MARGARET PLUM v CHORLEY EQUESTRIAN CENTRE
Mr RECORDER RYAN at BURNLEY COUNTY COURT
5th November 2004
Miss Plum sued Chorley Equestrian Centre for damages for personal injury arsing
out of an accident that occurred on 9th July 2000 when she was hacking out with other horses under the supervision of an escort
employed by the Centre.
Miss Plum had ridden in her youth and some 9 months or so before the accident
had been having regular riding lessons at Chorley Equestrian Centre, from where she had also hacked out.
She complained that she was allocated Digby, a horse with a tendency to bolt;
that tendency was known to the Defendants and she was thus assigned an unsuitable horse and that gave rise, when she had an
accident to a claim both in Negligence and under the Animals Act.
Having entered a field in the course of a hack, the horse bolted, overtook
the other horses in the string and Miss Plum said that despite her strenuous efforts Digby threw her off his back.
According to the Centre the horse had none of the characteristics alleged,
and they said that in fact Miss Plum had held her horse back when the group cantered, thus causing him to put in a little
The Judge found Miss Plum’s evidence about the horse no more than “tack
He found that Digby was a suitable horse for Miss Plum. It did not have the tendency to bolt or gallop away as alleged by Miss Plum. He found that she had pulled sharply on his mouth and the horse had reacted normally by bucking.
He did not find that the damage to Miss Plum was likely to be severe –
the mere fact of serious injury does not address that issue. There was no evidence
to show that accidents occurring in this way are likely to result in severe damage.
He did find that bucking when pulled in the mouth was a characteristic found
in horses in particular circumstances which the Centre had conceded. This, he
said, would have been known by the Centre.
However, he found that the risk of being unseated when riding is one which
any rider who is competent to canter and hack out accepts. Riding is a pursuit
involving the control by a rider with the aids of rein, leg seat and crop of a horse with its own mind and physical attributes. That relationship and activity between two living beings cannot be precisely
predicted or judged to the second or centimetre. The occurrence of an accident
in such a manner is precisely the risk which a rider undertakes.
Even, therefore, if the Judge had been persuaded, which he was not, that the
case fell within s 2 2 of the Animals Act he was satisfied that the claim fell squarely within s 5 (2).
The claim was dismissed.
Mr C W S Lane
was the expert for the Defendant
Mr Burns was instructed by the Claimant in person
Mr Ben Compton was instructed by P Jane M D Phillips of Tavistock for the
JOYCE WINKWORTH v HARGATE HILL EQUESTRIAN CENTRE
HH JUDGE MORT at OLDHAM COUNTY
18th November 2004
Joyce Winkworth sued Hargate Hill for damages for personal injuries arising
out of a riding accident which occurred on 17th August 2000. She had ridden as
a child and was having her 2nd lesson at the centre riding Mojo in canter when she fell off.
She sued in Negligence saying that she had been forced into joining a lesson
with a more experienced rider, and the horse she was riding was unsuitable in that it bolted or ran away from her. She was critical of her instructress who had qualified that day.
The Judge found that riding is an activity that carries the foreseeable risk
of people falling off horses. He gave examples of what could happen in his view
even at the most basic level. Hence basic minimum steps are obviously protective
clothing and a soft landing. “If somebody comes into a riding school what
can they expect?”
There was, he found, a duty to provide a safe horse, to assess the person who was
to ride the horse and then to supervise with reasonable skill and care. He pointed
out that over 50% of all riding instructors have no qualifications beyond experience.
This instructress had years of riding experience and teaching experience although she had only formally qualified that
The other rider in the lesson was of the view that both were of the same standard
and that the horse was not frisky, describing her as calm and obedient and safe to ride.
Mr Hindle, the Claimant’s expert, criticised the horse for being too
big. “I think it is really like moving from a Mini to a Land Rover to expect her, if she has as little experience as
she says, to have ridden that horse.”
The Judge was not persuaded, finding Mojo to be a fairly typical school horse.
He also found the instructress to be a careful one. He noted her examiner's comments on her examination sheet and found that she would have been alert that
day having just passed her examinations.
He was satisfied that the Claimant, who was a poor historian, was properly
assessed by the instructress as being competent to canter.
The case was dismissed.
