A horse riding accident claim has been resolved at the High Court in favour of a woman who broke her back due to falling from a thoroughbred racehorse.
In September 2012, when Ashleigh Harris from Lydney in Gloucestershire was just fourteen years of age, she was encouraged to ride a thoroughbred racehorse by Rachel Miller – the mother of Ashleigh´s then boyfriend – at the Miller family home in Malthern near Chepstow.
Although Ashleigh had considerable experience riding ponies, and had ridden the racehorse briefly when Miller first purchased it, she had never trotted a racehorse in an open field before. After riding for five minutes, the racehorse broke into a canter that Ashleigh was unable to control.
As the horse and rider started a downhill descent, the horse started throwing its head and bucking. Ashleigh was thrown from the saddle and despite wearing body armour broke her back when she landed. Ashleigh is now permanently paralysed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair.
Ashleigh made a horse riding accident claim against Miller, alleging that by encouraging her to ride “a green, unresponsive and uneducated horse that would be difficult to control”, Miller had place Ashleigh at a foreseeable risk of injury.
Miller denied the allegations and claimed that she had sought permission from Ashleigh´s mother before asking her to ride the horse. The horse riding accident claim went to the High Court in London for liability to be established, where it was heard by Judge Graham Wood QC.
At the hearing, Judge Wood said that Miller was an unreliable witness, particularly in relation to her account of the events leading up to Ashleigh´s fall, and said that she had made a serious error of judgement by encouraging Ashleigh to ride the horse.
The judge added: “By positively encouraging Ashleigh to ride the horse and condoning, if not specifically instructing, a trot in an open field for the first time, Mrs Miller was exposing her to a risk of injury from a horse which could not be controlled in other than the most benign of conditions.”
Finding in Ashleigh´s favour, Judge Wood adjourned the hearing to allow for reports to be compiled relating to Ashleigh´s future needs. The reports will determine how much compensation the judge will award in settlement of Ashleigh´s horse riding accident claim at a further hearing later in the year.