A horse owner who is “too frightened” to hack out after a driver rolled his car in front of her is saying riders should consider civil action if their horses are traumatised on the roads.
Both Stacey Turner and her part-bred Spanish mare Revuelo required treatment for whiplash injuries sustained in the incident, when a car crash caused her horse to spin and bolt down a steep hill.
The 36-year-old rider was hacking along a familiar route in Leybourne, Kent when she witnessed the collision.
“We were slowly ascending the hill as it’s very, very steep when a Kia overtook us at slow speeds and with a wide berth,” she said. “The Kia continued up the hill with me directly behind and there was a black Volkswagen in a passing place on the right waiting to come down the hill.
“Out of nowhere a Volvo appeared coming down the hill — it overtook the waiting car heading directly towards the Kia. He tried to get round the Kia, but there was no passing place or gap and he had to mount the bank.”
Stacey screamed at the driver to stop but claims he carried on, and she watched in horror as the car began to tip.
“I heard the revving of his engine and tyres screeching, and then saw the car start to flip over,” she said. “My horse started to run backwards, the car flipped and I didn’t see any more as the awful noise of crunching metal and smashing glass happened — [at that point] my mare reared and spun to bolt.”
Stacey said she heard the Volvo land on top of the Kia as her mare took off downhill towards oncoming traffic.
“I genuinely feared for my life as my horse was fleeing for hers and I couldn’t pull her up,” she said. “She was galloping full pelt down slippery tarmac in a national speed limit.
“Thankfully she slowed and stopped at the sight of oncoming cars. I got off her as quick as I could fearing she would bolt again.”
Stacey shouted at the first car to stop, and the driver got out and to help — it was a vet from Bell Equine in Mereworth.
“She could see our shock and distress. My horse was shaking all over, as was I,” said Stacey. “She offered to help and said to get my horse back to our yard as she could see how bad she was, but I wanted to return to the scene to make sure the people in the Kia were OK and that the police were called.”
It took Stacey 10 minutes to coax the 13-year-old mare back up the hill, where the driver of the Kia — whose parents own horses — gave her a hug and said “thank God you’re OK.”
“I spent 10 minutes calming her girls — the six-year-old was the front passenger and kept repeating ‘I thought we were going to die’ in a shocked state, both were white and shaking. A passer-by joined in to help with the girls and I stayed with the Kia driver who was helping calm my horse until the police arrived,” she recalled.
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While Stacey was initially disappointed the police did not see her as a victim of the accident, they have since upgraded her to a casualty owing to her injuries, and recorded those suffered by her horse as criminal damage to property.
“I can only think she was going so fast she didn’t touch the tarmac enough to slip. If she had, or if I had tumbled off when she reared and spun, I could have a broken neck and all of a sudden you’d be looking at death by dangerous driving,” said Stacey, who is now also looking to pursue a civil case against the Volvo driver.
“I feel so passionately about this because the whole thing could’ve been avoided,” she added. “I was screaming at him to stop, I could see what was going to happen and he didn’t seem to care. Why should he get away with it?”
The incident has severely damaged the rider’s confidence and has meant she will have to put her competitive plans on hold. She had been hoping to start endurance with her mare — who she shipped to the UK after falling in love with her on a riding her on holiday in Spain — but now cannot get enough distance training in because she will not go on the roads.
“I am absolutely petrified, I really am. I won’t hack out again,” she said. “I’ll carry on schooling and pay to hire a box to take us to off-road places if needs be.”
Revuelo is also traumatised, although she is an experienced horse who was used for trekking in Spain.
“She’s packing her bags wanting to go back I expect!” Stacey quipped. “She was happy to lead a group. I rode her for five days in the mountains on a riding holiday.
Stacey said in Kent, most drivers slow down for horses, but there are those who pass at high speeds.
“Only a few months ago my friend’s ankle was broken when a car hit her — luckily only catching her foot in the stirrup,” she said.
“When I got back to the yard after the incident, so many people said to me ‘that’s why I don’t hack out any more’. Out of the 50 liveries there, there are probably only 10 now that actively hack.”
Stacey believes riders have been pressured into a defensive attitude by a culture of “horses shouldn’t be on the road”.
“When anything happens we just think ‘bloody stupid car drivers’ and shrug it off. We don’t say ‘let’s consider taking a claim’ because we feel we’re in the minority. We shouldn’t have to pay for it. Horse owners pay for insurance and if it was the other way round and a horse kicked out and smashed a car, people wouldn’t think anything of putting a claim in.”
Stacey added that she hopes her story will also make drivers think more carefully about their behaviour on the road.
“I wanted to talk about it as if it raises the awareness of just one person that wouldn’t otherwise be horse-minded, then it’s something,” she said.
A spokesman for Kent Police confirmed that at 12.44pm on Monday, 23 October, 2017 they were called to reports of a collision involving two vehicles on Holly Hill, Snodland.
“A horse and rider were also at the scene. Officers are conducting enquiries,” the spokesman said.
The police encourage riders to call 101 if a horse is spooked by a car they believe is being driven dangerously, even if they are not injured in the incident.