A woman whose horse had to be put down after it was frightened by a group of sportive riders in Sussex said that cyclists had no respect for other vulnerable road users.
Jo Flew and her daughter Joanna were out for a horseback ride on June 23 when they happened upon the route of the Etape de Sussex along Daleham Lane.
When they came across about 20 cyclists, Jo's horse kicked Joanna's in fear and broke its leg.
Jo told the Sussex Express: “We knew a cycle event was taking place but we had no idea what time. On our way home it became apparent that it was happening.
“A few bikes raced past which was OK as our horses were used to them. But then looking behind us there was suddenly a large number in groups of about 20, but only seconds apart.
“As they came past our horses became very frightened. We felt like we were being swallowed. This caused my horse to kick out at the bikes but instead it kicked my daughter’s horse, Willow, in the leg.”
She said that although the riders were screaming and the horse was clearly injured, none of the riders slowed down.
“I could not believe the bikes were still pushing through," she said.
"Two very kind ones stopped, dismounted and came to help. I was in so much shock I couldn’t work out even how to use my phone.”
When a friend from a nearby stables was summoned to come and help, Jo said she was subject to abuse from the riders.
She said: “The girl had huge difficulties getting to us as she was coming head on into the path of the cyclists who, again, had no respect for other users. She asked them to let her through as she was going to an accident but was verbally abused.”
The horse was eventually put down at the side of the road.
Jo said the cyclists “should have more respect - they are in racing mode, nothing else seems to matter.”
Rupert Rivett, from SRS events which staged the Etape de Sussex event, said: “We always tell our cyclists to slow down if they see horses, and they nearly all do.
“The last thing I want to do is add fuel to the flames, and I desperately want to say that horseriders and cyclists should work together to ensure safety on the roads. Everyone is entitled to use these roads; cyclists, motorists, walkers and riders. I would not like to say either way who was to blame.
“One of our riders was a policeman and he gave us a clear-eyed view of what happened. What we do not want to do is get on the bandwagon accusing cyclists or vice versa.”
He also insisted that none of the riders would have verbally abused anyone, and instead would have been calling out to warn the others of their presence.
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.