Owners of horses and riding clubs are being warned they could be held liable for millions of pounds in compensation if someone is injured in the saddle.
Expert personal injury lawyer Sarah Coyne has warned anyone who owns a horse or riding club to ensure they are fully up to speed with their legal duties - and the potential to have to pay dearly if they have not done everything to prevent an injury.
The Worcestershire specialist’s alert follows a landmark court case which has confirmed it is up to the horse owner to assess any rider’s ability, or be held responsible if they are injured. The ruling has also placed responsibilities on the owners of riding clubs should any injury happen.
The recent case involved a 14-year-old girl, Ashley Harris, who fell from a horse and has been left paraplegic. The girl had owned a pony but had not ridden a horse before. Rachel Miller, the horse’s owner, was found to have made a “serious error of judgment” and experts expect the compensation to run into millions.
Ms Coyne, of law firm mfg Solicitors, said: “Owners are now obliged to ensure they know the horse and the intended rider and that they have assessed the risk involved in allowing that rider into the saddle.
“It’s very clear, especially after this recent court ruling, that if they have not done everything in their power to remove risk, and the rider is hurt, then there could be significant financial penalties.
“The most important thing is to have public liability, or another appropriate form of insurance, and to know the ability of the horse and rider.
“The ruling has made absolutely clear that it is the owner of the horse and/or the riding club’s duty to ensure that whoever rides is capable of handling the animal safely. If that duty isn’t met then the consequences can be severe and devastating, both in terms of injury for the rider and the cost to the owner.
“It is really important to seek advice now as this decision represents a significant milestone in the UK’s increasingly popular equine sector where there are now over 1.2 million riders.”
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