A 21-year-old girl who was training to be a riding instructor has been awarded £500,000 in compensation after she suffered serious head injuries after apparently being kicked by a horse in a field.

Matilda Webb, now aged 26, from Eastbourne in Sussex, was found unconscious in a field at Jevington Place Stables near Polegate in East Sussex on 12 October 1998.

At the time of the accident Matilda’s ambition was to run her own yard. She started work at Jevington Place Stables to pursue her dream and passed her BHS Stage I and II exams.

On the day of the incident, Matilda went up to the field alone to collect the mares, but failed to return and was later found unconscious with a fractured skull. She was not wearing a hat, which was a standard practice at the stables owned by Yvonne Knowleden-Garrett

The court heard how the group of mares had a reputation for being “spiteful and frisky” and it is believed that Matilda’s injuries were the result of a kick. It is believed that the introduction of a new horse could have upset the established pecking order and made the mares more prone to lashing out.

Matilda’s barrister, Richard Lissak QC, told London’s High Court that she still suffered from tinnitus, loss of hearing, epilepsy, speech problems, poor memory and concentration and struggled with reading and writing.

He also said that her injuries had had a “devastating effect” on her and she may never work again.

Matilda decided to forge an equestrian career after the death of her father forced her to drop out of school. Initially she started working in a waitress but then decided to work with horses as she had ridden all her life.

The settlement was made on the basis of 75% liability and the court heard how Matilda planned to spend part of her payout on a holiday with her “loyal and long-suffering boyfriend”.