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Horse riding accidents on the road – when a peaceful hack turns into a horrible nightmare

Horses are wonderful but complex animals and hacking on the road can be unpredictable, causing even the most bomb-proof of horses to nap, buck, kick, spook or shy.  The dreaded flying plastic bag or even a tree stump (as I have experienced on one occasion) can be terrifying to our beloved furry friends.

It can be unnerving when a car comes screaming past in close proximity.  Horses can unexpectedly jump sideways and there is not much a rider can do to stop that happening.  Not all horses are experienced hackers and drivers must be careful and pay attention to rider signals.

The British Horse Society statistics show that 1,037 incidents involving horses were reported to them over the period February 2019 to February 2020.  Sadly 80 horses died, one incident resulted in human fatality and 135 were injured.  Their campaign Dead? Or Dead Slow? urges drivers to be more careful when passing horses on the road.

They have set out four simple steps for drivers:

  1. Slow down to a maximum of 15mph
  2. Be patient, I won’t sound my horn or rev my engine
  3. Pass the horse wide and slow, (if safe to do so) at least a car’s width if possible
  4. Drive slowly away.

Adhering to the Highway Code

Rule 215 of the Highway Code states that road users should be particularly careful of horse riders especially when overtaking.  Always pass wide and slowly.  Horse riders are often children, so take extra care and remember riders may ride in double file when escorting a young or inexperienced horse or rider.  Look out for horse riders’ signals and heed a request to slow down or stop.

Take great care and treat all horses as a potential hazard.

Drivers that follow the BHS guidance and the Highway Code make riders feel much safer on our roads and reduce the risk of an accident happening.  The rush is not worth the risk.

Injuries resulting from accidents

Unfortunately not all drivers are respectful of horses on the road and accidents can and do happen as evidenced by the BHS data.  A recently reported accident involved a young woman who was injured after she fell from her horse when a vehicle sped past, across a cattle grid, just feet away.  Two women reported a near miss in Dartmoor when a speeding car spooked their horses and skidded to a halt.

The types of injuries that can be sustained in horse riding accidents vary and more serious injuries include fractures, crush injuries, spinal injuries and brain damage.  It can be life changing and sadly some can be fatal. 

My colleagues, Charlotte Dowson and Victoria Oliver, have written informative blogs on the law surrounding horse riding accidents and making a horse riding or equestrian accident claims.  If you have been injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault whilst on a hack, you should obtain specialist legal advice from a qualified solicitor.

Charlotte Jose is a trainee in Bolt Burdon Kemp’s Spinal Injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp.  If you or a loved one have suffered a spinal injury as a result of an accident, someone else’s negligence or you are concerned about the treatment you have received, contact Charlotte free of charge and in confidence on 020 7288 4853 or at charlottejose@boltburdonkemp.co.ukAlternatively, complete this form and one of the solicitors from the Spinal Injury team will contact you.  Find out more about the Spinal Injury team.

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