Horse riders to be given free high-visibility jackets by MoD

THE Ministry of Defence today began providing free high-visibility jackets to horse riders in a bid to make them more obvious to low-flying military aircraft.

The initiative, in conjunction with the British Horse Society, is designed to help pilots spot riders before they fly too low and spook the horses.

The move is the result of an investigation launched in the wake of the death of novice rider Heather Bell, who was killed when her horse was scared by a low-flying Chinook helicopter in Lincolnshire in June 2003.

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The 38-year-old mother of two, who was wearing a helmet, suffered brain damage when she was thrown from the animal as she approached farmland in Market Rasen with two friends.

An inquest in October 2004 heard that the craft, from a base in Hampshire, was flying just 30ft above Mrs Bell's head when the horse bolted, hurling her to the ground "like a rag doll".

Evidence showed that the craft had clearance to fly down to 50ft.

Following the inquest, Coroner Stuart Fisher ruled that the MoD's low-flying policy was "insufficient" and an in-depth review of helicopter low-flying was launched by the Directorate of Air Staff.

The initiative to equip riders with high-visibility jackets was launched at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire, with a leaflet offering a guide for riders in rural areas.