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Ruffled feathers after accident at yard

A Claimant was awarded £30,000 damages following a horse riding accident that occurred during a private lesson in an indoor arena.

The client, who was 18 years old at the time, was riding a horse at trot as directed by the instructor taking the lesson. She had only recently started riding and was in the early stages of learning to canter so she should have been classed and treated as a novice rider.

The instructor advised our client at the beginning of the lesson that the horse that she was riding was new to the yard and on trial. There was also a loose peacock which belonged to the yard which had wandered into the arena where the lesson was taking place.

During the lesson, the peacock flew up on to the wooden wall next to the track and puffed its tail out. The horse was understandably startled and bolted away from the perceived danger which resulted in our client being thrown off and sustaining a fracture to her wrist and ankle. As a result of the accident our client was taken to hospital where she spent approximately 5 days as an inpatient. She awaits further surgery on her ankle and her career plans have been delayed 2 years.

Shortly after the incident the horse was removed from the yard indicating it had been unsuitable for use in a riding school.

A claim was brought on the grounds that the riding school had failed to provide a safe environment within which to conduct the lesson, negligently allowed a loose peacock to roam the arena area during a riding lesson and in doing so breached the duty of care owed to our client. This was compounded by the fact that they had allowed a novice rider to test a horse that was still on trial and had not been deemed safe and reliable.

The riding school and its instructors had held themselves out as equestrian experts and as such should have been aware that horses are flight animals which are unpredictable when startled. The legal test is one of foreseeability and clearly it was reasonably foreseeable that an accident could occur by allowing a loose peacock to roam freely around an untested horse being ridden by a novice.

Following negotiations the matter settled out of court for the sum of £30,000.

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