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Nervous horserider who warned about dangers of sharing animals died when ex-racehorse she kept with friend boltedCaitriona O'Leary, 28, died after her horse bolted in a country laneTwo motorists chased after the stricken woman, only to find her fatally injured in the roadToday a coroner recorded a verdict of accidental deathFather says she 'died doing what she loved'
01:20 GMT, 21 December 2012
Tragic: Caitriona O'Leary, pictured, has died after being thrown from retired racehorse Mister, also pictured, which she was 'sharing' with another rider
A woman who had written articles warning about the dangers of riding other people’s horses died after falling from a thoroughbred she shared with its owner.
Caitriona O’Leary suffered fatal head injuries after she lost control of the 15-hand former racehorse named Mister, an inquest was told.
Witnesses said she may have tightened up and leaned forward, making the 12-year-old mount speed up, thinking it was in a race.
Recording a verdict of accidental death, coroner Alan Craze said he would write to the British Horse Society about the dangers of sharing former racehorses.
In a bitter twist, Miss O’Leary, 28, herself had warned about the potential dangers of ‘horse sharing’ – where an owner offers to share their animal in return for help with its care.
In a newspaper interview in February she said: ‘There is a lot of trust involved. Owners will look you in the eye and tell you a horse is safe when they know it is a psycho.’
The article, which showed her pictured with Mister and owner Rebecca Fuller, 19, quoted Miss O’Leary as saying: ‘The owner is entrusting you with their horse, and you are entrusting them with your heart.’
On May 28, two shocked bystanders leapt into their cars and gave chase after Mister charged past them on a country lane with the Irish rider shouting ‘no, no, no’, the coroner heard yesterday. They found Miss O’Leary lying in the road.
She had suffered multiple skull fractures despite wearing a riding hat.
It is not clear if the horse threw her off or she jumped off voluntarily, the inquest in Eastbourne, East Sussex, was told. She was rushed by air ambulance from Magham Down in Hailsham, East Sussex, to the Royal London Hospital but died on June 1.
The hearing heard that local resident June Axon found the rider on her back in the middle of the road.
Shared: Caitriona O'Leary (right) and Becky Fuller (left) with Mister the horse, at Brent Farm, near Hailsham, East Sussex
Sad: Miss O'Leary was airlifted to the Royal London Hospital, pictured, and put on a life support machine, but she later died
The pensioner said she had not seen
what caused the horse to bolt but believed that the tragic death may
have been caused by rider error.
Ms Axon said: ‘It is possible
something made him trot on and that Caitriona tightened up and if she
tightened up, a racehorse is going to think “right I’ve got to go”.
‘She should have known that. If you
pull a racehorse’s head backwards and learn forwards, it’s going to go. I
guess that is initially what she did.’
Tragic: Caitriona was an experienced rider, but she may have been inexperienced in dealing with emergency situations
Coroners today recorded a verdict of accidental death for Caitriona O'Leary (pictured, far left)
Equestrian: Her father said horses were Caitriona's 'passion' and she died 'doing what she loved'
Susan Wilson, who had followed Miss
O’Leary in her car, said: ‘We put her in the recovery position and she
was breathing noisily when the ambulance arrived.’
Ms Wilson, an experienced equestrian, was asked about Miss O’Leary’s riding ability.
‘She didn’t seem to have the confidence to ride him,’ she said.
‘She always looked nervous and tentative and could not ride correctly. The horse would pick up on that.
‘This tragedy could have been avoided
had Caitriona not exaggerated her ability and her skills had been
Caitriona’s instinct was to grab hold of his head really
tightly and lean up its neck, which to racehorses means “go, go, go,
you’ve got to go faster”.
I think that was why he was at full gallop.’
Miss Fuller, who was given Mister by her riding instructor, said the horse had a ‘lovely temperament’.
Because she was studying at the University of Sussex, Miss Fuller
decided to seek a ‘sharing’ partner for Mister to help out with his
She said: ‘All was well. I rode out
with Caitriona on several occasions and she knew how to ride. I was
confident in her ability with horses.’
After the inquest, Miss O’Leary’s father, Patrick, said: ‘These things happen. It was an accident.
‘Riding horses was her passion. She died doing what she loved.’