Head lad awarded damages in injury claim against racehorse trainer.

A man who suffered serious injuries after being thrown off a horse while he was working at a farm in Cork has been awarded €77,345 in the High Court by Mr Justice Barton.

His employer was found to have been negligent due to his decision to park his tractor in a location which was likely to spook the horses as they passed. A finding of contributory negligence was made against the highly experienced rider.

The Plaintiff worked for the defendant, a racehorse trainer, as his head lad and was a very experienced horseman. The Plaintiff was riding out on a horse described as having a nervous temperament and being flighty. The horse was one of three horses heading to the gallops to be exercised and she became spooked on approach to the tractor that the defendant had parked close to the gallops. Unfortunately she took flight and subsequently collided with an electric fence and received a shock which caused her to unseat the Plaintiff who sustained serious injuries in the accident.

As one might expect liability was strenuously denied however Barton J. accepted the expert evidence of Mr John Watson that parking a tractor with an elevated bucket so close to the gallops created a risk of spooking the horses which was reasonably foreseeable and therefore the defendant was responsible for the accident. The Plaintiff however was a very experienced rider and ought to have appreciated the risk and chosen an alternative approach to the gallops and therefore Barton J apportioned a third of the fault for the incident to the Plaintiff.

Equine cases are complex and difficult to prosecute, it is well known that equestrian activities are inherently risky and the rider is deemed to have accepted that risk by partaking in the activity. Notwithstanding this, the employer, owner or equestrian centre, still owes a duty of care to those riding their horses regardless of the level of experience of the rider. Most riders accept that accidents happen such is the flighty nature of some horses, but some accidents are caused by negligence and are therefore preventable. A negligence finding could be for a variety of reasons such as inadequate instruction; unsuitable horse; avoidable hazards or faulty equipment.  If you have sustained injuries in a riding accident it is worth taking professional advice on whether or not you are likely to have any legal recourse.

Healy, Niall v O’Brien, Terence  11/10/2018 No. 2017/1236 P [2018] IEHC 602