International endurance rider involved in freak road traffic accident

Former Team GBR rider Rachael Claridge from Cullompton was involved in a freak road traffic accident at 8.45am on Monday 3rd March 2008. Rachael and her Endurance GB squad horse Blue Chip Prince Meliodas were enjoying a morning hack prior to a routine veterinary visit when the accident occurred on a quite country lane between Blackborough and Sheldon in East Devon. Rachael had just exited a public bridleway from the Devon and Somerset’s Gliding Club and was proceeding along the lane to Blackborough Woods before descending back to her yard at Saint Hill. Rachael became aware of traffic building behind her on the lane so brought the horse into walk in a wide section of the road with good visibility. The first of two highways vans passed the horse without any concerns but it was the second one with an empty low lying trailer that was the catalyst for the accident. The driver did pass wide and slow but the empty trailer bounced on the tarmac which spooked ‘Mel’ as he’s more affectionately known to the Claridge family. Despite Rachael’s attempts to prevent Mel was reversing into the trailer the accident unfolded too quickly. “Mel shot backwards before I could stop him, he’s normally such a bomb proof horse but he was spooked and all I could do was use my experience to contain him and remove him from harms way as quickly as possible”.

The driver of the vehicle stopped and assisted Rachael when it became apparent that Mel had serious flesh wounds to his left hock and inner thigh. The drivers in the vehicles behind also jumped to assist Rachael and one lady, only known as Mo, led Mel to Geoff Fieldings yard only a few hundred yards up the lane. Geoff and his groom Rachel assisted Mel by applying towels to the wound to stem the bleeding whilst Rachael contacted Western Counties Veterinary Clinic.

Within fifteen minutes Rachael’s vet Stuart Altoft arrived, assessed the damage and proceeded to stitch up the wound. Geoff kindly drove Rachael and Mel to the Western Counties clinic in Culmstock to enable Stuart to x-ray the limb. Fortunately for Mel he only sustained a hairline fracture to his left tibia in addition to tendon and artery damage from the initial contact with the trailer. The prognosis is very positive for this talented 10 year old part-bred Arabian gelding, who should be back in work following 8 weeks of box rest. Stuart and Rachael are confident that Mel will be back competing within a 12 month period following his success last year in his first FEI 160km one-day ride which gave him his qualification to next years European Championships in Italy.

Unfortunately for Rachael, she has been forced to sell her Ifor Williams HB505, which is currently at Darcroft Garage in Bodmin to pay for the vets fees following a financial ‘blip’ as a result of her separation from her long term partner. Rachael would however like to thank all of the people who assisted her and Mel last week and also to thank her sponsors Blue Chip Feed and Denis Brinicombe for providing Mel with the supplements he requires for a speedy recovery.

Rachael would like to work more closely with the British Horse Society, the police, Forest Enterprise and other ‘off road riding’ organisations to promote a safer environment for the UK’s riders because “despite wearing high visibility and being a very conscientious rider, horses are unpredictable animals and freak accidents like mine do unfortunately happen. Horse riders have to take responsibility for themselves and their livestock on the roads today. They should never anticipate motorists because it only takes a second for an accident to occur” said Rachael.

For further information about what to do in the case of a road traffic accident please visit http://www.bhs.org.uk.
Author: Rachael Claridge / Photographer: Dan Tolchard and Rachael Claridge

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