Horse deaths at Golden Button Challenge prompt review

  • A review into the Golden Button Challenge has been undertaken after three horses died at the cross-country race near Tewkesbury, Glos, earlier this month (14 February).

    One horse broke its back and another two suffered suspected cardiac arrests after completing the race, which covered three miles and 25 obstacles.

    Catherine Atkinson, who was second in 2011, was also airlifted to hospital after a fall but released later that evening with rib injuries.

    Thirty-nine out of 62 combinations completed the event.

    The high number of fatalities led to some people questioning the safety of the competition, which was run for the first time since 2011.

    However, the organisers announced in a statement that after considering “all aspects of the event” they could find “no cause” for the death of the three horses.

    “The Golden Button Challenge is an enormously popular rural event that has attracted a vast crowd and a maximum field of runners in each of the six runnings,” the statement added.

    “It was accepted in advance that all owners and riders would ensure their horses were fit and ready for a three-mile gallop across country and were responsible for the welfare of their mounts during the event.

    “However, future entry forms will stress the need to ensure horses and riders are fit to compete in a test of this nature.”

    Anonymous Golden ButtonOne of the riders whose horse died of a heart attack after the race has praised the organisers of the event. She has released a statement and a picture (right) but has requested to remain anonymous.

    “I had a fantastic ride around on my superstar ex-advanced eventer — he flew everything and loved every second,” she said.

    No one can doubt his fitness, as he probably finished more full of running than any other horse there that day.

    “I sadly lost my superstar Georgie from a heart attack five or so minutes after he completed the course. But these things happen — if your time’s up, your time’s up — and, in my opinion, no better way to go.

    “He was an old boy and had a great life, and I’m delighted he went out on a high doing what he loved. As you can see from the picture, he absolutely loved the game and was smiling with pricked ears posing for the camera literally seconds before he passed away.

    “The Ledbury dealt with the situation as quickly and professionally as they could in the circumstances, and we could not be more grateful.”

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