One of the world's top showjumpers was killed after being thrown from her horse in a three-day cross-country competition, writes Paul Warner.

Mother-of-two Peta Beckett, 33, of Manor Farm, Wigginton, near Banbury, was airlifted 50 miles to hospital with severe crush injuries, but doctors were unable to save her.

The experienced rider was thrown from her five-year-old gelding, Twemlose Pathfinder, as she cleared the first hurdle of a two-stage jump at the Savernake Horse Trials, near Marlborough, Wiltshire.

She flew through the air and crashed upright into the second fence before the half-tonne horse ploughed into her at full speed.

Mrs Beckett was flown by air ambulance to Frenchay Hospital in Bristol after the accident at 12.30pm on Saturday.

Husband Marvyn, who was not at the event, said: "I'm still in shock but I have to be strong for the children, even though I don't particularly look it."

Mrs Beckett was ranked 24th in the world and was set to make the Olympic team for Sydney next year. She rode for Great Britain in the World Equestrian Games last year. A part-time lecturer in equine science, she had been married to her architect husband for eight years and the couple had two children - Orlando, six, and Hermione, seven.

Mr Beckett said his wife nursed him back from the brink of death after a head-on car smash in 1991.

"We had only been married three or four months and it took me five years of operations to get right again. Peta nursed me back to health."

Mrs Beckett, who started to ride when she was three, competed in horse trials almost every week. She recently took part in the prestigious Badminton event, where she came 21st, and was due to ride in the European Championships in Germany in September.

The weekend's tragedy happened at the eighth fence of the cross-country course on Lord Cardigan's 4,500-acre country estate.

Organisers offered to cancel the final day on Sunday but Mr Beckett declined. Instead, a minute's silence was held.

He explained: "She just loved riding horses and she would not have approved of the event being cancelled. "She was an exceptional and very determined rider. She was also a very kind and loving person."

Mr Beckett said he did not blame the organisers. "It was just an unfortunate thing. The horse just came down on top of her. She died doing what she really loved.

"She was well up the list for the Olympics and it was one of her dreams to make the team."

An investigation is being carried out by the Avon and Somerset coroner and the Health and Safety Executive.

A spokesman for the event said: "It was a tragic accident."

Story date: Monday 17 May

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