‘I saw a hoof in my face’: Rider’s warning after kick shatters her skull

  • A rider whose face was shattered in a freak accident while turning her horse out has urged others to take out personal accident insurance.

    Becca Brown had to undergo a seven-hour operation to rebuild the bridge of her nose and pin her broken eye sockets after the incident on 4 February, and faces a lengthy wait before she can ride again.

    Becca told H&H she had taken every possible precaution before she turned out her eight-year-old Dutch warmblood Belsteads Braveheart (“Gibson”) as he had had a brief period of box rest, followed by limited turnout owing to the weather, and “less work than he needs” as he returned to fitness.

    “I’d had a lesson, he’d worked quite hard and was tired, and it was a lovely day so I thought, brilliant, I’ll get him out,” she said.

    “I had a hat on, was leading him with a lunge line, I’d given him a bit of Sedalin as he hadn’t had much turnout, I’d done all the sensible things.

    “We reached the gateway, which was really muddy, and I remember him readying himself to leap the puddle – that’s totally normal and it’s why I had the lunge line, so I could keep hold. My wellies were being sucked off and I was just trying to hold the horse and get to the other side of the puddle – and then I saw a hoof in my face.”

    Becca was conscious throughout as her trainer, who had accompanied her almost to the field, called an ambulance.

    “I knew it was bad instantly,” she said. “There was blood pouring out, I’d felt my nose go when he got me and my sight went almost instantly, because of the swelling.”

    Warning, very graphic image.

    Becca was taken to the Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, where three-dimensional CT scans showed the extent of the damage. She was stitched up and stabilised until it was possible to carry out the reconstructive surgery, which included taking a bone graft from her hip and using metal “links” to hold her eye sockets together.

    From left, a “normal” face and Becca’s post-injury scan

    “They said there were millimetres in it; I’d have died if the bone fragments had gone into my brain,” Becca said. “How many times do you turn a horse out and it goes off bucking and farting? And that’s all that happened.”

    Becca, who sang the praises of the “amazing” NHS care she has received, is now recovering at home but has had to take time off from her job in the Navy and put Gibson on to full livery while she is unable to ride.

    “I had a horse and rider policy, but have now realised the personal accident insurance only covers me for death or losing sight or a limb,” she said. “But my horse doesn’t cease to exist just because I’m injured. I’m lucky because I’m off on full pay from work but my livery bill has doubled.

    “We always make sure our horses are insured, but we do this sport that could kill us and how many of us think about that?

    “You read these things and might think the person must have been an idiot –‘I know better and it won’t happen to me’ — but I’ve been riding since I was four and I took every sensible precaution. My horse isn’t nasty, he’s a gentle giant and it was just one of those things. ‘It won’t happen to me’ isn’t good enough.”

    Becca said she remembered after the accident that she had taken out Harry Hall One Club membership, which provides personal accident and public liability insurance, in December as the deal also offers discounts on merchandise and she had been buying Christmas presents.

    “That’s the only effective personal accident cover I’ve got and I’ve only got it by chance,” she said. “But now, friends have taken it out too.

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    “I’m just desperate for something good to come out of this. If one person takes out accident insurance, or checks the small print on their policy, or puts a hat on; I just want people to think about it.

    “My horse is covered, I care about his wellbeing, but I hadn’t stopped to look after myself.”

    A Harry Hall spokesman said she was pleased to hear the insurance was helping Becca. “We have had other riders who’ve had to look into insurance claims too, and we’re proud that One Club insurance works with highly established, trusted insurers who take good care of customers,” she added.

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