Horse-riding is a popular pastime for many people in the UK, with an estimated 3 million people a year enjoying the activity. However, many of us can underestimate just how dangerous horse-riding can be.
Like people, even the most well-behaved and trained horse can react unexpectedly to a situation, which can result in an accident. Given the size and weight of horses, it’s unsurprising that horse-riding can lead to serious, and sometimes, fatal injuries.
If you or a loved one suffers an injury as a result of a horse-riding accident, the impact can be life-changing and it’s important to be well-informed about your rights. Depending on the circumstances of your injury, you may be entitled to make a personal injury compensation claim, which can help you to cope with the impact.
Read on to understand the common horse-riding incidents that can occur and when you may be entitled to make a compensation claim.
Common accidents involving horses
Riding a horse can be an enjoyable pastime, but it’s important to enjoy your hobby safely. Even when you follow the rule book and adhere to all the safety guidelines, unexpected events can lead to an accident and potentially an injury, often through no fault of your own.
Sometimes, accidents may occur through someone else’s negligence:
- A motorist drives too quickly past a horse or doesn’t leave enough room to pass;
- A riding school allocates a horse that’s beyond the student’s current riding ability; or
- A riding school provides a student with ill-fitting or defective riding gear.
Simply due to the fact that horses can be big, heavy animals, the injuries sustained can be serious, life-changing or even fatal. Injuries can range from broken bones and spinal injuries to paralysis or head and brain injuries.
Accidents on the road
Road traffic accidents are one of the most common horse-riding accidents in the UK. The British Horse Society estimates that there are nearly 3,000 road traffic incidents involving horses, per year. Not only can horses and their riders be traumatised by the incidents, but crashes can lead to injuries to horses, riders, and drivers as well as vehicle damage.
Under common law duty of care, both horse riders and motorists are responsible for each other’s safety, which means they’re expected to take reasonable actions to avoid causing harm to other road users. When a compensation claim is made for a personal injury sustained during a road traffic accident, the court will consider “accountability” for the accident – whether the driver, the horse rider, or a combination of the two, were to blame for the accident.
What are the responsibilities of horse riders?
Under the Highway Code, horse riders have a right to use the roads and quite often do, as it can be the only way for them to access bridleways. Sections 49-55 of the Highway Code give specific guidance to horse riders when they’re using the roads.
Not only are horse riders expected to wear the appropriate safety equipment and clothing, but they’re also expected to be able to control their horse. Additionally, they must follow specific rules when riding on a road.
Ultimately, horse riders have a duty of care to avoid causing harm to other road users, including pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists.
What are the responsibilities of drivers?
Like horse riders, drivers are expected to adhere to the Highway Code and sections 159-161 provide specific guidance to motorists. This includes the need to be aware of other road users, such as riders, and giving them plenty of room.
Through the Dead Slow messaging, the British Horse Society has been campaigning for better road safety. Since 29th January 2022, the Dead Slow messaging has been incorporated into the Highway Code. Specifically, drivers should:
- Leave plenty of room between their vehicle and the horse;
- Not rev the engine or beep the horn; and
- Slow down to a maximum of 10 MPH when passing and wait until it’s possible to pass widely and slowly.
Horse riding and the highway code
The Highway Code covers horse riding under sections 49-55. Safety is paramount and it’s recommended that riders undertake the BHS Ride Safe Award to ensure they can do so confidently in all environments. The Highway Code also provides guidance on the clothing to be worn and rules that should be followed. Failure to adhere could mean that you’re found to be negligent if you were involved in a horse-riding accident, which may impact your compensation claim.
Under the Highway Code, horse riders should wear the following clothing to help keep them safe when using the roads:
- Boots or shoes with hard soles and heels;
- Light-coloured or fluorescent clothing in daylight; and
- Reflective clothing if riding at night or in poor visibility conditions.
Additionally, all children under 14 years old must wear a regulation-compliant helmet that is fastened securely. The only exception to this rule is children who follow the Sikh religion whilst wearing a turban.
The Highway Code advises against riding at night. However, if you need to, it’s recommended that you wear reflective clothing and that your horse wears reflective bands above the fetlock joints.
You should also wear a light on your arm and/or leg or your riding boot. The light should show white at the front and red at the rear.
Before setting off to ride your horse on the road, you’ll need to ensure you’ve taken a few safety precautions. All tack should fit well and be in good condition, and you should be able to confidently manage your horse. If your horse may be nervous about traffic, it’s a good idea to ride in a group with less nervous horses. Never ride a horse without both a saddle and a bridle.
Specific road use rules for horse riders include:
- Stay on the left;
- Keep both hands on the reins unless you are signalling;
- Before riding off or turning, look behind you to make sure it’s safe, then give a clear arm signal;
- Keep both feet in the stirrups;
- Do not carry another person or anything that might affect your balance or get tangled up in the reins;
- Move in the direction of the traffic flow on a one-way street;
- Never ride more than 2 abreast; and
- Avoid roundabouts wherever possible.
If you’re leading a horse along a road, keep the horse on your left. You should also never take a horse onto a footpath, pavement, or a cycle path.
What can I claim for?
If you’ve suffered an injury as a result of a horse-riding accident, you may be entitled to make a compensation claim against a person who owed you a duty of care.
The compensation claim is usually made up of two parts:
- General Damages – a sum that is awarded for pain, suffering and loss of amenity (PSLA). The award amounts are set by the Judicial College and are published in their personal injury awards guidelines.
- Specific Damages – a sum that is awarded to compensate for financial losses and expenses incurred as a result of the accident. Specific damages can be awarded to cover loss of earnings (including future earnings), medical treatment, travel costs, or costs of care.
The amount of compensation you can claim depends upon the seriousness of the injury and any financial losses or costs you have incurred. What you can claim is very much dependent on your unique circumstances and a personal injury solicitor can help guide you through the process.
Do I have a claim?
Suffering a serious horse-riding injury can be a distressing time. Securing the compensation, you may be entitled to can go a long way towards easing your pain and any financial burden that arises.
If your injury was caused by someone else’s negligence, or even if you were partly to blame (known as contributory negligence), you may be entitled to make a compensation claim. In many cases, you can make a claim if your injury occurred within the last three years, someone else was to blame and that person owed you a duty of care.
For children who may have been injured in a horse-riding accident, the three-year rule does not apply. A parent, guardian or litigation friend may make a claim on behalf of an under-18-year-old. Furthermore, the child has until they turn 21 to make a claim for themselves.
Contact Waldrons Solicitors
If you or a loved one has suffered a personal injury, whether horse-riding or otherwise, we can help. Our friendly, experienced team of personal injury solicitors can provide guidance and assist you through the process of making a claim. Get in touch with us today to discuss your circumstances.
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