A rider whose “perfect” horse was killed in a road collision in North Wales is appealing to people to be proactive in reporting problem driving and accident blackspots.
Gillian Singleton was hacking with her sister-in-law Gwenda Owen when her 19-year-old gelding Digby was struck from behind by a car on Sychnant Pass, Conwy on Wednesday (28 September).
“I didn’t even hear brakes, that was it. He hit Digby from behind and he fell on top of me,” said Gillian, who lives on a farm five minutes from the accident site.
“I remember standing up and I thought ‘what the hell happened’. I work as a nurse in the emergency department and I knew I wasn’t badly hurt but my horse was all I could think of.
“He’d got about 100 yards down the road and I could see he was dragging his leg, and then he just went down.”
As well as breaking his leg, Digby had sustained internal injuries and died within minutes of the impact.
“My husband came to collect him with the tractor and trailer. I couldn’t even think, all I wanted to do was to get my horse home and bury him,” said Gillian, who bought the coloured cob five years ago as a schoolmaster.
“He was totally bombproof, he was perfect, a beautiful horse.
“I’m just devastated but I’m glad I’m alive,” she added. “The way I’m trying to think about it is that Digby saved my life. If the driver didn’t see me on a horse in hi vis, he wouldn’t have seen me on my bike. In that situation, a cyclist would’ve been killed.”
The driver of the vehicle that hit Digby stopped, but left the scene before police arrived.
“He said he couldn’t see but we drove the route yesterday and we could see perfectly in the same weather conditions. I was wearing bright pink hi-vis and it’s a clear, straight section of road,” Gillian said.
It is not the first time a horse had been hit on that section of road — which is roamed by Welsh mountain ponies —but it was the first time a horse being ridden had been killed.
Gillian’s hacking partner Gwenda had previously been involved in an accident when her mare Lavender was hit in the chest nine years ago.
“Fortunately she made a full recovery and is still with us,” Gillian said. “We hack here all the time but if we can keep of the road we do. Exactly where Digby was killed I stopped a while ago as a foal had been hit by a car.”
Gillian injured her back in the accident but further investigations revealed no major damage.
“I had a CT scan to check my back and chest as you can have internal bleeding in that type of accident and not realise,” she said.
Gillian is now hoping that a petition from local riders to cut the road’s 60mph speed limit will be taken up.
“It’s a shame that there has to be a death before anyone does anything,” she said.
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“There’s a car park up there where people stop to look at the view and there were lads doing ‘doughnuts’ in there as we were hacking past the other day. I think you have to urge people to report that kind of behaviour. It doesn’t matter how many times.
“You have to be proactive and I won’t let this lie.”
A spokesman for North Wales Police said the driver had since made contact and police enquiries were ongoing.