Not always happy hacking… what to do if you have an accident

It’s been a while since I have written a blog for B&W Eventing. The rather tired excuse of ‘I’ve been busy’ really is the only one I have to give, but is very true. But with the New Year a memory it’s time to kick on and think eventing. Over the winter Wanda has been ticking over and we welcomed out new member to the team, Weenie. Weens is a former 2 star event horse on loan to me by Nicole Mills. I will be blogging more about her later.

photo courtesey baileys horse feeds

As the weather hasn’t treated us kindly our paddocks and farm tracks are a compete mess. Regretfully this has made me return to the roads in order to get Wanda fit.

As many of you know I had a nasty accident in November 2013 on Wanda when we were hacking. We were hit by an overtaking car and I was hurt quite badly. Wanda is also not that keen on road work and the whole incident has made her quite nervous. Together we try our best to look after each other but it’s so disappointing as I used to ride everywhere on her, even when I was very heavily pregnant.

The whole accident has made me very aware of road safety and I have been really well supported by Hanna Campbell, a Director and Solicitor at the legal firm HorseSolicitor. I’ve asked Hanna to share her expertise and write a brief guide of what you should do in the event of an accident. It is really worth taking the time to read and digest as from my experience it is hard to remember what to do when in shock and having to handle an upset or injured horse (let alone if you are hurt too).

For more information about Horse Solicitor visit www.horsesolicitor.co.uk

Stay safe, remember to wear your high viz and enjoy your roadwork!

X

Nikki

Horse Solicitors Guide to what to do in the event of an equine road accident

At HorseSolicitor, as specialist equine lawyers, we deal in a variety of horse related accident injury claims. The majority of the hacking related injury claims arise as a result of road traffic accidents (including hit and run untraced claims), dogs that fail to respond to recall, or scrambler bikes off-roading.

In all of the above mentioned hacking cases, the below steps should be taken immediately following the accident, to provide the rider with the best prospects of pursuing a successful claim for injury and any associated financial losses.

It goes without saying but in case of serious injury then someone needs to call 999

Even if it’s not a 999 scenario you should report the accident to the police using the 101number

Take details of any other parties involved in the accident. The more information you can get the better but you need at least their name, address and vehicle registration number (if relevant)

See it there are any witnesses who will give you their details. Here you want name, address and phone numbers.

Take photographs of the accident scene and any vehicles and animals involved. In the case of vehicles you should try to get pictures of the number plate, any damage, and its position on the road

Call HorseSolicitor (01446 794196) sooner rather than later. People are usually far more willing to admit liability for something they’ve done in the immediate aftermath than when you try to bring a claim 2 years down the line.

It is important to note that in untraced cases, where the person responsible for an accident drives off or cannot be traced, it is still possible to claim compensation if the accident results in personal injury. The vehicle does not have to hit the horse, merely frightening it through negligent driving and causing injury to rider as a result is enough. In untraced cases we do not know who the person responsible is and therefore cannot obtain their insurance details to make a claim against their insurer.

However, an organization called the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) exists to compensate victims of negligent untraced drivers (and uninsured drivers). MIB claims are subject to different rules and timescales to standard personal injury road traffic accident claims and expert advice is essential to avoid falling foul of the pitfalls.

HorseSolicitor specialises in MIB untraced driver and hit and run claims.

Types of claims that can be made to the MIB under the untraced drivers’ agreement include:

– Hit and run accidents

– Driver spooking a horse resulting in injury but failing to stop

– Objects negligently deposited on the road arising out of the use of a motor vehicle which results in injury

In all of the aforementioned cases, traced and untraced, a Claimant should keep a record of all losses incurred as a result of the accident because their claim will consist of 2 elements, general damages and special damages. General Damages relates to the compensation that a Claimant receives for their pain, suffering and loss of amenity. Special damages relates to the compensation that they will receive for their financial losses, which includes compensation for the gratuitous care that family and friends provide during the course of their rehabilitation.

By following the steps outlined you will ensure that you do not prejudice your case and that you receive the compensation that you are entitled to. Whilst it is not always possible, particularly in cases that tragically involve the euthanasia of our client’s horse, it is our job to put the Claimant back into the position that he/she would have been, had the accident not occurred. As riders ourselves we are passionate about insuring justice for injured riders.

On contacting us we will be able to offer representation on a no-win no-fee basis if we feel that there are good prospects of making a successful claim. If a Claimant is unsure as to whether or not he/she has a case they should call us on 01446 794196 and one of the team will be able to advise.

