Just “horsing around”? Accident or negligence?


A recent equine case highlights the difference between negligence and genuine accidents. Kim Huggins explains  

The much publicised case of Ashleigh Harris who has been awarded in excess of £3 million pounds following paralysis after being thrown from her boyfriends family horse ‘Polly Perks’, has caused debate and concern from riders, horse owners and yard owners alike over the possible flood gate effect following this litigation. 

An estimated £4billion pounds per year is spent on horses in Great Britain, with over four million people riding each year, as such, there will inevitably be some accidents.

There is, however, a great deal of confusion over the difference between a genuine accident, occurring through no fault of anyone and an accident arising from exposure by another person to an obvious risk of harm.

Burden of proof of the Claimant:

Ultimately, for any case (equine or not) to be successful, it is for the Claimant to prove, on the balance of probabilities, that;

  1. The Defendant was negligent
  2. The negligence caused the accident
  3. The accident resulted in injury and loss.

Each case turns on its own facts and it is therefore important to seek advice from a solicitor, whether you wish to bring a claim or defend a claim being made against you. 

Equine law is a complex area which rules and regulations have undergone radical change in the last decade due to the impact of European legislation and the strict interpretation of certain domestic acts by the English courts.

Case Law & Acts:

The House of Lords case of Mirvahedy v Henley (2003) set a precedent dealing with the strict liability provision under section 2(2) of the Animals Act 1971 (AA 1971) which had a big impact on the industry as a whole. It means that, even where a horse owner is not negligent in any way, they can still be held responsible for injury or damage caused by their horse.

Approaching solicitors with an understanding of horses generally as well as the legal complexities is beneficial to Claimant’s and Defendant’s alike. 

As well as exposure to claims for personal injury, disputes can also arise over horse sales and contracts of sale or loan and stud agreements which we can assist you with. In addition, we can explore any individual legal needs or business needs including the purchase of suitable land, commercial business advice, employee and employer rights and much more.


For advice on personal injury or any other litigation matters, please contact Stephen Green, Partner in our Disputes Resolution team on stephen.green@pinneytalfourd.co.uk  or call 01708 229444 for advice.  This article was written by Kim Huggins, Associate at Pinney Talfourd Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. The law may have changed since this article was published. This article is based on the law as at November 2016.


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