H&H has spoken to riders recently who feel let down by the police response to their experiences on the roads. We find out what concerns them, and what action is being taken to improve horse and rider safety
WORK to promote horse and rider road safety is being undertaken at national level in hopes of trying to improve the situation for all road users.
H&H has spoken to a number of riders in recent weeks who feel let down by the police responses to their experiences.
Equine chiropractor Jazz Diggens was hacking out on 11 May, behind her mother on Jazz’s mare Hilda, when a car passed. It clipped Hilda’s back end and she fell, but as the riders were checking the mare, the driver left the scene.
Another driver, who had offered to act as a witness, followed the car to get the number plate, which was reported to police, but Jazz was told no action would be taken.
“Hilda was lame for 48 hours and we had the vet; we were lucky it wasn’t more serious but that’s not the point,” she said.
“Mum could have been seriously injured, or Hilda broken her leg and had to be put to sleep, and there’s no payback, no one would have done anything about it.
“If someone had hit a pedestrian and failed to stop, that would be a crime, a hit and run, but the police were so uninterested, it was silly.”
Para rider Susi Rogers-Hartley suffered concussion, chipped bones and joint damage when she was dragged by a car that “barged” past her on a narrow lane, on 12 April.
“He was that close, I had nowhere to go,” she told H&H. “My horse started to bolt, and the car picked up speed. As I fell, I grabbed the roof rack as a reflex; if I hadn’t, I’d have ended up under his back wheels, but the car dragged me 20 metres before he stopped.
Susi, who is a wheelchair user as a result of a spinal injury she suffered while in the Navy over 20 years ago, was taken to hospital and police took a statement.
“Because there were no independent witnesses, no action was taken,” she said. “Even though the driver said he gave me two metres, and police said if he’d done that, he’d have been in the dyke.
“The ordeal was so traumatic and the injustice is staggering. What’s going to stop that driver doing it again? Will it take a death? What if that had been a pedestrian, or children?
“I’ve achieved so much; being on a horse is my lifeline and my escape from the wheelchair, and I feel this driver has taken that from me.
“I don’t know if it’s the police that’s the problem or if their hands are tied but it feels like no one is interested in us, no one cares. Our lives don’t matter.”
British Horse Society (BHS) director of safety Alan Hiscox told H&H he has been working hard with police.
“There are 43 forces in the country, and all of them have their own priorities,” he said. “I’m working with the national roads policing unit, to try to establish some sort of consistency in the way forces deal with serious road incidents involving horses.”
Mr Hiscox is looking at producing a training film for police, and has written to every chief constable and police and crime commissioner in England and Wales, asking them to deal with all horse-related incidents in a “compassionate and sensitive way; the same they’d deal with any other vulnerable road user”.
“I’ve had some great responses,” he said. “I’m really encouraged that equestrians are up there with cyclists and pedestrians.”
Recent BHS work with forces and councils has included “close pass” operations and installing warning signs in areas of previous incidents. Mr Hiscox added that he is happy to take up any incidents such as those mentioned on riders’ behalf, should they contact him.
He also urged riders to report any such incidents to the BHS – since the launch of the society’s “Horse i” app, there has been a 250% increase in reports, which helps the BHS then lobby authorities for change, and target accident hotspots.
A spokesman for Hampshire Constabulary told H&H the decision on Jazz’s incident was based on “information and description of the incident given to us about a non-injury driving offence”, based on force guidelines for such reports and the evidence provided.
He added: “Under current policy, Hampshire Constabulary will not be investigating incidents of this nature unless there is a significant ongoing threat to public safety, or the vehicle is a known repeat offender. In these cases, vehicle details are recorded and will be used for future intelligence purposes.”
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