As the gloomy mornings take hold and the nights draw in, riders are being urged to take extra care on
the roads this autumn following a spate of accidents.

Figures for traffic incidents are spiralling. So far this year 181 road accidents — more than in the whole of 2012 — have been reported to the British Horse Society (BHS) via its website, www.horseaccidents.org.uk.

However, riders are increasingly standing up for themselves.

One H&H reader, who recently gained £20,000 compensation after her horse was killed in a road accident, is calling for greater education for motorists.

Annabel Goldie-Morrison and her horse Rupert were hacking on a country lane in Kent on 13 November 2013 when a van towing a flatbed truck came towards them.

The rattling spooked the horse, who was then hit by the vehicle. Ms Goldie-Morrison fell off — breaking her foot, elbow and finger — and Rupert sustained fatal injuries.

“The van came too fast and too close,” she told H&H. “Rupert spun and swung his back end out. He broke his leg, smashed the windscreen and the impact threw me off.

“I don’t think drivers realise how unpredictable horses can be. Or that if they hit one they will most likely kill the horse — and possibly the rider and themselves too.”

She added it had shattered her confidence riding on the road.

“I’m pleased to finally gain compensation, as I suffered a lot financially, but it’s a shame the driver didn’t receive a caution from the police,” she added.

A letter of claim was sent alleging fault on the basis that the third party had driven contrary to Highway Code advice for motorists on how to safely pass a horse and rider. Liability was denied.

HorseSolicitor’s Hanna Campbell took a detailed witness statement, which was sent to the third-party insurer and court proceedings were threatened. A sum of £20,000 plus £5,000 costs was agreed out of court.

The same legal firm handled a second case, which was settled on 23 July and resulted in £6,768 compensation.

Stacey Jenkins, 12, was injured when a 4×4 towing a caravan approached her horse at speed on 31 March 2013.

Her horse spooked and her leg became briefly trapped between the saddle and the caravan.

The driver of the vehicle failed to stop.

“I hope this case can be used to raise awareness among riders that, if the person drives off or cannot be traced, it is still possible to claim compensation if the accident results in personal injury,” said Hanna Campbell.

Calls from riders

In May H&H reported on a survey run by The AA that showed one in 10 motorists is unaware of how to handle an equine encounter.

The survey questioned 23,700 motorists in January 2014. Eight per cent of drivers said they did not know how to pass a horse safely on the road (news, 29 May).

As a result, the organisation planned to introduce better education for drivers —but H&H readers are not yet seeing evidence of this.

Linzi Hardy contacted H&H after her boyfriend Jack Brown was involved a crash with his horse and cart last month (3 September) in Co Durham. The horse, Merlin, was put down.

“Jack moved over to the other lane to avoid some paint tins that had been left abandoned in the middle of the road. While moving lanes a lorry squeezed through the gap between the horse and curb and hit his back leg, causing a very bad break,” she said.

“We just want to raise drivers’ awareness. Horses are unpredictable flight animals and need to be passed very slow and wide.”

Last month H&H reported on a rider from South Tyneside who is producing a safety video after his horse was fatally injured by a van on a blind corner. The 16-year-old cob, Laura, was killed and her rider Nigel Oxman taken to hospital with a broken ankle.

The BHS is constantly battling to promote road safety — the organistion is currently working with bus company Stagecoach in a “Hit your brakes, not my horse” campaign. The company is putting the message on its buses for free to promote road safety.

The BHS’ Sheila Hardy told H&H: “These terrible incidents highlight why it is so crucial for motorists to take care when passing ridden horses.

“Reducing speed is essential but, as these tragic cases have shown, this alone is not enough to avoid a serious accident.

“To keep everyone safe, the BHS advises drivers to give at least the room of a small car when they overtake. No amount of money will ever replace the horse, or compensate for injury and distress to either rider or driver, but giving room in the future might just avoid it happening again.”