An equestrian who has been unable to work since an impatient van driver hit the young horse she was riding says she would like to find him to make him realise the impact of his actions.
Racheal Kneller, a former Flat jockey who runs her own equestrian business, dislocated her knee and damaged her cruciate ligament as she fell from a client’s recently backed mare in Tewkesbury on 7 September, and is waiting to find out whether she will need surgery.
She told H&H this is normally her busiest time of year.
“It’s not just about me not being able to earn anything; I’ve let clients down and a horse who was young and learning her education has been traumatised, for no fault of her own, and we were doing everything right,” she said. “It was the right time of day, we’d waited till 10am so most people would be at work, we had a lead horse and the mare’s owner had her on a lead rein to get her down to the bridleway, and we were all wearing high-vis; this shouldn’t have happened as we did everything right.
“I’d just like to ask the driver: why did you do that? What have you gained?”
Racheal, with her client leading the mare Luna, and her client’s daughter ahead on another horse, were on their way from the client’s house to a bridleway when they had to ride through some roadworks, with temporary traffic lights.
“It was our right of way but this guy was in a hurry to get past,” she said. “He was in a big van, and I could feel the horse wanting to turn and look at him so I thought if we could just pull in, she could stop and look and it would be fine. But he wouldn’t wait.”
The client repeatedly asked the driver to stop as Luna became more upset as the van tried to pass but “he must have been in too much of a hurry”, Racheal said.
“He tried to go past quickly rather than take notice of us,” she said. “At the point he overtook, she was rearing and you’d think that would be enough for any normal driver to stop but he didn’t. She was sideways on and shot forward but he was so close, he’d have hit her anyway.”
The van hit Luna on the hindquarters, five strides before the bus stop Racheal had intended to pull into.
“As she shot forward, my saddle slipped, and she freaked out even more,” Racheal said. “He accelerated off and she was panicking because of him and because of the saddle; rearing and bucking and eventually I came off.”
The driver left the scene but other motorists, seeing what had happened, blocked his exit from the roadworks and he came back on foot, to where Racheal was lying on the floor “in agony”.
“I couldn’t move my knee,” she said. “I couldn’t bend it because of the ligament damage and couldn’t straighten it because it was dislocated, and I was trying to drag myself on to the pavement, thinking everyone would hate me because I was holding them up.
“He came back, and my client was saying ‘My poor horse’, but he said: ‘Your poor horse? What about the poor driver?’ He said he hadn’t done anything wrong and she said she’d asked him at least five times to stop, and couldn’t he see the horse was upset. He said ‘I’m traumatised as well’. She said she wasn’t going to speak to him and would let the police deal with it, and as soon as she said that, he disappeared.”
Police have appealed for information in finding the driver, and officers have since told Racheal they are making enquiries based on information submitted. The driver is described as in his early to mid-60s, grey-haired and well-built, in an unmarked white Iveco Luton van.
“My client said she’d know him if she saw him again,” Racheal added. “I’ve shared posts everywhere and lots of people have messaged; it’s nice they’re trying to help.”
Luna was lucky, vets said; she suffered swelling to her back end where the van caught her and was on box rest but has since been turned out, but she is also suffering the mental effects.
“This was the worst horse it could have happened to,” Racheal said. “We backed her and rode her away and she was a bit tricky on the ground so we really had to earn her trust. My client said after this happened, she wouldn’t come near her in the stable as she was terrified.
“I know it could have been worse; if he’d hit her as she was rearing, she’d have gone over backwards with me under the wheels but I want him to know what he’s done.
“I’m really grateful to my clients; I felt I’d let them down but they’ve all said it’s fine to wait but I can’t wait to get back to work. I must have cleaned my tack about 20 times — I’ve probably got the cleanest tack in England — and I miss just being on a horse.
“A friend of mine started a petition to make it part of the driving test to learn to pass horses so I’ve shared and shared that as this just shouldn’t have happened.
“But I just want to find him so even if it doesn’t help him learn, he realises what he’s put everyone through. That’s the least he deserves.”
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