Common sense prevails? Horse-rider left paralysed by fall is awarded damages from horse owner
February 2, 2017

In a recent case (Harris v Miller [2016] EWHC 2438 (QB), [2016] All ER (D) 45 (Nov)) a judge has decided that a teenage horse-rider who was left with a spinal injury by a riding accident is entitled to compensation. The court found the owner had encouraged the claimant, who was a novice rider, to ride a horse which was too strong for her and difficult to control, and had thereby exposed her to a risk of injury.

The claimant, aged 14, at the time of the accident, broke her back after falling from a thoroughbred racehorse.

The judge said the claimant was a ‘competent novice’, who had experience of riding ponies but had never ridden a horse before. The owner had ‘encouraged’ her to ride the ‘strong and wilful thoroughbred’ and exposed her to a risk of injury.

The judge said the owner had ‘limited knowledge’ of the claimant’s riding experience, and had therefore made a ‘serious error of judgment’.

He added: ‘By positively encouraging her to ride the horse, and condoning, if not specifically instructing a trot in an open field for the first time, she was exposing her to a risk of injury from a horse which could not be controlled in other than the most benign of conditions. In my judgment, it was reasonably foreseeable that the horse would be strong and difficult to control, and in certain conditions likely to unseat a rider who was not used to managing a horse bred to race and trained to gallop.’

This case is a welcome departure from decisions over recent years when the Court decided that riding is a high risk sport which carries a risk of injury to which the rider consents. We have always taken the view that some accidents can be prevented and given the claimant’s age, strength and lack of experience of riding this type of horse the judge agreed that this was an accident waiting to happen.

Tamsin Day has expertise in equestrian related injury claims and has given training to other solicitors on such claims. She is Honorary Consultant to the Society of Equine Behaviour Consultants (England and Wales). To seek further advice call Tamsin Day on 020 8313 1300 020 8313 1300 or contact her on email

The information contained in this article is intended for general guidance only. It provides useful information but it is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice as the articles do not take into account specific circumstances. So do please Contact US for legal advice on the issues raised.