Sunday 2 May 2010

Horse fatality at The Mitsuibishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials

It is with great sadness we announce that Desert Island, ridden by Louisa Lockwood and owned by Donald Birts was put down following a fall at fence 9 (The corner at Huntsmans Close).

A detailed investigation of the circumstances is currently taking place and a further statement with be made as soon as any more information is available.

The rider Louisa Lockwood, is currently being attended by the Red Cross, however is believed not to have sustained any serious injury.

Julian Seaman
Press Officer


Will said...

what is the outcome of this investigation? i was unfortunate enough to be at huntsmans close when desert island broke her leg and was absolutely appalled by the incompetence of the marshalls there. their inaction and lack of common sense led to unnecessary suffering of the horse and huge distress to the crowd around the fence. The crowd was shouting to the marshalls to hold the horse - they didn't do this and the horse tried to run with an obviously broken leg, which was terrible and extremely upsetting to witness. The whole crowd was screaming and crying. Just awful. And to make matters worse, i had walked away as I couldn't bear to see the horse being put to sleep and the distress of the rider, as I approached the previous fence, it was only the row shouting to the next rider to stop that prevented it jumping the fence and proceeding to huntsmans close where he injured horse was.

Harriet said...

I too was unfortunate enough to be at the jump and too saw the accident. I also totally agree with all said above. The way it was dealt with or rather wasn't dealt with by the marshalls was absolutely disgusting. They didn't appear to have a clue what to do in the event of such an accident as this. The rider got up and walked away and appeared to want to be well away from the injured horse and the marshalls just stood there as the horse - who clearly had a broken leg - hopped and writhed around clearly in extcruitating agony and not knowing what to do with herself with not one person going over to her to at least try and calm and comfort the poor creature. I thought it very sad the way the rider just didn't seem to want to be near the horse as although I appreciate she too was distressed, at least the horse would have known her. It was only when the crowd shouted at least 3 or 4 times for someone to grab the poor horse that one of the marshalls eventually grabbed hold of the rein after 2 members of the crowd climbed through the fence and were about to do it themselves. Although the marshalls still offered the poor horse no sort of comfort or stroking and as said above, the next rider on the course hadn't been stopped and was fast approaching the jumps and it was only the crowd shrieking for them to stop that they were stopped on the course. When the vet eventually appeared after what was an unbelievable delay, the green screens were put up just on either side of the horse so therefore most of the crowd could still seem the distress and agony the poor animal was in whilst still, none of the marshalls appearing to know what to do or show the poor thing any compassion whatsoever. Eventually the horse ambulance arrived, the curtains where shut at the front although we still clearly saw the thud through the screen as the horse fell and was then wrenched onto the trailer. I have been coming to Badminton for over 20 years and have been at jumps before where the horse is clearly injured - indeed this happened in 07 when the flag snapped off and impaled in the horses chest. Within seconds the marshalls had the horse and the vet and ambulance was there in seconds attending and sedating the horse. The total opposite of what this poor horse had to endure. I feel very strongly that all marshalls on the huntmans close fences on this day are severely reprimanded for the appalling way they handled this situation and the total lack of care or compassion that was shown to the horse and getting the vet to the scene. It was an unbelievely distressing scene to have to witness. Especially at such an event as Badminton.

Unknown said...

I'm 15 and also had to witness this devastating event. I was stood literally right at the front, straight in front of poor Desert Island. I couldn't bear to watch and ran through the crowd to the back to get some space as I felt really sick. I burst into tears but really appreciated the fact that a lovely woman came up and hugged me. I felt very shaky and it made me feel nervous every time I watched the other riders jump. Something which made me really angry was also the fact that the next rider came cantering along and only stopped when the crowd shouted at the rider. This just highlighted how unorganised and unprofessional the marshalls were, as they clearly made no attempt to pass the message on. The vet did appear to take a long time to arrive but at this point I was too upset to really notice anything. Poor Desert Island, bless her heart, was behind green screens and I just wanted to run up and hug her goodbye. I am a great lover of Badminton but I think that maybe some of the jumps need to be re-thought for health and safety reasons. I am also appalled by the lack of concern and sympathy shown for Desert Island's death. She may be a horse and not a human but I think she should still be treated with the same importance and respect. I found that watching Desert Island break her leg and then be put to sleep unbelievably disturbing and I never want to witness anything like that again. It was awful, and something I will never forget. I would finally like to say - R.I.P Desert Island.

