A young mother who was seriously injured when she fell off a bolting horse at a riding school has launched a legal battle for compensation of more than £300,000.

Carla Mitchell, 26, fractured a vertebra and suffered a complex injury to her right ankle in the fall. Both needed surgery and the prognosis for recovery is guarded.

Now Mrs Mitchell is suing Diane Jay-Ing, a British Horse Society instructor and British Show jumping Association apprentice coach who runs Shaftesbury Equestrian Centre in Dorset, for unlimited damages.

Mrs Mitchell says she was a nervous, novice rider, who worked in exchange for cash or rides, when Ms Jay-Ing told her to hack out a 16hh gelding at walk and trot in a nearby field.

According to a High Court writ, she had never ridden alone outside a school, only cantered once before, and had never ridden the horse, Balu, who had been lame and was fresh.

Mrs Mitchell lost control as the horse bolted and spun, throwing her to the ground which was hard with frost.

Mrs Mitchell, of Shaftesbury, accuses Ms Jay-Ing of negligence and failure to take sufficient care for her safety. She also says Ms Jay-Ing is strictly liable for the accident, caused by the characteristics of Balu suddenly being disobedient.

Mrs Mitchell remains disabled as a result of the accident and cannot care properly for her young children, the writ says. She needed surgery to insert — and then remove — metalwork in the burst fracture of her thoracic vertebrae, and remains in severe pain almost continually.

Her right leg is now shorter than the other and the damaged nerves formed a small tumour, the writ says. Mrs Mitchell also developed post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

Diane Jay-Ing declined to comment to Horse & Hound.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (22 January, 09)