Rider fights ‘lenient’ sentence for motorist who hit her horse

  • Dressage rider Liza McQuiston is pursuing a civil court case for compensation against a motorist who injured one of her top horses so badly he will not compete again.

    Robert Austin-Smith of Dereham, Norfolk, denied careless driving but was found guilty at Swaffham Magistrates Court on 25 May and received six penalty points. He was also fined £200 with £200 costs.

    “This sentence gives the wrong message, so I’m taking action,” said Miss McQuiston.

    Advanced dressage horse Feist is receiving treatment for injuries that tore his knee open.

    He was being ridden in a quiet country lane last September when Austin-Smith’s 4×4 car and flat-bed trailer hit his front and hind legs. No date has yet been fixed for the civil case hearing.

    The case contrasts with one last month in which Helen Retallick secured £16,700 damages from a bus company.

    The driver of the double-decker bus braked hard before overtaking, causing her horse to bolt into the vehicle’s path.

    The horse was put down at the scene and Ms Retallick suffered a fractured right arm, and psychological trauma.

    At Cambridge Crown Court on 9 June a judge decided the driver had been driving too fast and awarded Ms Retallick damages for her pain, suffering and loss of amenity.

    Inderjit Gill of Jacksons’ law firm who represented her said: “It was a long, hard slog that took over three years to be resolved and completely knocked her confidence.”

    Mark Weston, from the British Horse Society, said: “Sadly this is an all too familiar story — traffic not slowing down sufficiently when passing horses on the road.

    “The consequences can be fatal and have long-lasting psychological effects.”

    This article was first published in Horse & Hound (15 July, ’10)

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