Horse killed rider in event jump fall

Banbury Cake: Jo Rugman Jo Rugman

A CORONER called for tighter controls at equestrian events after hearing how a mother-of-two was crushed to death by her own horse.

Experienced horsewoman Jo Rugman was “catapaulted” through the air when her horseclipped a jump in a prestigious hunt event, an inquest heard.

The 37-year-old, from Stratford Road, Drayton, near Banbury, was killed after her gelding, Fitzwilliam Square, stumbled at a relatively low tyre fence jump, then landed on top of her on the ground.

The horse was unhurt but Mrs Rugman was airlifted to the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford.

Doctors were unable to resuscitate her and she died soon after admission.

Oxfordshire deputy coroner Alison Thompson heard that Mrs Rugman was wearing body protector gear which was 20 years old and would not have been legal at other horse events, She recorded a verdict of accidental death and said she would be writing to the Master of Foxhounds Association to say safety procedures should be looked at.

Mrs Rugman had been competing in the Team Chase National Championship Open Qualifier, organised by the Vale of White Horse Hunt, and had cleared three fences successfully before the accident.

Fence judge Alison Jenkinson saw the horse somersault as it hit the fence on the course at a farm outside Cirencester, Gloucestershire, on March 6 this year.

Course inspector Jeanette Neville told the inquest that the course was thoroughly checked before each event.

Mrs Neville said the jump where Mrs Rugman met her death had not struck her as particularly “risky”.

She added: “I considered it safe at the time. I still think it was a very tragic accident that could have happened at any fence on the course.

“But in hindsight I would say I would be loathe to pass any course that has tyres now.”

The height of the tyre fence was 110-115 cms.

The inquest heard Mrs Rugman had been wearing an air jacket, which was likely to have been activated when she was thrown from the horse.

But her body protector worn underneath dated back to 1991 and, although allowed by the Master of Foxhounds Association as meeting “current specifications”, manufacturer Lee Middleton said they were illegal at other events.

Mr Middleton told the inquest that because of the nature of Mrs Rugman’s fall, it was unlikely that safety gear would have saved her.

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