A nine-year-old girl riding with the Cotswold Hunt died when she was kicked in the chest by another horse, an inquest heard.
Bonnie Armitage was riding her Shetland pony Lindsay when she was kicked by another rider’s horse and fell to the ground.
The little girl suffered fatal injuries in the incident which happened on the morning of April 2 last year at Miserden, Stroud, Gloucestershire.
Gloucestershire’s Coroner’s Court heard that members of the Cotswold Hunt were about 15 minutes into an event when Bonnie was struck by a much larger horse ridden by farmer Toti Gifford.
Bonnie, who was wearing riding boots, a chest guard and helmet, was being supervised by family friend Melissa Kennedy who was at the event with her children.
Mr Gifford told the inquest that he walked his horse Harvey from a field, through a gate into a second field when it suddenly went “irregular”.
“I was on my own and there were no horses around and I was just cantering up the side of the field and my horse went ‘irregular’,” he told the court.
“I didn’t really feel anything, it just didn’t feel right, and then I heard a yell and I looked back …
“Seconds after, it was so quick, the horse went irregular and the little Shetland pony was really, really close, almost underneath my feet, went really fast past me without a rider on.
“Then I heard a shout and I looked back and saw Bonnie.”
He added: “I was going forward and looking ahead and you never think anything is behind you.
“I just heard this yell, I don’t know who it was, I just looked back and everything just fell apart.”
Mr Gifford said he was not aware of Bonnie’s pony until it went past him after Bonnie had fallen off.
“I am on a horse leaning forward a bit and the first thing I knew was this little black and white pony went past me like a bullet,” he said.
“It felt like it had sort of gone lame, it felt like an irregular move, maybe I had gone in a hole, sometimes horses stumble.
“I didn’t think he had bucked, I just thought he had put his foot down a hole, lost his shoe, or stumbled.
“I looked back and she was still landing and I pulled up. It was all a bit of a blur. I just jumped off my horse.
“I can’t really remember what happened. It was just mad. I remember grabbing the horses and leading them away.
“She was lying, big blue eyes … ”
Mr Gifford described his horse as a “gentle giant” and said the animal was experienced at hunting with a pack of hounds.
Asked why his horse might have kicked out at Bonnie’s pony, Mr Gifford replied: “I think it was an instinctive thing, it was shock or frightened or spooked.”
Eyewitnesses said Bonnie was about a horse’s length behind Mr Gifford when his animal kicked out and struck Bonnie, knocking her to the ground.
Joanna Ireland, who saw the accident, said Bonnie was “perfectly” under control of her pony.
She added: “Nobody is going to ride on top of somebody. If you thought somebody might be in danger you would say something.”
Fellow rider Claire Bailey said: “I didn’t actually see the horse kick but I realised it had happened because I heard the thud of the hooves in contact with Bonnie.”
The nine-year-old was a pupil at St Hugh’s preparatory school in Faringdon, Oxfordshire, where her father Nick is deputy head. Her mother Polly is a professional musician.
In a written statement read to the court, he said: “Bonnie could ride before she could walk. She was a very competent rider and had been off a lead rein for years.”