Badminton Horse Trials said...

The circumstances of the fatal accident to Desert Island were investigated on the day by an independent panel under the authority of the Ground Jury. The panel consisted of Jennifer Millar (New Zealand), Mandy Stibbe (GBR) and Laurent Bosquet (France). The panel found that Desert Island veered to the left towards the un-jumpable part of the obstacle outside the flags and suffered an open fracture of the cannon bone. Such an injury is unfortunately not treatable and euthanasia was the correct course.
The Sector Steward, the Sector Veterinarian, the Fence Judge(s) and a Course Builder were all within 20 yards of the accident and were able to take immediate action. All are very experienced in dealing with accidents at equestrian events and a second veterinary opinion was obtained, as is the protocol if euthanasia is indicated.

Unfortunately there was a perception amongst the spectators that nothing was being done, or at least not quickly enough. On investigation it is clear that the officials were very cautious about approaching the horse when she was standing next to the obstacle; they did not want to cause her to panic by rushing forward and to get to her head to hold her would have meant acting dangerously by going close to her hind legs.

The horse shortly afterwards was startled – we believe by the shouts and screams of spectators – and so moved some strides, after which it was possible to approach her quietly and restrain her.

We very much regret the appearance of inaction but conclude that the very experienced officials were acting in what they reasonably perceived to be the horse’s best interests.
Comments have also been made that the next horse had to be stopped by spectators. This is not correct. While it is true that spectators were calling out for him to stop or be stopped, they were unaware that the Fence Judge at Fence 7 had been asked by Control HQ to stop him and was doing so in the correct manner. Fence 7 had been designated as a preferred “Stopping Fence” before the competition started.
The Badminton Organisers wish publicly to reiterate their private messages of sympathy to the owners and rider of Desert Island.

Badminton Horse Trials said...

A message from the Owners of Desert Island:

We were all devastated by the tragic accident to Desert Island (Sonja)on the XC course at Badminton on Sunday, and feel so much for Louisa who had trained her so carefully and sympathetically from pre novice, as a 5 yr old to 4 star aged 10.
Sonja was very special to us all. She had a mind of her own, was not an easy ride and continuously tested Louisa. She finally realised that Louisa was as determined as she was and so began an amazing relationship. You only have to see the 2009 XC at Badminton to see how completely they trusted each other and what a great partnership they had – she was only 11, there was so much more to come.

We have complete faith in Louisa and continue to give her our wholehearted support and we are very grateful for all the kind messages which people have emailed and blogged.

Donald Birts, Elleke Carling and Carol Seymour-Newton
Owners of Desert Island

Becca said...

I don't wish to be argumentative but I strongly disagree with account that "Badminton Horse Trials" has given. I also had the misfortune of being at huntsmans close when this happened but decided to leave when it was clear that Desert Island would have to be put down.

There was the initial gasp when the horse fell as normal with any fall/refusal but it wasn't until Louisa had walked away clearly in great distress and being guided by an official that Desert Island started to panic and spectators started to call for the horse to be caught. The other stewards seemed to wonder about aimlessly. A very different account of events than given by Badminton above. I wonder if Desert Island hadn't moved at all how you would have dealt with it then as the danger of moving around the horse back legs would have remained? However, the fact is still that the horse wasn't attended to as quickly as she should have been, she had sustained a serious injury and for at least 1 minutes no one went near her.

