A “fearless” champion jockey who refused to wear a helmet outside of competition died from devastating head injuries after falling off his horse, an inquest heard.
Father-of-two Philip Scholfield, 55, fractured his skull and suffered a brain haemorrhage after tumbling at an equestrian centre in Newquay, Cornwall.
The 1988 National Point-to-Point Champion was widely regarded as one of the greatest horsemen of his era, as both a rider and a trainer.
He had a reputation as a “fearless and tough” competitor who broke countless bones and often refused to wear protective gear outside of contests, an inquest was told.
Mr Scholfield – whose son is professional jump jockey Nick Scholfield – was riding a gelding called ‘Mr T’ when he suddenly slid from his saddle on June 5 last year.
He was airlifted to the Royal Cornwall Hospital with severe head injuries and later died after family members agreed to turn off his life support machine.
Mr Scholfield had been helping a friend, Jean Banfield, muck out stables at the Bejowan Farm equestrian centre.
Truro Coroner’s Court heard he began complaining about pain in his groin and was seen holding himself up against a stable wall.
Mrs Banfield said in a statement: “He wouldn’t get it checked because he said he hated doctors.
“He was fearless and very tough and never complained of any pain or weakness.
“Phil had ridden horses all his life. He was old school and would never wear protective clothing or a riding hat.
“We asked him to because it was a good example for my grandchildren (but he didn’t).”
Mrs Banfield said the former champion was riding Mr T up a track when she suddenly saw him slide off the horse and fall to the ground.
She ran to grab Mr T, who had bolted in shock, before turning around to see Mr Scholfield fitting on the ground.
She told the inquest: “Phil just slumped and slid back down and off the right hand side of the horse. Phil never fell off. He was a very good, experienced rider.”
The court heard Mr Scholfield had broken bones on at least a dozen occasions during his career as a jockey, primarily in the eighties and nineties.
Despite suggestions he was feeling unwell at the time of the accident there was no concrete medical evidence to suggest it was triggered by illness.
Pathologist Juliane Stolte said it was possible the brain haemorrhage could have occurred before Mr Scholfield tumbled off – but said it was more likely he was injured in the fall.
Assistant coroner Barrie Van Den Berg recorded a verdict of accidental death caused by a skull fracture and brain haemorrhage.
Mr Scholfield made his name in showjumping before becoming a jockey and recording his first win in 1982.
He went on to ride 187 winners in points and six more in hunter chases.