A much-loved mum-of-two from Little Sutton may have been unconscious before a horse riding fall which claimed her life, an inquest has heard.
Stef Morrissey, of Kings Road, was just 38 when she sustained fatal head injuries after falling from her horse on Lester Lane in Broughton last December.
Mrs Morrissey – who was mother to 17-year-old Keir, 14-year-old Morgan and step-daughters Laura and Abbey – had only been riding her horse Troy for six weeks.
A hearing held in Ruthin heard that multiple factors such as her inexperience and Troy's size and history of being 'spooked' could have contributed to her death, our sister paper the Daily Post reports.
Consultant pathologist Dr Muhammad Aslan gave the cause of death as a head injury, but his post-mortem examination revealed Mrs Morrissey had one-and-a-half times the therapeutic level of an anti-depressant drug in her blood.
Though it was not a fatal level it could have caused convulsions, drowsiness or lack of strength.
Two motorists, Kevin Conyers, from Higher Kinnerton, and Alex Jones, from Ffrwd, told the inquest they were driving along Lester Lane when they came up behind Mrs Morrissey on Troy.
Mr Jones said he slowed down to 5-10mph and decided not to pass the horse when he realised it was nervous.
The horse then set off at a gallop, stopping briefly near a gateway before setting off again on the wrong side of the road.
He said he then saw Mrs Morrissey lying forward before sliding sideways to the ground.
Asked by Nicola Jones, assistant coroner for North Wales East and Central, whether she had control of Troy before falling off, Mr Jones said she looked as if she might have been unconscious.
Mr Conyers said the horse was galloping too fast and Mrs Morrissey was slumped forward.
“It just didn’t seem normal,” he said.
Fiona Knowles-Holland, who had known Mrs Morrissey for about five years, said she had wanted a horse for 15-20 years and spent a long time trying to find a suitable animal.
Troy was considered suitable because he had been used for hacking but he was large and Mrs Morrissey had been riding him for only six weeks.
“Given the untried nature of the horse it was not good practice to out on her own,” she said.
Troy, said Mrs Knowles-Holland, had once been “spooked” by another horse in the menage at Broad Oak Farm where he was kept, and thrown his young rider. Mrs Morrissey had also been thrown several times.
“She had no sense of fear or danger and would have looked on it as a challenge,” she said.
Mrs Morrissey's husband Gary previously told The Chronicle that her final months were ‘the happiest of her life’ after she achieved her childhood dream of owning her own horse.
He described his wife of 11 years as a very ‘caring’ woman for whom ‘nothing was ever too much trouble’.
Recording a conclusion of accidental death, Mrs Jones said she was satisfied Mrs Morrissey was unconscious before falling off the horse as she had made no effort to stop herself, and that was a side-effect of the prescribed drug.
“It was a horse which was untried and untested, and she should not have been on the road unaccompanied,” she added.