Appeal court victory a ‘great result’ for riding schools

  • The owner of a Surrey riding school that was sued by a rider after she was bucked off, has told H&H she is delighted with a judge’s decision that she is not liable for compensation.

    Despite being described as an experienced rider, Marian Freeman, 53, of Carthusian Street, Islington, London, was thrown from seven-year-old Patty on 12 December 2004.

    She sued the stables — Higher Park Farm, in Chobham — after fracturing her collarbone and hitting her head.

    In January, Judge William Birtles ruled at the City of London County Court that Higher Park Farm was not liable to pay Mrs Freeman damages.

    In London’s Court of Appeal on 30 October, lawyers for Mrs Freeman challenged that decision. But three top judges backed Judge Birtles.

    Kate Matthews, who owns Higher Park Farm Riding Stables, told H&H: “This was a great result, not just for me, but for all riding schools. So many are having to close due to problems getting insurance and concerns about no win, no fee litigation.”

    Mrs Freeman’s lawyers had argued that, although she had been warned about the horse giving a “little buck” before breaking into a canter, she had been the victim of a “large and violent buck” and “did not have full and complete knowledge of the risks”.

    Lord Justice Etherton disagreed, saying: “Mrs Freeman wanted an exciting ride with a forward-going horse and was aware of Patty’s predisposition to bucking, not only from what she had been told at the stables, but from the first buck on the ride.

    “She was asked whether she wanted to continue and wished to attempt to canter again. She gave a positive answer to both questions. Mrs Freeman voluntarily assumed that risk and its consequences.”

    This article was first published in Horse & Hound (6 Nov, ’08)

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