The owner of a riding school at which a group of children all fell off as the result of the Red Arrows “screaming up the ponies’ bottoms” would like to prevent a similar situation from happening anywhere else.
Ruth Gardiner, of Enborne Equestrian Centre in west Berkshire, said all four of the ponies in the school spooked when the RAF display team “zoomed” overhead last Saturday lunchtime (8 September).
“It frightened them all to death – the ponies shot off and the children all fell off,” Ruth told H&H. “Seven of the jets basically went whooshing straight up the ponies’ bottoms.”
The four children riding are novices, Ruth said, not long off the lead rein and learning to canter.
“It’s all so new to them at that stage so they couldn’t react,” she said, adding that the adults riding separately on site managed to remain on board and in control.
“The Red Arrows came up behind the ponies rather than the horses; we were lucky not to lose the ride of adults too,” she said.
The flying display team was overhead for some 20 minutes, disrupting much of the rest of the ride even after the fallen children and their ponies had been reunited.
“Luckily no one was hurt and the instructor managed to get them trotting round by the end, on the lead reins again,” Ruth said. “But I bet I will lose some of the riders.
“You generally find with things like this, where children have got really scared, it either takes a very long time to get them confident again or one or two of them will decide not to come back, which would be very sad.”
Ruth contacted the Ministry of Defence, to be told that one of the parents concerned had also made a complaint.
“It sounded like they’re taking it seriously, but the main thing is that it doesn’t happen again,” she said. “It’s about raising awareness. We had the full Red Arrows team directly above us; if we’d had enough notice, we could have had a game plan for how to avoid them.”
An RAF spokesman said: ‘The RAF can confirm that a display by the Red Arrows at the ‘Heroes at Highclere’ charity event was completed on 8 September. We are aware of a number of complaints from a riding school close to the transit route to Highclere, and will respond to these in due course.
“We apologise for any disturbance caused to the public by this activity. As with all Red Arrows events, their presence at Highclere was extensively publicised in advance across a variety of media channels to enable local residents to be aware of what was planned.”
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