A mother and daughter’s quiet morning ride along country lanes near Fletching ended in violent tragedy.
On Sunday, June 23 Jo Flew and her daughter Joanna, 20 were out riding their two horses along Daleham Lane. But their morning ended in shock and terror when a group of about 20 cyclists streamed past, causing Jo’s horse to kick out in panic.
Jo said: “We knew a cycle event was taking place but we had no idea what time. On our way home it became apparent that it was happening.
“A few bikes raced past which was OK as our horses were used to them. But then looking behind us there was suddenly a large number in groups of about 20, but only seconds apart.
“As they came past our horses became very frightened. We felt like we were being swallowed. This caused my horse to kick out at the bikes but instead it kicked my daughter’s horse, Willow, in the leg.”
Jo described her agony as she saw Willow’s leg was broken and was hanging by the skin. Joanna was screaming.
She went on: “I could not believe the bikes were still pushing through! Two very kind ones stopped, dismounted and came to help. I was in so much shock I couldn’t work out even how to use my phone.”
Joanna, who works with horses, managed to use hers and called someone from the yard where she kept Willow. But Jo said: “The girl had huge difficulties getting to us as she was coming head on into the path of the cyclists who, again, had no respect for other users. She asked them to let her through as she was going to an accident but was verbally abused.”
When she arrived, three separate vets were called and it was almost an hour before they found one from Uckfield who was willing to come out. “They then had the horrible job of putting our lovely horse, Willow, to sleep at the side of the road. This has to be the most horrific thing I have ever witnessed.”
Jo now feels these cycling events should be better organised, with the participants staggered from the start. “And cyclists should have more respect - they are in racing mode, nothing else seems to matter.”
Rupert Rivett, from SRS events which staged the Etape de Sussex event, said: “We always tell our cyclists to slow down if they see horses, and they nearly all do.
“The last thing I want to do is add fuel to the flames, and I desperately want to say that horseriders and cyclists should work together to ensure safety on the roads. Everyone is entitled to use these roads; cyclists, motorists, walkers and riders. I would not like to say either way who was to blame.
“One of our riders was a policeman and he gave us a clear-eyed view of what happened. What we do not want to do is get on the bandwagon accusing cyclists or vice versa.”
He insists riders did not abuse the driver and believes they called out to indicate an accident. Cyclists are advised to make a noise - he recommends a clicking sound - well in advance of passing a rider so the horse can hear it. “Fuelling the anti-cycling or anti horse brigade does no good. We should work together.”