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A three-day eventer has won compensation from the Ministry of Defence after she was badly hurt when her horse was "spooked" by low-flying aircraft.

Sasha Jane Smith (corr) and her exhausted mount were both injured after a group of RAF fighter jets screamed overhead as she neared her home.

Sasha's gelding, named Ben Chruachan, would normally have been almost unmoved by the planes that regularly criss-cross rural Lincolnshire.

But the jets powered in so low as he and Sasha came to the end of an exhausting seven-mile hack that the four-year-old was left terrified.

He reared up and toppled backwards into a ditch as the planes passed, leaving Sasha with severe back injuries, a flattened pelvis and broken ribs.

Ben Chruachan was also badly injured in the incident, suffering cuts to his legs after landing on top of spikes in a ditch that was due to be concreted.

It was only because she somehow managed to roll out of the way in time that Sasha didn't end up trapped between her mount and the spikes.

Now the MoD has agreed to pay her a yet-to-be-finalised compensation and to discipline any pilot found to have broken regulations on low flying.

The potential figure has not been revealed, but it is believed to run into thousands of pounds to cover her trauma and damage to her horse.

Because the deep lacerations to his legs have not yet healed months later, Ben Chruachan's resale value has essentially been destroyed.

Sasha, 22, said: "The horse was used to low aircraft and normally okay, but suddenly a formation of extremely low-flying jets appeared over the trees.

"He reared up and fell backwards, straight into the ditch. It was only luck that I managed to get out from under him before he hit the bottom.

"I had never seen aircraft so low before. I understand they need to practise, but it would help prevent another accident if we knew when they were flying."

Since the drama in Stenigot, Lincs, there have been two further "spooking" incidents in the area - although neither had serious consequences.

Sasha, originally from Aberfeldy in Perthshire, Scotland, works full-time as a three-day eventer and moved to Lincolnshire to help train horses.

She came second in the intermediate section of last year's Scottish three-day eventing championships - competing only weeks after the accident.

Until the age of 16 she was a member of the Scottish Talented Young Riders three-day evening squad, from which the full national team graduates.

But since the incident she has had to deal with constant pain even when she is simply training - and Ben Cruachan has been unable to compete.

Recalling the accident, she said: "I was very lucky not to have been crushed, because Ben Cruachan weighs half a tonne.

"I competed in the Scottish championships just eight weeks after it happened. I was in a tremendous amount of pain, but somehow I got through it.

"Even now I still have pain when I'm walking, and I find it quite hard in training. I've had to adapt my riding style because of the injuries to my back.

"I'm still having weekly osteotherapy, and Ben Cruachan hasn't been able to compete since - I don't know if he will ever be able to compete again."

An MoD spokeswoman insisted the sheer number of aircraft on low-flying practice meant it was impractical for warnings to be issued to horse owners.

But she added: "All complaints are thoroughly investigated. If it is found a military pilot has breached the regulations then disciplinary action will be taken.

"Pilots try to avoid flying over horses where possible. We spread low flying over a wide area of air space in the UK so it isn't just one community affected."

Eight months ago a horsewoman was thrown thrown to her death in Lincolnshire after her terrified mount was allegedly spooked by a low-flying RAF helicopter.

Heather Bell, 38, was out riding with two friends when her animal was "buzzed" by a Chinook chopper that soared over tiny Middle Rasen.

An RAF spokesman said at the time: "It is not unusual for animals to be frightened by low-flying aircraft, but this is an exceptional case."

An inquest into Mrs Bell's death, which has been investigated by police with the co-operation of the MoD, is expected to be held later this year.


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