Over the stable door: Traffic accidents are causing more equine deaths

Jo Foster sorting out the tack at her stables at Menston near Leeds .
Jo Foster sorting out the tack at her stables at Menston near Leeds .
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A horse was being hacked out with two companions on an A-road in East Devon on Easter Sunday when a double-decker bus approached. It did not slow down and passed them at a dangerously close distance. One of the horses reared up in panic resulting in the reins getting caught in the bus’s wing mirror. The animal then got dragged down the road until the driver managed to stop the Stagecoach bus some 50m later.

The horse’s rider was thrown off during the incident and taken to hospital. Amazingly she was treated for just minor head injuries. The horse, petrified and in shock, was treated for wounds by a vet. This time those involved were incredibly lucky with no serious physical injuries but many are less fortunate.

Last week, the British Horse Society launched a new road safety campaign. Its statistics show that in the five years since its horse accidents website was launched, more than 2,000 incidents have been reported.

Traffic accidents involving equine fatalities have increased every year during the last decade. Numbers which will continue to rise until drivers are made to think about what’s at risk before they overtake. Many merely throw caution and common sense to the wind in a rush to pass any type of livestock on a public highway.

A few weeks ago I was helping my father move some cattle from one field to another which meant walking them 100 yards down a country lane. It was a quiet time of day, a fresh Spring morning still early enough for birdsong to break the peace of the dew dampened land.

As my father shook a bag of feed the inquisitive bullocks trampled towards him. I stood by the gateway to the new pasture ready to stop any traffic with my son Felix doing the same at the other end of the lane. Eventually my father managed to usher his bullocks out calmly and they began wandering down the lane.

Suddenly I was appalled to witness a car which had pulled up behind Felix, begin to weave its way through the bewildered herd. The driver completely ignored my son’s urgent waves to stop and seemed completely oblivious to the sudden panic he’d injected into the 15 head of cattle now heading towards me at a frenzied pace.

I could sense disaster as they galloped towards me. A busy main road awaited the bullocks at the end of the lane if they managed to pass me. I began jumping and squawking, leaping and roaring as my stick thrashed the air, trying to make the scariest sight possible to divert the harassed herd.

The driver was still stuck in their midst, his foot heavy on the accelerator. He tried beeping his horn, a noise which resulted in some of the cattle bouncing off his front bumper in a mixture of excitement and panic.

By sheer luck I got the first one turned in to the field and the rest followed leaping and bucking, their tails held aloft. I kicked the gate hard shut and stood in the middle of the road as the driver tried to swerve round me. I ran to his window to ask for a word.

“Why?” I questioned through the glass but he flicked something other than a hand in my direction.

As he raced off in a fit of carbon fumes I noticed his offside wing mirror was adrift, dangling by a single wire.

“It couldn’t happen to a nicer chap,” I shouted after him with a self-satisfied wave.