Q: We live in Wales and have access to many bridleways across stunning countryside and open common land. A Welsh Cob stallion has recently been put in a field which a bridleway runs through.
I have heard of many incidents involving stallions on bridleways chasing people and horses, and fear that if we try and cross the field on horses we will be at risk of serious injury.
Even if he was moved to a neighbouring field, I would worry about him jumping out or escaping as we rode past.
THIS sounds like an accident waiting to happen so we voiced your concerns to Elizabeth Simpson, a senior solicitor at law firm Andrew M Jackson.
“As you correctly suggest, there is nothing legally to prevent the owner of a stallion from putting him in a paddock containing, or adjacent to, a public bridleway — the horse needs grazing and exercise like any other,” she says.
“A horse owner may, however, be liable for damage caused by an escaped horse (stallion or otherwise), if its field was not properly fenced.
“Similarly, a landowner has a duty to prevent horses (whether his own or someone else’s) escaping from his land and to prevent horses straying onto his land. Where liability rests can depend on a number of different factors.
“Claims are likely to be brought under the Animals Act 1971,” explains Elizabeth.
“Issues likely to be considered by the court might include whether the fencing was adequate, whether the owner was reasonable to graze the stallion in that field on that day and whether the stallion had ‘form’ for escaping.
“The reasonableness or otherwise of the claimant’s conduct will also be considered — someone walking on a footpath or bridleway and being chased by a ‘crazed’ escaped stallion is a vastly different situation to that of someone riding their mare through or next to a field where he or she knew a stallion to be grazing.
“Common sense dictates that a stallion is likely to be confrontational and so it is inadvisable to put him in a paddock containing or adjacent to a public bridleway.”
The BHS has issued an Advisory Statement on the subject (No7: Stallions on Bridleways), which states: “It is hoped that owners of stallions will appreciate that their entires can cause distress, damage and sometimes lifelong disablement by their behaviour. Moreover, the owner of a stallion must be aware that such behaviour is likely to occur if horses are ridden through a field in which a stallion is kept. It is recommended, therefore, that owners of stallions do not keep their stallions in fields crossed by bridleways.
“It has been noted that action on ‘statutory nuisance’ has been taken against the owner of a stallion under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. A bridleway had been denied to riders for many years because of the presence of a stallion in a field crossed by the bridleway. The County Council, who felt it had few powers in the matter, passed the case to the relevant District Council who was empowered to take action under the Act. The problem was solved in a week, following a letter threatening action under the Act.
“Careful consideration is called for if unpleasant and costly disputes are to be avoided,” Elizabeth adds.
Andrew M Jackson law firm Tel: 01482 601310 www.amj.co.uk