Riding Accident When Trying out a Horse to Buy

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I am often approached by people who have bought horses which turn out to be very different to what has been described by the seller and who are seeking to claim their money back. These cases are very difficult to bring because of the way that horses can behave differently for different owners / handlers and in different environments.

Mrs Goldsmith had not yet bought the horse that she was trying out. Apparently the owner of the horse was looking to give it away if necessary because she had found it too difficult to handle. It is not clear whether the horse's history included a propensity to rear and buck in the manner which caused her accident.

She brought her claim in Newcastle County Court where it was dismissed, and it has now been heard by the Court of Appeal who are considering their decision. The decision will rest to a large extent on the Court's interpretation of the Animals Act 1971. This is a notoriously difficult piece of legislation and various attempts have been made to have it amended by Parliament, so far unsuccessful. The Act can mean that the keeper of a horse may be liable for injuries that it causes if it behaves in a way that is unusual for horses generally, but where that particular horse is known to behave that way.

The other question for the Court to decide is Consent – i.e. whether Mrs Goldsmith agreed to accept the risk of the horse rearing and bucking when she decided to get on the horse, on the basis that this is something which all horses are capable of doing in certain circumstances.

I will report on the result of the case when it is published, and on how the outcome of the case might affect liability for injuries caused by horses when being ridden by potential purchasers.

Julia Prior

Senior Solicitor - Personal Injury team 

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