A rider whose horse had to be put down after being hit by a car has spoken of her heartbreak as she refused to leave her mare’s side – as the British Horse Society (BHS) reports four horse deaths on the roads in six weeks.
A BHS spokesman said the four separate incidents, which took place in Cumbria, Hampshire, Oxfordshire and Leicestershire, all occurred during daylight hours and each involved a car driving “straight into the back” of the horses. All four riders, who had been wearing high vis, were injured ; two required hospital treatment.
Leicestershire-based Ali Orton’s mare Lottie was one of the horses who died, on 2 January, after being struck while riding a route with a friend that she had done “thousands of times”.
“It’s a pretty straight road and you can see a long way in front and behind you. I heard a car coming from behind, but I wasn’t worried as several cars and bikes had already passed us with no issues,” said Ali.
“I kept looking back and the car was still coming but hadn’t yet pulled out to overtake. Then I heard the driver put their foot down as they left the village 30mph limit.”
Ali said the car accelerated towards her.
“It was terrifying. As they got closer, I screamed, stood up in my stirrups and waved my arms at them to slow down, but they kept coming,” she said. “I remember looking back and seeing the car was only half a metre or so away from the back of Lottie.
“I had this awful sinking feeling as I realised, we were going to have to take this hit – there was no choice. I remember the impact and the feeling of both of us being carried by the car, but I don’t remember the fall after that.”
Ali sustained shoulder and hip injuries, whiplash, a minor head injury, concussion and a broken tooth.
“Lottie was on the ground about 10 metres down the road in the hedgerow, thrashing and trying to stand up. I remember screaming as I ran to her and called the vet. I held her head, she was terrified,” said Ali.
“She was in so much pain; she was shaking and sweating. It was awful not being able to do anything to take her pain away. I remember saying to my friend ‘Can we save her?’, and she said ‘no, we can’t’. That’s when it really hit home, I was going to lose my girl.”
The vet confirmed Lottie had broken her right hind leg in three places.
“We don’t know what damage there was to her left side. The vet had to put her down. I refused to leave her side, I needed to be with her until the very end,” said Ali. “I am completely heartbroken – Lottie has been a huge part of my life for eight years. She was bombproof on the roads, I always felt so safe with her. We trusted each other implicitly. Lottie knew I’d never put her in danger and vice versa, that’s what makes it harder.
“I swear she saved my life – she’s the reason I’m still alive. She also saved the life of my friend and her horse, who were on our inside when the car hit us. Lottie reacted so calmly trying to look after me as she did so many times before. I know if she had reacted differently it would have made the horrific situation even worse.”
Ali has urged drivers to be careful, especially in poor visibility.
“If you can’t see properly, do not put your foot down. Please slow down,” she said.
“I never thought this would happen. I want people to realise it could happen to anyone, even the very safest of horses.”
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BHS director of safety Alan Hiscox said the four incidents had been “tragic and extremely concerning”.
“We are asking all drivers to slow and adhere to our Dead Slow messages. Understandably the owners affected are highly emotional. From speaking to them, it is clear the lasting impact losing their horse in these circumstances will have on their lives,” he said.
“Year on year we have witnessed an increase in the number of road incidents involving horses reported to us. With 81% of the incidents reported having occurred due to vehicles passing too close, it is evident there is still a great need for better education on how to safely pass horses. It is also deeply concerning that close to half of riders were subject to road rage. We all have a right to use the roads and no one should face abuse for exercising this right.”
A spokesman for Leicestershire Police told H&H officers attended the incident at Medbourne Road, Hallaton on 2 January. He added that the incident had been caused by low, blinding sun, and no action was taken against the driver.
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