Mr Harry Hindle expert for the Claimant
Mr C W S Lane
expert for the Defendant
Mr Wood instructed by Warings of Blackpool for the Claimant
Mr Nathan Tavares instructed by P Jane M D Phillips of Tavistock for the
Dr FAITH HOLDSWORTH v BLEWBURY RIDING & TRAINING CENTRE
HH JUDGE WADE at SWINDON COUNTY
4th January 2005
Dr Holdsworth sued Blewbury for damages for personal injuries she sustained
when she fell off a horse when out on a hack on 6th June 2002. She and some colleagues
from her medical centre were participating in an equestrian “away day” which had been arranged some time in advance. There were 16 participants some of whom had little or no experience and were led around
a village, while the more experienced group of 6, including Dr Holdsworth, went out on the nearby Downs.
Dr Holdsworth sued the Centre in both Negligence and under the Animals Act.
She complained that she had been provided with an unsuitable horse and had
not been properly assessed nor properly briefed before the hack. When they arrived
at the centre the horses were not ready for them and she and her witnesses gave a picture of general incompetence.
The party were all mounted in the indoor school and separated into groups in
accordance with their ability. Dr Holdsworth had said she was experienced but
had not ridden for a number of years. She was riding Diamond who whilst being
assessed in the school spooked a few strides and was brought under control by Dr Holdsworth.
She declined a change of mount although others of her party were given different horses during the assessment.
The escort said she gave her own personal briefing before the party left the
Dr Holdsworth complained that her horse misbehaved all the way to the Downs – shying at dustbins – to such extent that she felt worn out when she arrived at the
Downs. Mr Mackie the joint expert said he would have expected the escort to have
noticed this and the rider to have complained.
Later whilst trotting on the Downs, Dr Holdsworth overtook the escort at canter
and then complained that her horse bolted. Some of her colleagues chased after
On the evidence the Judge found that the ride had been entirely appropriately
and efficiently organised; the escort acted quite properly and professionally. Dr
Holdsworth failed to tell anyone that she lacked confidence to ride Diamond or was having trouble with him. She decided to canter past the escort without reference to her and she herself led to the unfortunate situation
where she was unable to control the horse and then came off him.
The claim thus failed in Negligence.
The Judge then considered the Animals Act.
S 2 2(b) and (c) were conceded by the Defence and the only live issue was s 2 2(a) and the Judge thought it perfectly
obvious that anyone falling from a galloping or bolting horse would sustain severe injury – Dr Holdsworth broke her
ankle which the Judge held was a severe injury. NB - the Judge accepted Mr Mackie’s
evidence that falling off a horse at canter would not normally cause a serious injury.
The Judge then turned to s 5 – the statutory defences. He found that the accident was entirely the Claimant’s own fault.
He was also satisfied that there were risks inherent in horse riding, including the risk of injury. He thought that was perfectly obvious agreeing with Mr Mackie when he said “If you ride you do fall
off”. By implication, there is a risk of injury in falling off.
The claim was dismissed.
Mr J Mackie was the joint expert
Mr Richard Stead instructed by Cartwrights Insurance Partners of Bristol
for the Claimant
Mr Ben Compton instructed by P Jane M D Phillips of Tavistock for the Defendant
SUSAN DENNETT v PATRICIA WAIN
JUDGE TOWNEND at PRESTON COUNTY
18th March 2005
Mrs Dennett sued Mrs Wain for damages for personal injuries arising out of
an accident which befell her at Earnsdale Farm Riding Centre on 2nd March 1998.
Mrs Wain was loose schooling a horse owned by Heather Francis in the indoor
arena at Earnsdale in the presence of Mrs Francis who was watching the lesson. Mrs
Wain was an experienced but amateur horse woman who had loose schooled horses before and had offered to loose school Laddie
on this occasion as the horse had been out of work sick. She knew Laddie to be
a horse of good temperament.
Suddenly and without warning Laddie turned and jumped over the closed gate
of the arena, knocking it over and in the process injuring Mrs Dennett who was standing with her back to the arena. Originally Mrs Dennett said that was because Mrs Wain had waved the whip behind the horse but in evidence
her husband said it was because the whip had been cracked behind the horse.
Mrs Dennett sued both in Negligence and under the Animals Act.
The claim in Negligence failed, the Judge finding that Mr Dennett was mistaken
in his belief that Mrs Wain cracked the whip behind Laddie just as he was passing the gate thus encouraging him to leap over
it. He also discounted all the possible reasons that Laddie might have jumped
out as put forward by the Claimant’s expert Mr Harry Hindle preferring Mrs Goldsmith the expert for the Defence who
said that horses just act that way sometimes, although she said that such behaviour was extremely rare.