Any questions in relation to the above should be sent to hanna@horsesolicitor.co.uk

Getting on with it

After a rather flat run at Rockingham where I decided to WD before the XC (Wanda felt off colour and we just weren’t on form that day) I decided to enter my local event Little Downham. I took a less is more approach to training and kept Wanda’s workload limited to short bursts of jumping and flatwork with some hacks and cantering. Basically enjoying her and not putting myself under pressure.  

I felt really positive coming up to the event and quite excited about the opportunity to get out and compete again. My times were really late on Sunday (xc not until 6.30pm) which was a new thing for me and I was a little worried I might just be off the boil or a little nervous. To combat this I course walked on Saturday and met up with one of my sponsors Loren Causer from Lens Vanity Photography who stayed at our house and had a great night in of wine and curry. 

On competition day we had a leisurely breakfast and got Wanda scrupulously clean and polished. It was great to have someone to chat to as it really helped with my nerves; it was also a really glorious day which made things all the more cheery. 

We only live half an hour away from Little Downham and are lucky that it sits on fenland soil so is always excellent going – despite constant rain the week before. I was also met by my friend Hannah Galley and her mum. I’ve known Hannah for a few years now. She’s due to have a baby in late August so isn’t eventing but is a very keen spectator! 

Wanda is very straightforward to get ready and we were soon on board, with a plan to keep the dressage warm up minimal as it was so hot. She worked in well and had really good focus so I was pleased and quite chilled. Our test went well. It was consistent and accurate, with only a couple of things I felt could have been slightly better. Sadly I scored a disappointing 35 which I felt was a little harsh. However I am fairly good at not dwelling on dressage scores and my main aim was to focus on confident Show jumping and XC. 

Another friend, Brenning, who has a wealth of experience arrived at this point… and Wanda’s old owner, my mum and half of the children at the riding school where Wanda used to live! We had quite a fan club!!! Brenning helped put up some SJ warm up fences and I really appreciated his calm and encouraging approach. We warmed up well, and Wanda felt very much on form which was a positive boost. 

The SJ at Little Downham was proving tricky for many, with a scattering of poles down across the levels. My plan was to ride a nice round. I wasn’t too bothered about the odd pole down; I just wanted forward shots and positive riding. That was pretty much what I ended up with. However, jumping out of the second combination Wanda found the distance a little long and we had a fence down. I panicked and a brain meltdown, turning left instead of right… so time faults as well as 2 down. It was a twisty course… Honest! However, I didn’t do the whole beat myself up thing, I was actually quite pleased. We met every fence positively and band on stride and looking back at the photos I can see how much of an effort Wanda took to jump cleanly.

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At this point my nerves really kicked in. I felt like withdrawing but Hannah was great at keeping me positive and focused. We didn’t have long to get ready which wasn’t a bad thing! I had my new Lens Vanity Baselayer on and we both looked very smart in black and white.

I decided to keep the XC warm up minimal. Two solid fence jumps and an open up canter is all we needed. Again Brenning was a really calming influence and helped me focus on the positive not the negative. 

Before I had time to think I had got to the start box and was trying to turn on my hatcam while Wanda did her usual excited cobby dance. 5,4,3,2,1, go. I was determined to try and ride forward and soon got into a rhythm, in the back of my mind I just wanted a nice steady confident clear.

After about 5 fences I really felt we were in the swing of things, not fast but clear. We went through both waters and jumped a moderate step up and swung left to a plank pile skinny. I think I just didn’t ride the corner positively. Wanda just wasn’t aware of what she had to jump and we had a frustrating stop. Usually I pick up on trickier turns and trouble spots and ride accordingly but I think I lost concentration – something I will need to work on!

