Death of showjumper at Bicton ruled an accident

County Hall, Exeter

County Hall, Exeter - Credit: Archant

The death of a woman who fell from her horse at Bicton Arena was ‘a most unfortunate’ accident, an inquest has heard.

Nichola Cooke, known as Nicki, died during a showjumping lesson when she fell from her horse Charlie and landed on a wooden pole.

The inquest, at County Hall in Exeter today (Monday), heard that Ms Cooke, who was 51, was a ‘very proficient’ rider who had ridden horses since she was a child and won several competitions.

She had arranged a lesson on July 13 last year with showjumping coach Amanda Frost ahead of a competition, also to be held at Bicton Arena the following weekend.

The inquest heard that although Ms Cooke, who worked as a lorry driver and horse groom, was not a professional rider, she had been taking her competitive riding very seriously in the hope of qualifying for amateur competition at the Horse of the Year show.

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The inquest heard that Ms Cooke, who lived in North Tawton in West Devon, had been riding a course of jumps on Charlie when they entered a double-jump section.

Mrs Frost, who had been standing by the obstacle, told the inquest that as Charlie went over the second fence he jumped too high, which caused him to clip it as he came down, dislodging a wooden parallel pole.

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Mrs Frost said that Ms Cooke had appeared unbalanced, and fell from the side of the horse, landing on her side on the pole that had been dislodged.

Mrs Frost went to her aid and shouted for bystanders to call an ambulance. She attempted first aid, but said she could tell Ms Cooke was seriously injured, and she died at the scene.

The inquest heard that investigators found the venue complied with British Horse Society standards.

Ms Cooke’s fiancé, Andrew Grist, told the inquest he had been concerned about Ms Cooke riding Charlie, as she had fallen from him on several occasions.

He said he had warned Ms Cooke the horse would hurt her, but she dismissed his concerns.

However, Mrs Frost said that the horse had not been at fault for the fatal accident.

She said: “I can honestly say the horse never put a foot wrong that day. He never stopped, never did one thing out of line.”

Mr Grist said Ms Cooke would wear a back protector if she was riding cross country, but not for showjumping.

A post-mortem examination found that Ms Cooke had suffered severe chest and heart injuries, which assistant coroner Lydia Brown described as ‘unsurvivable’.

Recording a conclusion of accidental death, Ms Brown said: “This is simply a most unfortunate and unexpected outcome for a lady who was very proficient at her chosen sport.”

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