Now correct me if I am wrong but there was about a 3 minute gap between each horse going round? I understand that in the commotion, a relay of information would not be immediate but assuming that the stewards, as you say, were experienced you would hope it would be an automatic and well practiced process to stop the course? Although you say it was incorrect that spectators stopped the next horse it seemed to be the spectators that the rider noticed and I failed to see the red flag being waved.

I know these things happen and blaming people won't help but I strongly believe that the pain and suffering of Desert Island could have been minimised if the actions of the stewards had been more swift as you would expect of such a prestigious event.

Finally my deepest condolences go to Louisa, Donald, Elleke & Carol. I know how heart wrenching this can be (I have lost two horses in freak accidents) and hope that some good may come from this somewhere.

Best wishes

Will said...

I totally agree with the comment above, in that I really do feel very strongly that the events as outlined by 'Badminton Horse Trials' is not an accurate portrayal of what happened. It seems to suggest that the crowd is somehow to blame!!!!! Desert Island didn't panic until the rider (who was very obviously in total shock and extremely upset) moved away - around 1-2 minutes after the initial accident. And while the judge at fence 7 (the previous fence) did run out with a red flag, it was only as the horse was virtually at the fence. I don't buy your 'experienced fence judges' line at all. Hold your hands up and admit you got it wrong and that you'll learn from this and make changes to the way you handle these things. You forget that the Badminton crowd also comprises of a fair few extremely experienced horsey people - we know how these things should be managed, and something went badly wrong on Sunday with the way the judges and officials responded to this tragic incident. I would suggest that is evidenced by the very fact that the official response differs so significantly in it's account and explanation of events to the views of the live spectators as recounted here and on other blogs. Condolences to the owners and rider - such a sad thing to happen and everyone feels for them

Unknown said...

I have to agree with the awful situation I witnessed at Badminton. It was agonising to watch and so I can only imagine what poor Desert Island had to endure.
In my opinion the stewards were wholly incompetent, I believe that because Desert Island was stood up by the fence they did not even realise there was a problem until she panicked (with the pain i'm sure) and started to try and run. Only at that point did the stewards react and do anything.
This whole situation has angered and upset me and I am glad to see others have expressed their thoughts too.
Once the green screen's were up I felt that they kept Desert Island stood for a long time waiting for the vet. Was she sedated at all or just made to stand until a second opinion could be found?
This is a terrible situation and one I shall not be able to get the image out of my mind ever I don't think. I stayed at the fence and watched the next horse come over and to the gasps again of the crowd, he jumped slightly to the left of the fence and again the horses hooves hit solid wood. Fortunately this time it was ok but I feel if a horse can have a seemingly perfect take off then how can a broken leg be the consequence? Surely the margin of error should not be that minute that jumping slightly left has this result? I think once a full investigation has been made it would be appropriate to convey this to the public to reassure us, especially those about to make first steps into BE.
Obviously I appreciate that this is a dangerous sport.

I would like to take this opportunity to convey my deepest sympathies to Desert Islands owners, Louisa and all those who loved her.

Monty said...

Having dealt with several incidents of this nature over the last 20 years, all very distressing, including with 2 of my own horses (once riding, and once in the paddock), I think you're being a little harsh.

Horses in this situation tend to suffer delayed shock, and often they are best left initially rather than restrained immediately, as this can lead to further injury (to more than just the horse). I do believe the crowd reaction had an impact on the horse once shock set in, and you have to remember that in these situations there is far more to consider, like the rider and the crowd's safety. I don't see how handling the horse any sooner was going to significantly reduce its suffering, as distressing as it was.

It is impossible to plan for this type of situation with the level of detail you are suggesting is needed.

It has been suggested the course should have been held sooner but given the close is a good gallop from the quarry and so early on in the course you can see how the next rider could easily arrive at the close before the situation had been fully assessed.

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