TRACTORS on a rural lane spooked a horse and led to the tragic death of its owner, a coroner has ruled.
Terry Eastman was being pulled in a trap on a summer’s morning when his horse Oscar appeared to become agitated by the two noisy oncoming vehicles.
An inquest in Winchester heard Mr Eastman, a gas engineer, of Lovedean Lane, Lovedean, suffered severe head injuries after being thrown from the cart when it hit a road sign as the horse galloped away.
The inquest was told the tragedy happened on August 14 as the 52-year-old and friend Amanda Ascherl were travelling along Hambledon Road towards Clanfield.
Mrs Ascherl said she and Mr Eastman both enjoyed trips around the countryside in the horse and trap.
She said Oscar was a ‘big, friendly giant’ with a ‘good temperament’.
She said the horse appeared happy on the day, but said how both she and Mr Eastman had commented on the fact it might have hurt its shoulder and they had decided to go back to the yard.
The inquest was told they saw a green tractor, being driven by 24-year-old Robert Nightingale, coming towards them.
As the tractor got nearer, Mr Nightingale stopped and turned off the roaring engine as he said the horse appeared agitated.
Mr Nightingale, a farm worker from Petersfield, said: ‘From what I remember it was throwing its head around.
‘It was looking a bit more agitated. It looked like it was getting ready to run.’
Mrs Ascherl got off the carriage and went to calm the horse.
She said: ‘You used to be a bit more cautious – with horses you just don’t know all the time.’
A red tractor, being driven by farmer Tim Rook, then appeared over the hill.
Mr Eastman swore and said ‘there’s another tractor’, the inquest heard.
Mr Rook, from Clanfield, said: ‘The horse pulled away out of the lady’s hand.’
Mr Eastman was still in the cart as it smashed into a road sign as the horse bolted along a grass verge.
Mrs Ascherl said: ‘I ran towards Terry in horror, not wanting to believe what I had just seen.’
Accident investigator Antony Johnson said Mr Eastman’s head injury most probably happened when he fell from the cart and hit the road.
The inquest heard how Mr Nightingale and others helped paramedics carry Mr Eastman to an air ambulance.
He was taken to Southampton General Hospital, where he later died.
Mr Eastman’s wife Jill said he was a life-long lover of horses.
‘She said he was always sensible and took an interest in horse psychology.
Recording his verdict, Simon Burge, deputy coroner for central Hampshire, said what happened was a tragic accident.
He said on the balance of probability – whether it be the size, colour, or noise – the presence of the tractors had agitated the horse.
He said: ‘The way in which Oscar reacted to the presence of the tractors could not have been predicted.
‘He had not reacted like that in the past.’