Yard owner who suffered smashed face calls for horses to be taught better manners

A yard owner who sustained a broken cheekbone and eye socket when a “bolshy” young mare ran over her at a field gate has urged other owners to be aware of the importance of horses’ having good manners on the ground.

Jan Simpson, who runs Elvington Stud in East Lothian, was knocked unconscious by one of the two livery horses she was bringing in one evening two weeks ago.

She told H&H she cannot remember the events leading up to the incident – and that she was unconscious for some 20 minutes before she was found by a jogger.

“I just remember trying to get out from under her legs, and being pushed on to the ground,” she said. “I thought I came round immediately but from looking at my phone realised it was longer.

“If the jogger hadn’t found me – it’s a quiet, private road but it is a road and if a car had come round in the dark, the driver wouldn’t have seen me. I’m so lucky, in so many different ways; it’s not worth thinking ahout what could have happened.”

Jan was taken to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, where the “fantastic” staff inserted metal plates behind her cheekbone to put it back into place.

“I was a bit of a mess,” she said. “I’m not precious about how I look but to look in the mirror and not really recognise yourself is a bit of a shock.”

Jan, who has been told that although the bones should heal in six weeks, she should wait eight until she returns to work or riding, said the incident highlighted to her of the importance of horses’ manners.

“They need to respect your personal space,” she said. “They’re horses so they’re going to get scared of things, but they need to run round you if that happens, not over you.”

Jan says horses are handled by a number of professionals, such as vets, farriers and equine dental technicians, and that she has seen a number of near-misses in these situations.

“I’ve held liveries’ horses for the dentist or others and looking back, it was so dangerous because the horse just ran into them,” she said. “Yes, it’s something the horse doesn’t like but they should have the basic knowledge, respect and spatial awareness not to run into you, or use their weight and size against you.

“Also, if something happens to you, you know your horse will be ok if it’s got good manners. Other people have had to step in and do my job at the moment and I’m confident my horse will behave – it’s a good feeling to know you can ask others to do your horse safely.”

Jan added that as often bad-mannered horses are seen as dangerous, so can be passed on to different homes, giving them the right education can also protect their welfare.

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“There’s sometimes a grey area as to whose responsibility it is to teach the horse to behave, but it’s the owner’s,” she said.

“The doctors said my cheekbone, although it was caved in, did its job of protecting my eye and brain but I could have been brain-damaged or killed.

“I just hope this might make people sit up and pay attention, and put the groundwork in. People don’t like to think of their horses as naughty, but they won’t like you any less if you put the work in – and everyone round them will be safe.”

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