The mother of a five-year-old girl who fell and hit her head on the road after her pony was spooked by a group of cyclists said it “beggars belief” that anyone would organise such an event on that road.
Vanessa Roxburgh’s daughter Bethany was hacking out on a lead rein with Gemma Park, a friend who works at the livery yard Vanessa owns, on Saturday (22 June) when cyclists taking part in a sportive (an organised non-competitive event) came past.
Gemma told H&H they were very close to home, a yard in the Newent area of Gloucestershire, when the first bikes appeared.
“They were slow, and one of the cyclists said ‘There’s a few more of us behind’, but I didn’t expect the sheer volume of them,” she said.
“The next cyclist for some reason passed on the wrong side of the pony, and quite close, which spooked him a bit, and then there was a big group of them.
“It all just happened so fast. There were maybe six to 10 of them, coming downhill, making that high-pitched whirring sound of bikes en masse, and the pony went: ‘That’s enough, I’m out of here.’”
The pony, a Welsh section A called Crunchy, galloped off but not towards home as Gemma had expected.
“He got faster and faster and more and more panicked,” Gemma said. “I was thinking ‘For God’s sake, don’t let go’, but in the end it was impossible to hold on to him.
“The pony didn’t turn for home, he carried on down quite a steep hill but Beth had fallen off by then.
“She was crying, with a fat lip and a bleeding nose.”
Gemma said eventually one cyclist did stop to pick Bethany up, while another caught the pony and brought him back.
“But while it was going on – she was on the floor and the pony was panicking and spinning – the others ignored us and just kept on going past, quite quickly,” she said.
“The road’s so bendy and narrow; it wasn’t suitable for an event like that. What if they’d met a car at that speed? It doesn’t bear thinking about.
“I still can’t quite believe it happened and it was so avoidable – if we’d known the event as on, we wouldn’t have gone out. Apart from a bloody nose and a fat lip, and Beth needs a new hat, everyone’s fine but it could have been so much worse.”
Vanessa has since contacted the organiser of the Let’s Go Velo series of rides, as she does not think the route was suitable.
“If you meet a car when you’re on a horse, you have to go back or forwards; there’s not room to pass; that’s how narrow those roads are,” she told H&H.
“It beggars belief anyone would organise that event there, it’s an accident waiting to happen.”
Vanessa spoke to organisers but was told that there is no requirement to alert people or put up warning signs as fewer than 100 people were taking part in the event.
“If we’d known, we wouldn’t have left the yard,” she said. “These cyclists are paying good money to take part in the event, surely we could have been told it was happening?
The cyclists ignored the riders’ requests to slow down, spooking both horses
Officers have urged drivers to pass horses wide and slow, in response to the 'completely unacceptable' driving shown
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“Some of these cyclists seem to just ride along, heads down, with no thought of any consequences and in this case, it’s not so much what happened, it’s what could have happened. I want to know what the organisers can do to stop it happening again.”
A spokesman for the organisers told H&H he had made Vanessa aware of changes he plans to make.
“I’m going to give riders a briefing on their attitudes towards horse riders, and make sure they’re aware, and more courteous when they see them,” he said.
“That will be in the briefing and in the literature sent our beforehand, to make sure it’s in their minds.”
More rides are planned for the summer, details on which are on the event’s website.
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