An angry Pony Club mother has hit out at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) after her daughter was badly injured when her pony was spooked by two military helicopters. Anita Rose and her children, Gabrielle (13) and Nathanial (8), were at a Ludlow Hunt Pony Club rally in Greete, Shropshire on 22 October when two Chinooks flew overhead.
Mrs Rose said Fern, the pony being ridden by Gabrielle, reared and fell over backwards, landing on the child. Her daughter was airlifted to hopsital with a broken pelvis and thighbone. “She [Gabrielle] is lucky she had no internal injuries. She should have no lasting damage but will be off school for at least three more weeks and will not be able to go back to riding until February,” Mrs Rose told H&H. “It’s strange the helicopters were that low in an area where there were lots of horses. There must be more unoccupied places to fly.”
In a separate incident last Wednesday (31 October) three riders hacking along a country lane near Market Harborough were “buzzed” by a military helicopter which came directly over the horses. “He was low-flying and came over the horizon from our left,” said Davina Wilson, who was out on her six-year-old ex-racehorse. “All three of us had hi-vis clothing on and I’m sure he could see us, but he came right over us and we could feel the downdraught. Luckily my horse seemed rooted to the spot. One of the others panicked but didn’t bolt.” A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said: “Events around the world demonstrate that there is a continuing requirement for highly trained armed forces that are able to defend the UK, its people and its interests, whenever the need arises.
“Low-flying is a perishable skill that can only be perfected through rigorous training and continuous practice in a realistic environment.” He added: “All complaints from the public about military low flying are taken very seriously and are carefully examined. An investigation has been opened into the incident on 22 October. It is being looked into very carefully and the air staff will respond to the complainant.”
In March 2005 the MoD released a hotline number for riders to check for low-flying helicopters in their area, following the death of rider Heather Bell, after her horse took fright due to a military helicopter. Tel: 0800 515544 8am – 5pm (and until 8pm during BST), Monday to Friday.
This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (8 November, ’07)