Jo Rugman’s death prompts team chasing safety review

  • Team chasing is to review rider safety equipment and the design of its jumps following the inquest into the death of a competitor in March.

    The deputy coroner for Oxfordshire, Alison Thompson, ruled on Thursday (23 June) that 37-year-old Jo Rugman’s death was accidental and arose from multiple injuries consistent with a horse fall.

    But she added that there had not been a safety failure at the VWH team chase on 6 March.

    And Ms Thompson said health and safety procedures should not limit the enjoyment of riders nor change the sport.

    “I will write to the Masters of Foxhounds Association [MFHA], to invite them to review the rules,” she said.

    Mrs Rugman (pictured), who was a joint-secretary of the Warwickshire hunt, died when her horse Fitzwilliam Square clipped a tyre jump and somersaulted, landing on her (news, 10 March).

    She was airlifted to the John Radcliffe Hospital but could not be resuscitated. Mrs Rugman was wearing a 15-year-old body protector and a Point Two airjacket. At the inquest the coroner ruled that no safety equipment would have saved her life.

    But a barrister acting for her husband John Rugman questioned whether frangible pins, used on some eventing fences, and increased use of brush fences and hedges could increase safety in team chasing.

    Chairman of the MFHA team chasing committee James Buckle said : “We shall look at every aspect of what we do. The standard of courses has improved dramatically over past years.

    “We want our sport to be as safe as it can be but not curtailed by unnecessary regulations.”

    He said the next meeting of the committee was not until November but they would discuss the issue by telephone.

    Mr Rugman told H&H that he was happy with the result of the inquest and hoped his suggestion that safety lessons could be learned from eventing was helpful.

    “Team chasing has a good safety record but I would welcome a look at what happens in other disciplines where rotational [somersault] falls are more common.

    “There will always be an inherent risk in a sport like team chasing, but if improvements can be made that do not damage the sport nor impede its future viability it will be a good thing to have come out of this.”

    There have been two other rider deaths in team chasing’s 38-year history. Liz Haldene died in 1979, Tom Regis in 1990.

    This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (30 June, 2011)

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