ORGANISERS have defended safety procedures at the Musselburgh Festival after a stray horse “charged” down High Street.

Ken Ferguson, 55, from Auchendinny, Midlothian, claimed the riderless animal galloped along the pavement before being brought to a halt.

Organisers said they did “everything possible to limit these types of incidents”.

Mr Ferguson had stopped off in the Honest Toun for a bacon roll at Greggs while cycling when he decided to watch the Rideout on Saturday, July 29.

He said: “The lead police car waved on two lorries and several cars coming in the opposite direction to the riding of some 100-plus riders.

“I could see in the distance a commotion and rider-less horses, three I think. One of these mounted the pavement a bit past the junction of Kilwinning Road and started to charge down High Street on the pavement towards where I was standing.

“A gentleman with a stick and his back to the horse was a few metres from me. At this point the pavement considerably narrows due to seating for Costa and Greggs. He was oblivious to the impending collision with the horse, funnelled even further by the narrowing pavement.

“I screamed at him four times to get out of the way. At first he looked at me bemused and on the last scream he quickly pressed himself against one of the cars and the horse hurtled past him about one to two seconds later.

“A very brave young lady who was standing next to the pedestrian crossing then leapt out in front of the animal, grabbing its reins and bringing it to a halt. Some of the riders had also been screaming for people to get out of the way, as were some of the bystanders. People young and old looked shocked – one boy looked as though he was going to cry.”

Mr Ferguson said there were no strategically placed crowd barriers that he could see and ‘no parking’ bollards had parked cars next to them.

“When the horse mounted the pavement it had no opportunity to re-join the road due to the line of parked cars,” he said.

“None of the other riders who saw what was going on could intercept the horse because of the illegally parked cars.”

He called for a risk assessment to be carried out in future by the mounted police division, adding: “There were no high-vis-wearing marshals on foot in the crowd or near the pavement watching.

“I have no doubt that had the gentleman been hit a fatal accident inquiry would now be under way.

“I believe that the quality of service provided by Police Scotland and the organisers were sub-standard and does not provide a reasonable risk assessment for the public.”

Neil Wilson, festival president, said the horse belonged to the rider, who was experienced.

He said the onlooker referred to by Mr Ferguson was Brian Kennedy, a past captain of the Crusaders Riding Club and “very capable” horseman, adding: “He rode most years until last year.”

Mr Wilson added: “When the horse reared it fell back on the rider. The horse then bolted onto the pavement and headed up the street.

“The horse was caught by a member of the local riding club and marshal as quickly as possible with no injury or any problems. The horse was led back, then transported away. The other unmanned horses were those of her friends who dismounted to help and support the girl.

“The rider got up on her feet and was first attended to by an off-duty paramedic before our medics saw to her. An ambulance was called for her as a precaution to be sure she was thoroughly checked at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. She was later released from hospital with no apparent injuries.

“[Organisers] do everything possible to limit these type of incidents. We have been doing this since 1936 without a similar incident to my knowledge.

“The foot-mounted marshals and medics had the situation quickly under control and I was delighted with the way it was handled.

“As with all outdoor events a full risk assessment is undertaken but clearly it is impossible to legislate for every eventuality. However, as with every year we will be reviewing the festival, including any concerns expressed to us on any issue. We will do this with close consultation with the police and East Lothian Council as normal.

“I am personally amazed at the ability of the onlooker to first of all assess riding capabilities for 150 metres away, predict a fatal incident and anticipate a child crying.”

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “We are aware of this incident and the risks the horse presented after its rider had been dismounted.

“The festival Rideout is a traditional and longstanding Musselburgh event. As with all events, there will be a debriefing between ourselves and our partners to identify any points we can learn from.

“We welcome Mr Ferguson’s feedback, which will be part of this process. Issues identified will be raised with the organisers with a view to ensuring the safety of all at any future events.”