Kiwi rider dies in fall during cross-country

Last updated 05:00 20/08/2013

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The "kindest rider ever seen sitting on a horse" fell off his mount yesterday, suffering fatal injuries.

Tom Gadsby won over much of the New Zealand equestrian world and had his sights set on leading it when he approached fence 4B during the cross- country at Somerford Park Horse Trials in the UK.

The 26-year-old and his seven-year-old skewbald gelding fell at the fence.

Gadsby suffered fatal injuries - the horse walked away unhurt.

At the time his mother Louise was travelling home. Last night, speaking while in transit in Singapore, she said how proud she was as she watched her son compete just days earlier.

"When I was listening to the announcers talking about Tom, when he was riding, they were saying 'I wonder who is going to knock him of the perch this time?' " she said.

"He was becoming really well known really quickly, and I just felt at last he's got the chance to be where he wants to go."

She had spent a week travelling with her son in Paris and London prior to the event, and described their trip as a "special time".

"I just thank God that I went over there and we had that time together."

She said her son had aspired to be among the best and had worked hard to achieve his goal. "It's been his passion since he was a very little boy."

Equestrian Sports New Zealand chief executive Jim Ellis described Gadsby as a "rising star".

He said the number of deaths in eventing has decreased over the past 20 years due to various safety measures. The toll now sits at about one life, worldwide, every two to three years.

Gadsby's was a "rotational fall" which tended to happen at slightly slower speeds where the horse trips at the top of an obstacle, goes over head first and the rider gets rotated off the front.

The relatively slow speed of the jump means the rider isn't thrown clear of the horse and the sheer weight of the animal is the danger.

Raised at Pakaraka, near Kerikeri, Gadsby got a job in his early 20s with top Kiwi showjumper Katie McVean at Mystery Creek in Hamilton.

McVean was still overseas yesterday but her sister Emmalee Browne said she became close friends with Gadsby.

"He was great to talk to and just a great person to have around. He was a good mate and I'll miss him a lot."

Friend Debs Hill took to Gadsby's Facebook page saying his death was a "huge loss to the world".

"The kindest rider I've ever seen sitting on a horse. Rip to a truly lovely man."

British Eventing, EquestrianSports NZ and the International Equestrian Federation will investigate Gadsby's fatal fall as will relevant UK authorities.

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- The Dominion Post


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