21 Jul 2019

Compensation claim for groom kicked in face

On 9 June, Horse and Hound reported the case of a groom who received £120,000.00 in compensation for severe facial injuries sustained while turning out two horses. Apparently the groom was inexperienced and had been asked to turn the two out in a different field from their usual one. As we all know, horses especially, tigers are lurking in strange fields and the horses became upset, with one of them pulling away, dragging the groom and one or the other kicking her in the face. The article in the magazine shows us graphically the extent of the injuries, but I am sure we can all imagine them.

Horse Solicitor took on the case and eventually the groom was awarded the 6 figure sum, but not before liability had been denied, the claim “strenuously opposed” and the Claimant groom accused of lying about or at the very least exaggerating her injuries, including being filmed by a surveillance team. Nevertheless, despite this the claim was apparently settled out of court.

Her claim was based on the fact that she had been employed by the yard in the full knowledge that she was inexperienced, but that supervision and training would be given. This did not happen and in fact, it seems that the yard owner went away on holiday only two days after her start date.

As Hanna Campbell, from Horse Solicitor points out, her client was failed twice. Not only did she not receive the training and supervision she had been promised and was entitled to, but having allowed her to be injured, the yard then refused to offer her fair compensation for her injuries and financial losses by denying liability for several years. To be fair, it may not have been the yard owner personally insisting on this; it could have been driven by her insurance company, but the end result is the same – long drawn out arguments and significantly increased costs for the yard/insurers when settlement was eventually reached, far later than it probably could have been.

Health and safety issues on yards and similar establishments such as farms (it is Farm Safety Year) are often overlooked, or seen as a nuisance. But often it is no more than using commonsense. Turning one horse out at a time may take a little longer, but it is safer. Or use two people. For the sake of a few minutes longer doing a task, think of the hours you will waste speaking to solicitors, finding documents, preparing witness statements, having to attend conferences with Counsel, to say nothing of potentially having to appear in Court at a trial. Hours and hours that could have been saved or put to better use giving more riding lessons and actually making money rather than losing it!

Another aspect of this claim is that it shows how we need to take more care to ensure that our horses have manners in the first place. Too many horses are allowed to get away with poor behaviour which could cause injury or even death if not addressed. Again, this may take time in the short term, but the time saved later when you have a horse that is easy to catch, walks in or out calmly by your side, stands quietly to be tacked up and boxes with no fuss is worth it. Admittedly there are some horses (and other livestock) that can only be and should be, handled by experienced people, but you have to ask yourself whether keeping such a horse is worthwhile? Does the average leisure rider want that much aggravation?

Most horses are willing and want to please, but they do need clear, quiet signals as to what to do and to be told when they have it right. You will never win with a horse with anger and aggression; they are too big, too strong and can do too much damage to us puny human beings. Don’t get into an argument you can’t win and if you’re not in the right frame of mind, walk away and leave it for another (calmer) day.

There is a saying “Horse, don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. But horse, walk beside me, and be my friend”

Safer that way as well!

Article written by Brenda Gilligan, ABRS Trustee