A team chase organiser has called for people to be “sensible” around horses, following the “terrifying moment” when a child walked out in front of a fence during a competition.
The preschool-aged child stepped into the path of an oncoming horse as it approached an island fence in the Bicester Hunt with Whaddon Chase (BHWC) intermediate event last Sunday (Oct 9), causing the team’s lead rider to have to take an emergency pull.
“The little girl wandered out in front of the fence. The lead jockey was yelling, but we were too far away to do anything. For the rider and those looking on it was a terrifying moment. The child’s safety was clearly compromised,” said BHWC team chase chairman Oliver Cornock.
“You can only do so much roping in team chasing — it can get difficult in case a horse runs through a fence.
“All we can resort to is a programme of admonishments and commentary, which we were already doing. There were numerous commentary requests to keep children under control, notes in the programme and a cacophony of whistle blowing,” he said.
He added that high-risk sports were already under enough pressure without the “careless behaviour of the few.”
“We do this for fun and we’re all volunteers, and we’d have felt dreadful if something had happened,” he said. “We live in a litigious environment and the impact on insurance can be immense.”
While no one was injured in the incident, the affected team finished in second place, 0.6sec behind the leaders.
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“The team were extremely reasonable about it and asked if there was anything we could do in the rules. We sat down as stewards to discuss it but had to say ‘no we can’t’, although it felt slightly unfair.
“A child’s life is obviously more important than who wins or loses, but these are highly competitive teams and you could have legitimately argued that they lost out because of it,” Mr Cornock added.
“Team chasing doesn’t get quite the footfall point-to-pointing does, so you’d think the spectators were horsey people and would be well aware of the risks.
“We sometimes have incidents with loose dogs, but you wouldn’t really expect to find a child in that position.”