The horseman was at a display at Windsor Castle to celebrate the Queen’s jubilee. He was expected to canter around the ring in a racing style with other horses. His horse was called Sir Dancealot.
He felt that his horse was nervous and excited and said he mentioned this to the Defendant who had supplied the horse. He said he was reassured that the horse was OK. The defendant alleged they gave him the opportunity to dismount but he refused, wanting to continue to participate in the event.
He said the horse at first refused to move and then suddenly bolted around the ring out of control before unseating him.
In terms of the Animals Act 1971 Section 2 (2) and paraphrasing the exact words of the act the claimant sought to argue:
that damage was likely – due to the horse being out of control and
the likelihood of damage was due to the characteristic of the horse, which was not normally found in animals of the same species – in other words flight – or a characteristic that was not normally found except at particular times or in particular circumstances – here being the tendency to bolt when in distress or separated from other horses.
The defendant relied on the statutory defences under Section 5 (1) and (2), which excludes liability when the accident is caused wholly by the fault of the claimant. The defendant’s witnesses said that he had ridden the horse incompetently and caused his own fall.
They also said that, under 5 (2), he had voluntarily accepted the risk of damages occurring.
The defendant equestrian expert said that horses would be excitable before such an event or “on their toes” but this was normal and not an exceptional characteristic.
The Judge accepted that the horse had done nothing untoward to make the claimant fall off and the claimant must have simply lost his balance and fallen.
The Judge found that if the accident was caused by the claimant’s fall rather than by the horse then the Animals Act could not apply. Even if it had applied, he found the horse was showing the characteristics of excitement and not distress and therefore not an exceptional characteristic that could be used in citing the Animals’ Act.
He found the claimant was wholly to blame for the accident and the defendant had made out their defence under Section 5 (1). He also found he had voluntarily accepted the risk of injury and had the opportunity to dismount.
The latter point also did for the negligence claim.
So, we lost the claim.
Galton V Moorcroft Racehorse Welfare Centre,1st,2nd November 2006, Guildford CC ,DJ Batcup