A young horse-rider had a terrible shock last week when her horse became impaled on the gates to Stedham Common.
The woman in her 20s often rides at the common near her home in Iping but arrived on Tuesday, June 5, to find the padlocks holding the gates open had been cut by vandals.
Frightened by the sound of the gates, her horse attempted to jump the barrier and got caught on a lever, leaving the animal stuck for two hours as fire crews tried to help it free.
The woman, who did not want to be named, said the horse was fortunate to have escaped with time off and not much worse, although somersaulting free had left gashes down its back.
She said: “She was very, very lucky because she has quite a calm personality.
“When she was stuck on it, her legs were quite tangled up on the gate.
“If she’d moved too much she would’ve broken her leg.”
She said she had to flag down a passing car to borrow a phone and ring for help and she would like to thank the couple from South Harting, who stayed to help her.
A technical rescue unit attended from West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service and the horse was freed by 5.15pm.
David Saunders, from Sussex Wildlife Trust, said the trust was taking advice from the British Horse Society about making gates more rider-friendly and balancing ‘safety with the need for nature conservation’.
He said: “The trust has a practice of keeping the gates locked open during the summer months to access the common but we suffered some vandalism in the last few days, someone had broken the padlocks and left the gates shut.
“We’re really distressed to hear that someone had an incident.”
He said the reserve manager had met a British Horse Society representative to review the gates on Thursday and the trust was looking to install two-way gates at Iping Common and mounting blocks and would consider advice for Stedham.