This high-flying moment was captured on camera during the BE90 at Munstead Horse Trials in September.
Rachel Cargill was partnering her coloured warmblood / thoroughbred, Pauldarys Sorcerer (aka Merlin), and she certainly enjoyed a roller coaster of a ride across country...
“It was Merlin’s first ‘party’ after three weeks off — he sustained a puncture wound in his knee — so he was a little fresh,” said the 23-year-old freelance instructor and groom.
“I lost my stirrup at fence two, but had got it back and we actually got ourselves into a nice rhythm. Then at fence eight, the owl hole, he kind of charged at it, got far too close and nearly fell over it,” she explained. “With that, I was sent flying up into the air!”
Due to the height Rachel was thrown, her air jacket inflated — assuming she had parted company with seven-year-old Merlin.
“My air jacket went ‘BANG’ while I was in the air, which spooked Merlin. So when I landed back in the saddle, he took off and again I had no stirrups.
“When I was in the air, I did think I was going to fall off but luckily Merlin kept his head up for me. I have ridden him since he was a five-year-old and have not fallen off him yet.”
Rachel pulled up to catch her breath, with the inflated air jacket leaving her feeling “winded”.
“Mum actually thought I had fallen off, because all she could see was air above the saddle! I walked him around for a bit and wasn’t sure if, under British Eventing rules, I could continue with an inflated air jacket,” added Rachel, who is based in West Sussex and only started affiliated eventing in March.
“The fence judge said I could carry on, but she gave me the option to take my air jacket off and wear just my body protector for the rest of the course. However, I didn’t want to waste any more time, so I kicked on with my air jacket inflated. It was a weird feeling and very restrictive — I can now understand how it saves lives during falls.”
The pair went on to enjoy a drama-free round after that and posted a clear on the scoreboard.
“Merlin has always been a character — he’s cheeky and always has plenty of tricks up his sleeve. He can be tricky, but he loves his cross-country, so I don’t think he wanted me to fall off.”