A rider whose horse fractured his leg after being “bulldozed through” by an impatient driver has said more needs to be done to educate motorists.
Kathryn Watson said she has been “wrecked” by the “single moment which ruined my life and the life of my horse” and has been unable to hack on the roads since.
She described how she had been riding her 15.2hh cob Stanley along a 100m section of road with two others when a car started following close to her horse’s back legs.
“The road is notoriously bad for bends, but unfortunately there is no other route to the bridleway,” she said. “I could see a car was inching closer and closer, so I motioned for him to drop back.
“We were just going round a blind bend with solid white lines but he decided at that point it was a good idea to overtake. A car came the other way but instead of braking he pulled back in and drove straight into me.”
Kathryn was hacking in single file against the kerb, with her friend’s 10-year-old daughter riding in the middle, when the elderly driver ploughed into Stanley’s offside back leg.
“Stanley went up in the air but the driver just kept going,” Kathryn recalled. “He trapped my leg against the car roof and hit my horse’s front leg as it was up in the air — and that was the one he fractured.
“Even then the driver still kept going and mounted the pavement.”
Her companions dismounted while Kathryn, who had been thrown into bushes, managed to keep hold of her horse.
She said the driver had been “oblivious” and only pulled up as they were all screaming.
The police were called to the scene while Kathryn also contacted her husband to collect Stanley who was “on three legs”.
After coaxing him leg by leg into the lorry, they took him home to be x-rayed where the vet discovered he had fractured his pastern as well as sustaining soft tissue damage behind.
“Luckily he is the most fantastic, stable horse, and he was so calm. He was brilliant on the roads and had never been phased by anything in his life,” said Kathryn, who bought Stanley from a rough start, where he was being used to race sulkies, but schooled him on to become a “fantastic horse”, who regularly hunted with the Cheshire drag.
The skewbald gelding, who was only 11 at the time of the accident, had to endure 12 month’s box rest and was unable to continue with a ridden career because of the driver’s actions.
The accident happened in April 2017, but Kathryn has had to wait more than two-and-a-half years for compensation, which was pursued for her by Hanna Campbell of Horsesolicitor.
On 4 November, Kathryn was awarded a £23,000 pay-out but said it was “only money” and did not compensate for the impact on “every aspect” of her life.
“Thankfully Stanley is still alive and I still have him but he was ruined as a hunting horse, I can’t do the long distance rides I used to do with my husband and we will need to keep an eye on his quality of life as he gets older as he is likely to have severe problems with arthritis in that joint,” Kathryn said.
“He was in the prime of his life and he is the gentlest, most lovely-natured horse. He is like a person reincarnated, he is so astute and aware. He’s been so resilient with what he has been through.”
Kathryn explained she had to wrestle with the attitude of the driver’s insurance company who initially tried to claim Stanley had jumped in front of the car — but fortunately witness statements proved otherwise.
While the insurers admitted liability early on, it took a long time to settle the amount of the claim.
“If he had driven into someone’s brand new Range Rover or Lamborghini, it would have all been done and dusted in six months,” Kathryn said.
“That single moment ruined my life and life of my horse and had a knock-on effect on my husband, children and job. A big social side of my life that enjoyed with drag hunting is gone and although I have ridden for 40 years, I can’t hack with my friends any more,” she said. “I can’t get another horse either as I can’t afford to look after two and Stanley isn’t going anywhere.”
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Kathryn said she would like to see a campaign similar to the infomercials of the 1970s and 80s to shock drivers into being more aware of how they should behave round horses.
“If they can’t respect riders then they should at least be made to realise the risk they are putting themselves and their family at if they hit you at speed and half a tonne of animal comes through their windscreen,” she said. “People think they are cocooned and impervious to everything that goes on outside.”
She added that she would also like to see more checks done on elderly drivers, with them needing perhaps half a day of instruction and observation once a year.
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