HE was a highly-experienced rider who had been around horses all his life.

Well-known businessman David Horton loved to trek through the Hampshire countryside on an animal that had competed at Hickstead, home of British show jumping.

But one of their regular rides ended in tragedy after the horse, Ace, was spooked by a cyclist.

Mr Horton was thrown from the saddle when the animal reacted to the bike coming up behind him, an inquest was told.

The 64-year-old father of two was taken to Southampton General Hospital but died after developing blood clots and suffering a cardiac arrest.

Speaking after the inquest his widow Jane, also 64, said the cyclist was using an unauthorised route across the New Forest when the accident happened in September last year. She urged cycling enthusiasts to stick to official paths and give horses a wide berth to prevent any similar tragedies.

Mrs Horton added: “The bike came down a hill and approached David at speed from behind. Cyclists are supposed to use gravel tracks but this one was riding along one of the Forest tracks made by ponies.

“Cyclists need to be more aware of the way horses react if they’re approached in the wrong way and in the wrong place. David had ridden all his life and Ace had taken part in competitions – but horses are a flight animal.”

Her comments come amid increasing controversy over the problems being caused by the ever-increasing number of cyclists using the Forest, including the thousands of riders who take part in the Wiggle events.

Critics claim the two-wheeled “invasion” of the Forest is putting people at risk.

The accident involved a lone cyclist who was riding near Mr Horton’s home and business at Decoy Pond Farm, near Beaulieu.

Mrs Horton said her husband told her “I’m fine, don’t make a fuss” but was airlifted to hospital.

Consultant pathologist Dr Adrian Bateman told the inquest that Mr Horton suffered fractures to his ribs, spine and pelvis in the accident.

H e added: “ H e seemed to be getting better but became unwell again. He had obvious breathing difficulties and suffered a cardiac arrest from which he could not be resuscitated.”

Mrs Horton told coroner Keith Wiseman: “His death was a big shock.

At 4.30pm on the day he died they were still telling us that they could sort everything out. But he passed away at 7pm. We were absolutely overwhelmed by the tremendous care he received in hospital. They could not have been more caring.”

Mr Wiseman said Mr Horton’s medical problems were triggered by the fall and recorded a verdict of accidental death.