Riders urged to wear ‘high-vis’ clothing to spare their horses helicopter shock
The boss of the West’s major military helicopter base has appealed to horse riders to wear high-visibility clothing so that his pilots can try to avoid spooking the horses when they fly low over the West countryside.
Commander Neil Thompson, the chief of RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset, took leading figures from the equestrian world up in a helicopter to show them the difference high-vis jackets and helmets made when the pilots were conducting low-fly exercises.
He said he hoped the message would get out that riders themselves could help the problem, which leads to numerous complaints and many accidents attributed to horses being spooked by the sudden appearance of noisy helicopters overhead.
“A few years ago there was a rider unseated by her horse who tragically died, and it was linked to a helicopter. Since then, the MoD decided the best way to minimise this was to work with the equestrian community and engage with them to form a better mutual understanding,” he said.
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“We’ve got to low-fly as part of the training for defending the nation, and we tend to spread out the areas we do this, so it is not concentrated in one place.
“We can try to minimise the disturbance, and the pilots are continuously looking ahead, trying to avoid towns and villages, homes and livestock in fields. But we will never be able to minimise it completely, and there’s an awful lot a rider can do to be better seen.
“The helicopters are flying at between 90 and 120 knots, that’s around 140mph, and it is often the case that the pilots will come over a hill or around a corner and there will be a horse rider in a field, or in a lane, which is even harder to see with high hedges.
“It can make the difference if they are wearing something high-vis,” he added. “It might mean that the pilot is able to see them and take action to avoid them.
“Sometimes, however, a pilot will take the view it is too late, and will maintain course, because to turn makes more noise.
“High-vis clothing increases the chance of pilots seeing riders, and the message is that riders should consider it,” he added.