‘What more can we do to be safe?’ Horse and teenage rider hit by drunk driver on road

  • The owners of a horse who was hit by a drunk driver while hacking out in daylight and in high-vis gear have asked what more they need to do to be safe.

    Emma Marshall, 17, was riding her event horse Ballysax Cotterstown (Jasper) at just before 6.30pm on 30 March when the car was driven into them from behind. The driver, who was at more than twice the legal alcohol limit, has since pleaded guilty to careless driving and driving with excess alcohol and been banned for three years. He was also fined £100 and ordered to pay £400 compensation.

    Emma’s mother Jennifer Fairbairn told H&H her daughter did not see what happened.

    “Emma heard a car coming from behind her, and saw one coming towards her so she trotted on so they wouldn’t meet as they passed her, and then she heard a bang,” she said.

    “Her horse shot forwards and took off. She was thinking the whole time that she just had to stay on as if she didn’t, he’d run off, and she did.”

    Emma pulled up in a small car park, where some passing runners and the daughter of a friend who lived nearby came to help. The vet and police were called.

    “The horse was majorly panicked and so was Emma,” Jennifer said. “The vet checked him but couldn’t establish whether there were fractures of anything because of all the swelling. We’ve done all we can and he is now being ridden in walk and a bit of trot. Miraculously, it looks like he hasn’t had any permanent damage, just really bad bruising.”

    Jennifer said Emma and Jasper, who evented up to two-star level with Emma’s brother Lewis, had been aiming for the Scottish under-18 team this year but had to pull out of the two events they had been entered for in April.

    “We consider ourselves unlucky that it happened, but incredibly fortunate in how they’ve come out of it,” Jennifer said. “It’s horrible to think about but it could have been so much worse.”

    Jennifer said she could not see what else could have been done to keep horse and rider safe.

    “She had high-vis, she was on a grey horse, coming into a town in daylight, and they were just hit from behind,” she said. “It was a pretty straight road but clearly he just didn’t see them.

    “We’re in a small village and have to go on the roads. You can take all the precautions you want but these things still happen. And for me, drink-driving isn’t a stereotypical thing, it can have a massive impact on all sorts of things.”

    Jennifer also thanked those who came to Emma and Jasper’s aid.

    “The two runners were terrified of horses but came to help; when something bad happens, there is that lovely human thing where people come to help,” she said.

    Jennifer said it is hoped the Irish-bred 14-year-old gelding will be able to event again before too long.

    “They had some time off last year because he picked up an injury and they were ready to go, but from what could have happened, missing a few events isn’t the end of the world, although it’s such a shame after she worked so hard all winter,” she said. “Jasper is awesome and loves his job and we wouldn’t run him anywhere until he’s ready. We’ll only do what’s right for him.”

    Jennifer reported the accident via the British Horse Society Horsei app and encouraged others to do the same.

    “We need to collect the data and raise awareness,” she said. “Although if someone’s getting behind the wheel with alcohol in his system, there’s nothing you can do.”

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