‘I’ve been very lucky’: rider speaks out on air jackets after freak cross-country fall

A rider whose horse rolled on her when they fell while cross-country schooling has spoken of the importance of wearing an air jacket.

Madeleine Hubel, from York, was taking part at a training camp over 90cm fences on Saturday (28 September) when her 16hh Irish mare Holly caught her back legs over a jump.

“I jumped a drop down into water and was really pleased with Holly and then the last thing I remember is taking off at a jump coming out of the water,” Madeleine told H&H.

“I was told by my friend, Charlotte, Holly jumped really boldly and ended up straddling the fence. I nose-dived to the ground and Holly followed, landed behind me then rolled on my legs and pelvis.”

Madeleine said the next thing she remembers is the noise of the Midlands Air Ambulance landing.

“I was vaguely aware of where I was but Charlotte said I wasn’t making much sense. My instructor, Niki de Macedo, looked after me until the paramedics arrived and I was taken to the hospital,” she said.

“I had a CT scan and X-rays to check my pelvis but the doctors eliminated any serious injuries quite quickly. I had a gravel rash down my cheek, a burst lip and I broke both my wrists.”

Madeleine had surgery to insert pins in her wrists on Sunday.

“I can’t ride for six weeks and feel a bit useless having two arms out of action. Holly is kept at Charlotte’s yard so she is going to look after her. Thankfully Holly was absolutely fine after the fall and will have a holiday while I can’t ride. She’s a tough cookie and she’s such an easy horse, you can pick her up and put her down,” she said.

“I will miss riding but it’s one of those things. I’m looking forward to getting back on and hope to go cross-country schooling in spring. At the moment I don’t have any nerves about getting back on because I know it was a freak accident wasn’t anyone’s fault.”

Article continued below…



Madeleine said the doctors believed the air jacket prevented Madeleine suffering any further injuries and she has urged others to consider wearing one.

“The combination of my air jacket, body-protector and hat really helped and I’ve been very lucky. Niki thinks it saved my life. If I hadn’t had the air jacket things would have been a lot worse,” she said.

“Air jackets provide an additional safety level and what’s a few hundred of pounds for safety? Some riders competing at lower levels think they might not need one but it doesn’t matter if you’re jumping 50cm or a metre – you’re still putting yourself in danger – you hope not, but there are still risks.”

For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.