Rider died after fall from horse

AN experienced horse rider died when his horse refused to jump a fence at last year’s Beckwithshaw Horse Trials.

An inquest jury at Conyngham Hall, Knaresborough, heard this week how Robin Donaldson, 64, fell from his mare, Matilda Cruz, at a jump on the cross-country course.

Mr Donaldson, a retired languages teacher at Boston Spa School who lived in Little Ribston, had a distinguished riding career. He competed at Burghley in the 1970s and last year completed 11 events, winning one at Richmond Horse Trials.

On the day of the accident witnesses described him falling in “slow-motion,” landing on his neck and shoulders. After receiving emergency treatment, he was taken to hospital but died around two weeks later. His horse was not injuried.

Course judge Angela Browning, a retired GP, had been at her post at fence 10 for nearly two hours without incident when the fall happened, on August 22 last year.

Dr Browning said it was a “perfect” day for riding.

When asked by coroner Rob Turnbull if the fence was too taxing for Mr Donaldson, she replied: “No, it was just right for that level of expertise.”

“He approached the fence beautifully. One was expecting him to jump it but for some unknown reason the horse decided she was not going to go over.”

Fellow fence 10 judge Valerie Newstead said prior to Mr Donaldson’s fall the competition had been incident free.

“This fence precedes the water jump, the terrain on its approach is slightly downhill, there had been some refusals, but no accidents,” she said.

When asked what she saw when Mr Donaldson approached the fence she added: “The horse looked as though it was going to jump the fence but it didn’t.”

On-site doctor John Russell administered emergency first aid minutes after Mr Donaldson’s fall, alongside the course paramedics.

Mr Donaldson was described as “immobile” and unable to breath unaided.

He was then transferred to the county ambulance which arrived on the scene within 15 minutes. He was taken to Harrogate District Hospital and later transferred to Leeds General Infirmary.

The inquest heard evidence from course designer Mark Watler, who walked the course with a British Eventing technical advisor two days before the accident. Both were satisfied the course - including the 10th fence of the BE100 circuit at which Mr Donaldson fell - were in good order.

Course steward Michael Bell told the inquest he too was satisfied.

“Previously there were no problems at all,” he said.

“The fences were in a great condition. I wouldn’t have let the competition go any further if it hadn’t have been safe. It was not bright, it wasn’t too wet. The conditions were perfect.”

The jury returned a verdict of accidental death.

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