Air Ambulance service uses an Augusta 109E power helicopter, which has particularly low levels of vibration and can offer smooth transportation to hospital, which is particularly important in cases involving spinal injuries.

“Spinal injuries are particularly sensitive to movement and being transported across a bumpy field in the back of a vehicle could aggravate an existing condition so having the air ambulance available is vital,” explains Jo.

The air ambulance currently costs £90,000 month to run and as it receives no financial support from the government or the lottery, donations such as this one from the BSJA are vital to maintain the current 365 days per year service.

“We are delighted to receive these funds from the BSJA,” continues Jo. “All types of equine sports need to be able to call on professional trained paramedics who are able to respond rapidly, and the air ambulance fulfils this need.”

The BSJA chose the air ambulance to receive the funds because in the words of Jacky Knightly: “it is a fabulous cause which needs the support of every rider.”

If you would like to make a donation to BSJA’s ongoing fund raising drive for the Diana Princess of Wales Air Ambulance, please send a cheque made payable to “WNAA” to: Air Ambulance Fund (HHO), BSJA, National Agricultural Centre, Stoneleigh Park, Kenilworth, Warwickshire, CV8 2LR.