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Mother’s body protector warning after teenage rider suffers crush injuries in rotational fall

The mother of a teenager who suffered serious crush injuries in a rotational fall is calling for body protectors to be mandatory in showjumping.

Danni Thomas, 14, usually wears her body protector but forgot to take it with her to a Pony Club winter league showjumping event last November.

Her mother Gail had taken Danni’s brother to a motocross event so was not there when 18-year-old Ernie stumbled after a jump and fell.

“He’s a phenomenal pony; an absolute saint, but he just tripped and landed on her,” Gail told H&H.

“People at the show were very good, they called an ambulance, and called me – I’ve never driven so fast in my life – and I got to Alder Hey hospital just as the air ambulance did.”

As Danni is young, her ribs are more flexible and had not broken, but her heart and lungs had been badly damaged – pictures of the fall show Ernie landed mainly on the left side of her chest. Having been treated by paramedics at the show centre, she was kept on a ventilator for a week, and in hospital three days more.

Danni is now back at school and on the way to a full recovery but Gail said she has scar tissue in her lungs, and will always have to be aware that her lung capacity has changed.

“The consultant said a body protector wouldn’t necessarily have saved her, but the damage could have been limited,” Gail said. “He asked why they weren’t compulsory, and I thought ‘good question’.

“She’d gone to the show with a very good friend, who doesn’t know I insist on a body protector – Danni’s old enough to know what’s right – and she was rushing around to get ready, and just forgot it.”

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Ernie is also recovering, but Gail said he will have a quieter life now, while Danni has returned to riding on a younger pony.

“This was just a tiny stumble on a sweetheart of a pony,” Gail said. “It’s not something you’d ever think about but my friend who saw the pictures said it frightened the life out of her and her son always wears a body protector now.

“They’re compulsory for cross-country but not showjumping, which seems a bit daft.”

Pony Club interim chief executive Marcus Capel said: The Pony Club takes the safety of its members and the welfare of their ponies very seriously. We seek advice from national governing bodies (British Showjumping, British Eventing, British Dressage etc) and align our rules with theirs where possible and appropriate. Our sports committees meet regularly to review the sport’s rules and discuss the rationale behind any suggested changes and the wider consequences and impact of these.

“I appreciate that this incident was an unfortunate accident and am pleased to hear that the member in question is on the mend and wish her well.”

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