As Shakespeare’s King Richard III might have said when he’d had enough of battles….

Horse riders such as me have noticed for a long time that roads are getting less and less safe to ride on and in many cases, we have just had to give up riding on roads.  It’s not that we want to go for long hacks on busy roads, but sometimes we have no option but to use roads perhaps just for a short time to get to off road bridleways and tracks. But even this can be putting your own and your horse’s life at risk.

As if 2020 hadn’t been bad enough, it ended on a dreadful note for rider Francesca Kennedy when she and her horse, Bart, were hit by a vehicle on 30 December 2020 whilst out on a quiet hack with a friend (reported in Horse and Hound on 6 January 2021).  Bart took the brunt of the impact and had to be put down due to his injuries.  Causing a serious injury with a vehicle can be an offence under the Road Traffic Act 1988:

“1A Causing serious injury by dangerous driving

(1)A person who causes serious injury to another person by driving a mechanically propelled vehicle dangerously on a road or other public place is guilty of an offence.

(2) In this section “serious injury” means—

(a) in England and Wales, physical harm which amounts to grievous bodily harm for the purposes of the Offences against the Person Act 1861”

Francesca felt so strongly about losing her horse in such heart-breaking circumstances that she has started a fund –“Bart’s Legacy” to campaign for safer roads for riders and to raise money for the Air Ambulance Service, a Godsend for riders who are often injured while riding in remote or inaccessible  places.

Francesca says:

“Myself and my friend Hannah are making it our mission for 2021 to target schools, approach the council, work with the British Horse Society, hold events; we will do what it takes,” she said.

“I need to do something, and I will. I’m determined, to save horses’ lives and people’s lives, because no one deserves to lose their horse like I lost mine.

We are going to make a difference because I’m not going to let my horse die for nothing.”

We wish her every success, but what other practical steps can we take to help out with riding and road safety?

  • First of all we can look to our own personal safety and try and do things like train our horses as best we can to ignore traffic; improve our riding ability so that we can cope in emergencies and wear hi-viz clothing at all times so we can be seen.
  • Campaign for more local access and off- road riding where we can. Some landowners may be receptive to the idea of riding tracks on their land, or “local licences” to give riders access to parts of their land for an annual payment.
  • Work with the parish and local councils and community police to raise awareness of horses on the roads-there are similarities with cycling in that lanes could be built in to roads and signs put up- and potentially run safety courses locally for riders and the general public.
  • Report any adverse events to the British Horse Society at:



  • Another road user – including vehicles and cycles
  • Dogs
  • Slippery road surfaces
  • Low flying aircraft
  • Drones
  • Bird scarers
  • Fireworks

There doesn’t have to have been an injury to report; it can be an event that caused concern, or could have caused an injury- a “near miss”. The BHS want to build up a bank of facts and evidence, as these carry more weight than anecdotal “evidence” in campaigns, lobbying and petitioning. They also help identify trends and “hotspots” in concerns, which in turn can help defeat them by knowing where to target efforts.  Between 28/02/19 and 29/02/20, the reporting showed that 40% of incidents occurred because of drivers passing too quickly and 81% because of passing too close.  So perhaps targeting driver behaviour and offering education for driving around horses is an answer?

British Cycling is also aware of the problem, possibly because cyclists are equally vulnerable road users and they have an article on bikes and horses:

Cycling is being heavily promoted as a means of exercise and a support for mental health in these still very difficult Covid times and horse riding offers the same.  But both need to be and should be able to be, done safely, or it rather defeats the object! We need this to become the norm, as has using seatbelts and not drinking and driving, which people once thought impossible.  It IS possible, but we must keep up the efforts.

Please note:  horse riding and cycling accidents are likely to be exempt from the new rules due to come in in April this year whereby an injury has to be “worth” more than £5000.00 before an insurer/Defendant has to pay legal costs in addition to compensation in a successful claim.  With riders and cyclists, it is likely that the injury will still only need to be “worth” the present qualifying figure of £1000.00 for costs to be paid in successful cases.  Watch this space for any changes.

We can help

Brenda Gilligan is a horse owner and rider and author of “Practical Horse Law- A Guide For Owners and Riders”.  There are other solicitors at Ringrose Law with an interest in horses -our criminal defence/personal injury solicitor Rebecca Freitas is one- and Senior Partner John Knight and Partner Richard Teare, both in the personal injury department, are devoted cyclists.  If you have a problem with a horse and rider or cycling accident, we would be happy to advise.


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