The Judge found that Mrs Wain was the keeper of the horse within the meaning
of the Act as she was in control of the exercise notwithstanding that she was exercising Laddie in the presence of Mrs Francis.
The Judge also found that the horse behaved in an abnormal way and that any
damage caused by the horse acting in such a way was likely to be severe.
However, he found that Mrs Wain had no knowledge of these characteristics. Mr Hindle did not believe in the practice of loose schooling and Mrs Goldsmith, who
in her career had taught pupils at College to loose school had only known of 3 horses to jump out of the arena in 40 years. As such he found that Mrs Wain would not have been aware of such characteristics and
could not have attributed them to Laddie.
The Claim was dismissed.
Mr Harry Hindle was expert for the Claimant
Mrs Jane Goldsmith FBHS was the expert for the Defendant
Mr Platts of counsel for the Claimant instructed by Farleys of Blackburn
Mr Jonathan Hand of counsel instructed by P Jane M D Phillips of Tavistock
Devon for the Defendant
JENNY ROYLE v MATCHMOOR RIDING CENTRE
HH JUDGE BLOOM Q C at MANCHESTER
15th June 2005
Jenny Royle sued Matchmoor Riding Centre for damages for personal injuries
sustained when she fell from her mount when out on a hack with a friend on 2nd March 2003.
Jenny Royle had ridden as a child and was then 34. She was happy to go out
on a hack under supervision.
They were riding across the moor when, she said, having walked trotted and
cantered successfully, the hack went through a gateway. She and her friend stood
waiting for the ride to pass through the gate. Her horse was stationary with
his head down grazing when without warning the escort shut the gate noisily causing her horse to shoot off straight into canter. She fell off.
Matchmoor’s escort and the other riders on the hack disagreed with Mrs
They all said that the escort had waited until the ride was through the gate;
the ride had walked on and the escort asked if everyone wanted to canter. No
one dissented. The escort made eye contact with all the riders and then set off
The Judge considered that the escort was not a risk taker. He accepted the proprietor’s assessment of her that she
never disregarded instructions. He found the proprietor a very conscientious
and dedicated woman who had been in business many years and was committed to the industry and who would not give an inaccurate
picture of her valued employee. He found that the ride had been conducted in
accordance with normal procedures.
The case was dismissed.
Mr J Mackie appeared as expert witness for the Claimant
Mr C W S Lane
appeared as expert witness for the Defendant
Stevensons solicitors represented the Claimant
Mr Ben Compton of counsel instructed by P Jane M D Philips of Tavistock
Devon for the Defendant
HANNAH SHERRIDAN v GLEBEFIELD EQUESTRIAN CENTRE
HH JUDGE BULLIMORE at SHEFFIELD
15 & 16 September 2005
Hannah Sherridan (aged 9 1/2) sued Glebefield Equestrian Centre for damages
for personal injuries which befell her when she fell from a pony named Rosie on 23 September 2000. The only issue in the case was whether or not the riding hat was correctly fitted and/or adjusted and whether
it had become dislodged and caused Hannah’s injuries.
Hannah fell over Rosie’s shoulder when she spooked and moved unexpectedly. She made no criticisms of the way the lesson was conducted nor of the pony.
Glebefield provided Champion riding hats for its customers in various sizes
which were clearly marked on the back of the helmet.
The child said that on the day of the accident she chose the correctly market
hat and put it on. She said it was so big that it fell forwards as she walked
down hill and backwards as she walked uphill and she complained about the fit to the girl who was leading her.
Immediately after the accident the hat was noted by the proprietor to be correctly
on the child’s head. It was horizontal with the rim above the eyebrows.
Expert evidence was given by Charlie
Lane for the Defendant and Peta Roberts FBHS for the Claimant.
Mrs Roberts was of the view that the hat should have fitted snugly and that
more than a visual check of the hat should have been made. A hat
would only move over the eyes if it were miles too big but if the hat was only slightly loose it could still slip onto the
cheek and cause injuries.
pointed out that hat sizes overlap. If a hat was obviously too big it would be
seen. The hat should not move in a fall.
The fitting of the hat on the head not the adjustment of the straps was the important thing.
On the evidence the Judge found that the hat was not dislodged and that the
injuries were probably caused by a glancing blow from the horse’s hoof.
The claim was dismissed.
Mr C W S Lane
equine expert for the Defendant
Mrs Peta Roberts FBHS for the Claimant
Mr Gordon Exall instructed by Walker Morris of Leeds
for the Claimant
Mr Nathan Tavares instructed by P Jane M D Phillips of Tavistock Devon
for the Defendant.