Retired dentist killed in horse riding fall

Mary Chapman: Dragged under horse as it bolted.
Mary Chapman: Dragged under horse as it bolted.

A RETIRED dentist from Sheffield was killed in a freak riding accident - when her horse was spooked by a noisy motorbike on a country road.

Mary Chapman, aged 58, of Dobcroft Road, Ecclesall, was out riding in Derbyshire when her horse, Lucy, bolted.

An inquest heard Lucy had been scared by two other horses galloping past after they were frightened by a motorbike near the Parkgate Equine Centre in Eckington, north Derbyshire. The rider of the motorcycle has never been traced.

The inquest into the death heard Mrs Chapman had been waiting for automatic gates to open, so she could take Lucy out onto the roads, when a motorcycle sped past and started the tragic chain of events.

The former dentist managed to cling onto her horse as it spun around and bolted, but then her saddle slipped to one side and she fell.

Her death came only months after her husband Paul, also a dentist, died following a battle with cancer. Witness Sara Mason, a fellow rider, told the inquest: “The horse was galloping flat out, close to a fence. She was fighting to keep her balance. She tried to gain control through the reins.

“She was able to stay seated for another 20 metres and then she fell under the horse and became trampled by its legs.

“She was kicked up the driveway for 14 metres, there was a loud thud, and she hit the car park area face down.”

Mrs Chapman died in the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield eight days later on February 28, 2010, after suffering severe head injuries and developing pneumonia.

Ms Mason said the motorbike was louder than most.

“You could hear it rather than see it. It went by so quickly. The exhaust definitely didn’t sound legal,” she added.

“The area is frequented by a tremendous number of motorcycles and I tended not to ride my horse on the roads for that reason.

“Every rider has had their horse spooked by a motorcycle at one time or another. It’s a problem, without a doubt.

“That road is deemed a bit of a race-track locally because it’s a very straight uphill road for quite a long distance.”

North East Derbyshire Council environmental health officer Peter Lazenby said it might be possible to prevent a repeat incident by keeping horses further back from the road, but that would restrict use of the land.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, Deputy North Derbyshire Coroner Nigel Anderson said: “The stumbling block here is we don’t know if the motorcycle and its exhaust were legal. Police never found who the rider was.”

He recommended that police make regular checks on noisy motorcycles and that a sign be erected warning road-users of horses.