Spectators and officials at the South Shropshire point-to-point Eyton on Severn on Bank Holiday Monday were left reeling when a runner was drowned in the River Severn.
Farley Lane, qualified with the Albrighton Woodland, was running for the third time in his career in the second race on the card.
At the third fence, he unshipped jockey Joe Proctor and ran for a time with the field along the far side of the left-handed circuit. But as the field ran into the bend, Farley Lane inexplicably broke away from the runners and ran down the bank to the river.
Area secretary Nick Bostock and clerk of the course John Beddoes found the horse four miles downstream after being tipped off by anglers.
Nick said: “We managed to get within 20ft of him when he was walking in a shallow part of the river. But he turned back into deep water and was taken under by the current as we watched.”
The horse’s body was washed up about 30 miles downstream three days later.
“We did everything we could to get him,” said Mr Beddoes, “but after heavy rain the day before, the river was full and current just too strong.”
The track sits on a flood plain and, while it is partly protected from the river by a hedge, fencing it fully is impractical.
Farley Lane is the second runner to run into the Severn — 15 years ago Thistledown Path swam the river safely after running through the hedge.
At present, the point-to-point committee has no plans to fence the course further.
“You cannot cover for every eventuality,” said Mr Bostock. “It’s not physically possible to fence it.”
This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (15 May, ’08)