A rider has hailed as “common sense” the decision of a judge to reject a negligence claim filed against her by a former friend.

The ruling at Norwich County Court on 22 March brought to an end a dispute that has lasted for more than four years.

Claimant Penelope Anne Lukins was kicked by a horse, Chloe, belonging to Dr Daryl Freeman, when the pair were out with the North Norfolk Harriers on Boxing Day in 2002.

Mrs Lukins broke her leg in the incident and subsequently pursued legal proceedings under the Animals Act 1971 (see news, 19 April), claiming that Chloe had been behaving badly in the field and that Dr Freeman had been negligent by not attaching a red ribbon — to signify a kicker — to her horse’s tail.

But Dr Freeman disputed this version of events, telling H&H that Chloe was behaving well before the incident took place.

“Chloe was quiet and not acting in an agitated manner,” she explained. “I was waiting for the fence in front to clear before I let her go. Penelope Lukins came between my horse and my groom’s horse, and Chloe let out a huge kick.

“I was devastated and extremely embarrassed — no one wants that to happen.”
She added: “The following years [after the accident] have been unpleasant and the case has weighed heavily upon me, but I view this as a victory for common sense.”

Presiding Judge Curle — who before the case got under way stated that he occasionally hunted with the North Norfolk — rejected Mrs Lukins’s case, describing the incident as a “highly unfortunate accident”.

In his judgement, he continued: “It happened in a blink when the claimant got too close. Horses do kick from time to time — it is one of the things that can happen out riding.”

In court, Dr Freeman’s legal team said their client was looking ahead when Chloe kicked out and that there was no indication that the horse was going to react in that manner.

Michelle Traxler, Dr Freeman’s solicitor, told H&H Mrs Lukins could not prove to Judge Curle that Chloe was the sort of horse who needed to wear a red ribbon.

Mrs Lukins was unavailable for comment when contacted by H&H.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (3 May, ’07)