A professional horse rider was killed after being kicked in the head by her young ‘aggressive’ stallion, an inquest heard.
Samantha Cawkwell, 31, suffered a fractured skull and bruising consistent with a horse’s hoof after locking herself in a paddock with the animal named Gonzo.
When emergency services attended the scene, a paramedic was forced to hurdle the fence to get away from the horse, which was described as “skittish” and “anxious”.
Blackpool Coroners Court heard how Miss Cawkwell and her partner Andrew Hackett had only owned Gonzo for around a month before her death.
It was kept on its own in the secured paddock at the stables owned by Mr Hackett’s family in West Moss Road, Ballam, near Lytham where Miss Cawkwell helped out -– while her own horse Fabio stood grazing just feet away.
She was found in the field on the afternoon of July 19 by two friends who had turned up to go out on a pre-organised hack.
They arrived to find no sign of her, but after searching individual stables, they spotted her close to the fence of one of the fields and it quickly became apparent she was dead, the inquest heard.
A statement from a paramedic who attended the scene, read: “She was lying with her head turned to the left side. She looked visibly dead. We had to vacate the field as an aggressive horse was charging towards us and we were unable to return to the field due to the horse.”
Pathologist Dr Sameer Shaktawat of Blackpool Teaching Hospitals, who performed a post mortem examination of Miss Cawkwell’s body, said the levels of pooling of Miss Cawkwell’s blood suggested she had been lying in the same position for a minimum of two hours before she was found.
He also found her to have a hairline fracture to her skull, a subdural brain haemorrhage and oval bruising to the left side of her body consistent with a horse’s hoof.
Giving evidence at the hearing yesterday, Dr Shaktawat said: “There were no defence injuries, her injuries were blunt to the left side of the body, from the ear down to the arm.
“The rest of the body was unremarkable.
“This may have been related to impact from a horse’s hoof, particularly the injuries to her left arm. Hitting a fence would not produce such injuries.
“Just falling from a push or a kick would not produce the injuries seen on that side.”
Friend Georgina Priddey raised the alarm after seeing Miss Cawkwell’s boots and jeans in the field.
She said: “My first instinct was that she was deceased because I have come across dead bodies in my work. Of course I went over to check just in case.
“I’ve seen the horse before but they’d only had him around four weeks before this happened.
“The horse wasn’t old enough to be ridden, he was handled but not ridden.”
Miss Cawkwell’s partner Andrew Hackett suggested to the inquest that the injuries she sustained could have been caused by a fall from a horse four weeks previously, but Dr Shaktawat dismissed this claim, stating he had never come acrossanyone living such a normal life for such a period after with such serious injuries.
Mr Hackett said his family had owned the stables for the last 15 years but refused to answer when the coroner asked him whether the premises was a commercial outfit or a family stables.
He did however maintain that his partner was not an employee and that they had looked after horses together for “a long time”.
Mr Hackett said: “Myself and Sam had a lot of experience of horses, I have been riding them since I was eight and she had too from a very young age.
“We have been looking after them for the last ten years. She was very competent.
“The last time she fell was from Fabio. She was quite shaken up by it.
“It can happen to anyone. If you ride horses, you’re going to suffer some falls.”
When asked by the coroner why Miss Cawkwell may have gone into the field alone with Gonzo, Mr Hackett replied: “The only thing I can think is she was going in to get the dog or she was checking on the water troughs to make sure there was
Det Insp Lee Wilso,n from Blackpool Police, told the inquest how when officers arrived at the scene, the horse was behaving aggressively.
He said: “The horse was anxious and skittish and so the decision was taken that the police officers would not enter the field.
“A paramedic was chased out of the field. Because Samantha had been next to the fence, one of the paramedics hurdled the fence and knocked off one of the top bars.
“In my view Miss Cawkwell had been turned on by the horse which was described as being a recent acquisition.”
The inquest heard how Miss Cawkwell had complained of being tired prior to her death, something her father John Cawkwell put down to being “overworked”.
He said: “To be quite honest she looked tired most of the time, not just then but in previous years. “If she’s tired it’s because she worked too many hours a week and wasn’t getting enough rest.
“I told her she needed to pack something in because she was working too hard.”
Coroner for Blackpool and the Fylde, Alan Wilson, recorded a cause of death as traumatic subdural haemorrhage.
He said: “I find that Samantha died not as a result of natural causes and I’m clear about that.
“The fatal injury was as a result of trauma. There’s evidence of a hairline fracture and blood on the brain which wasn’t spontaneous.
“I don’t accept there was an earlier incident that may have resulted in a hairline fracture some weeks before.
“Nor do I accept she had something going on internally to introduce a possible medical cause.
“This was a horse that was being broken in that was relatively in experience that for whatever reasons has kicked out at her while they have been in the same space.
“I’m content that it’s probably the case that the subdural haemorrhage suffered by Samantha Cawkwell, otherwise a healthy young individual, was as a result of being in this field with this horse on this date.
“The horse at some point on that afternoon has inflicted injuries upon her and a subsequent post mortem confirmed those injuries included a significant head injury which proved fatal.”
The coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death, but said he planned to write a letter to the Chief Coroner of England and Wales highlighting the case to try and stop it happening again.
He added: “As a result of this horse and what it has done I’m going to write a letter to express my concerns over the safety of individuals in Samantha’s position.
“It will be sent to Mr Hackett and I will send a copy to the Chief Coroner for England and Wales.”
Speaking after the hearing, Miss Cawkwell’s father, John Cawkwell, said: “I am satisfied with the verdict that has been delivered today.
“However it’s regrettable that the focus of attention for Mr Hackett and his family has been in somehow making sure that their business is not recognised as a commercial business.
“We never want this to happen to anybody else.”