A driver who pushed a horse along the road with his van and hit two riders has been successfully prosecuted,
Jonathan Coleman, of Woodlands, Pethybridge, 59, was convicted of driving without reasonable consideration for other road users, and of failing to stop after an accident in which another person and an animal were injured on 18 November last year, at Barnstaple Magistrates’ Court on 10 December.
British Horse Society (BHS) stage IV coach Val Skull told H&H her son James, a stage III coach, was one of the riders hit and the young mare he was riding, who had been sent to the Skulls for backing, was the horse pushed along the road. James was riding with his girlfriend Georgia Britton and another friend and the group had just turned on to the main road, where there was a line of parked cars on the left, when the van approached from behind.
“There were cars approaching but they’d seen the riders — no one is allowed to leave our yard without fluorescent gear on — and stopped to allow them past the parked cars,” Val said.
“Then the van came up from behind and tried to overtake. Georgia was at the back and thought ‘oh my goodness’. She had a short jumping whip, which hit the van, and she was waving at him, telling him to go back. He dropped back and she turned round, getting a good view of the van and the driver on her camera, and thought ‘thank goodness’, that an accident had been prevented.
“But then she turned back round and the next moment, he was coming through.”
Val said the driver hit Georgia’s knee as he passed her, and missed the other horse and rider between Georgia and James.
“James is an amazing rider and we do a huge amount of desensitising work with the youngsters before they go on the roads but the youngster just turned to look and go ‘wow’ and the driver just whammed straight through her,” Val said. “He whacked James’s leg and pushed her up the road for a good few steps, diagonally, then he just drove off.
“He didn’t stop or look, or even falter, he just went.”
Val said James, who had to be resuscitated after he was involved in a hit and run three years ago, aged 17, made sure all horses and riders were unharmed enough to continue along the road and pull into a large lay-by.
Police were called and Val and her husband arrived on the scene, where she took a picture of the group.
“I knew something was wrong as James wouldn’t be on the side of the road like that otherwise,” she said. “We called the police and they arrived at the yard in about 20 minutes, which was great, and the first thing they asked was: ‘Were you visible?’ I’d taken the picture on purpose and he said ‘Send that to me’.”
Val and the riders were pleased with the outcome of the case, and Val added that it highlights a number of issues to be aware of.
“We need cameras; we wouldn’t have got him without Georgia’s,” she said. “Christmas is coming up and it should be number one on your list.
“Get your public liability insurance — the police officer said he knew we didn’t have to have it by law but he asked if we did and I think it’s important for riders. And have your fluorescent gear and understand it needs to be bright, not just reflective. You can see in the picture that all the riders have different colours on as in changing seasons, I think different colours show up better.”
Val also recommends desensitising horses as much as possible, to try to ensure they are as safe as possible on the roads, and encouraged riders to report any incident, using the BHS Horse i app.
“If we’re going to get anywhere as riders, we need to report everything,” she said. “If everyone reports what’s happening, we’ll get a much clearer picture.”
Val said as well as requiring everyone riding from her yard to be in fluorescent and safety gear, with no undone, flapping clothes, she also believes in being as polite as possible to drivers to keep them on side. She regularly posts in her local Facebook group to thank those who pass appropriately, and explain why some young horses may not always be able to trot out of the way, which she thinks has contributed to the fact local drivers do pass them considerately.
Asked what she would say to this convicted driver, she said: “for drivers in the countryside, maybe think about leaving earlier. This man was driving a work van and I don’t know if he’s still got the job but he could lose it, if he hasn’t already, and that could mean everything.
“But also, how would he live with himself if he’d killed one of those young riders? They were all about 19 at the time and he’d have had to live with that for the rest of his life.”
For failing to stop, the driver was fined £864 and ordered to pay costs of £600 and a £116 victim surcharge. His licence was endorsed with seven points. He was fined £300 for driving without due care.
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