A multiple Paralympic gold medallist has reminded riders of the importance of wearing safety helmets after she had a “freak accident” out hacking.
Sophie Wells MBE, who won individual and team gold at the Rio Paralympics, was hacking out Saturday (15 June) when the horse she was riding spooked and fell.
Sophie told H&H: “The horses are used to geese and swans but it just so happened that a duck flew out from underneath my horse’s feet up into his face. He went to spin, lost his footing and went splat with me still on him.
“He took off and galloped home which is frightening in itself – it’s what every rider dreads out hacking because you’re not in a contained space. Thankfully I’ve never had it happen before. I was on my own and managed to call my dad Mervyn and my groom Lewis who managed to catch him back at the yard.”
The eight-year-old gelding was uninjured but Sophie suffered whiplash and bruising.
“He landed on his left side and because I was still on he landed on my leg. I’ve got bruising but apart from that I escaped; I was quite lucky,” said Sophie.
“Once I got home I jumped back on to make sure he wasn’t frightened by what happened and thankfully he was ok.”
Sophie, who posted about the incident on her Facebook page, said riders should not take safety for granted.
“We landed on grass which was quite soft but the left side of my hat took quite a knock. Every time I have a bad fall I replace my hat because it’s not worth risking it,” she said.
Courtney surprises herself by how successful her first ride is after six months out of the saddle
The rider is calling for others to wear a helmet when riding after her frightening experience
If you want to keep up with the latest from the equestrian world without leaving home, grab a H&H subscription
Sophie, who formerly competed in a top hat, said she switched to a safety helmet after USA Olympic rider Courtney King-Dye suffered a brain injury in a riding accident in 2010 when she was not wearing a hat.
“From then I always wore a safety hat in training, and competition – whatever the age of horse. The horse who I had my fall on is very calm and laid-back and we were only walking – you wouldn’t have thought an accident would happen. It was just a freak accident and completely proves the point why safety should come first,” said Sophie.
“Hats these days are so comfortable and airy – I wear mine from 7.30am until 4pm. Sometimes I’ll start teaching with it on and forget I’ve still got it on. I put it on social media as a stark reminder as to what can happen from nothing and hopefully everyone can learn from it – people shouldn’t bypass safety.”
For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.