We turned and re jumped easily but at this point I did feel Wanda needed to be travelling a little more and she had firm riding and a touch of the whip as we went into the next fence, a downhill drop hanging log. This totally lit her and I think all she needed me to do was say go. It was like a signal to say ‘I’m not nervous, kick on and lets do this’. In the official photo taken over this fence I have my reins in one hand, sitting well back and really riding – I look like I have my mojo back. The next fence Wanda flew and we ate the rest of the course, including a couple of trickier combinations and a large ditch palisade. As I had already had the stop I experimented with our in between fence speed, being softer with my hands so Wanda could really use her neck… and I got a faster Wanda! She also jumped more boldly, out of her stride and most of all it felt easy and fun. We completed with time faults due to the stop but really pleased with ourselves, Wanda barely sweating and feeling really well. Here is hat cam footage of our round https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3oZX6I80Evk

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 So a pretty crap day on paper, not our usual dressage, fences down and a stop XC. But you know what… I feel really pleased with how we did. I’m a very driven and competitive person, I like to achieve and do as well as I can. But I’ve also had a pretty rough time personally and it was really beginning to mess up my riding. I was super anxious and not a happy person. I’ve worked through that a lot and really thought about why I want to compete as ultimately it has to be fun and rewarding or there is no point spending a fortune on it or hours away from my family. All this personal pressure had an impact on my jumping, as I’ve chatted about in previous blogs. I was just riding in a very introvert and over cautious way. This all changed on Sunday, I felt so comfortable on the second half of the XC. I got the buzz back and it was exciting again. Big lessons learnt and I do feel I have a benchmark now for riding Wanda XC. It’s taken me a few rounds to suss the best way to get her travelling and jumping boldly. I can wait to run again and I hope to get some show jumping in so I can practice going out competing and work on my nerves. 

I feel so back in the game and happy again. All thanks to my lovely horse and very supportive friends, trainers, sponsors and family. Very very blessed 🙂

Lovely photos courtesy of  Lens Vanity Photography

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A not very happy hacker…

As many of our regular readers will know Wanda and I were unfortunate enough to be involved in a car collision while we were hacking just before Christmas. Luckily neither of us suffered major injury but I had quite a lot of leg pain for some time after wards and Wanda was sore for quite a while. We were both very lucky not to have been really badly hurt. Since the accident I haven’t been keen to hack on the roads and Wanda is definitely nervous about vehicles approaching us from behind.

It’s a real shame as she has always been such a great and very calm hack, I was even hacking her at 34 weeks pregnant. Although we are based on a farm the majority of our hacking is on busy and quite narrow roads. To get off road we have to hack at least 4k to the next village. So the winter has been a tricky time for us as we have struggled with high winds, rain and vehicles!

As the eventing season approached I set about planning Wanda’s fitness regime and wanted to factor in more long hacks to strengthen and condition. Although I can hack out with Coco our groom (riding my Niece’s horse) this wasn’t always convenient and I realised I was making excuses about not hacking. ‘It’s too cold / wet / windy / I’m too busy / I need to do more schooling’ were the usual excuses I made to veil the deep thoughts of ‘I don’t want to go on the road in case we have an accident and we get hurt again’ and ‘hacking isn’t fun anymore as I makes me feel dizzy, scared and sick’. I think this echoes a lot of rider’s views about road riding today… I hear it many times on social networking sites.

Things got to a point where I really felt I needed to try to do something positive to claw back the enjoyment I had from riding Wanda out and possibly begin to get her more settled about being on the road. I wouldn’t class myself as a ‘happy hacker’ sort of rider. I spend a lot of time training but I do enjoy riding with no pressure and just enjoying my horse, this was the one thing I was missing from hacking. I just wasn’t sure how to approach my problem which was even more exasperated when we had a lorry accident on the way to BD regionals in February. At this point I knew things had to change.

Sometimes I think people are destined to meet, through one way or another and some of my closest friends I’ve met by a chance encounter. Via a friend, Liz, whom I know via Facebook, I met Ferris Jay who works with a wide range of therapies and thought she might be able to help me out.  Amongst other things Ferris works with Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). This is a simple and effective tool for clearing negative emotions, limiting beliefs, fears, phobias and trauma.  While it may sound too good to be true, I decided that it was worth having a go. I certainly couldn’t continue with the way things were.

A few weeks ago I had a Skype video chat with Ferris and outlined my situation and my worries about road riding. She asked me how I felt when I rode on the road. I could describe the feelings quite well… claustrophobic, shaky, lack of breath, panicked and like all the surfaces around me were hard and unforgiving.  No wonder Wanda felt nervous, I was incapable of riding with any form of confidence at all and at worst case froze every time a vehicle went past.

So, how does it EFT work? Following our conversation Ferris had a clear idea of the anxieties I had and we went though a really simple sequence of verbalising a statement about how I felt, then tapping on particular acupressure points whilst focusing on the issue at hand. This may seem a little too simple yea? Well I have to say it was quite a release to verbalise and say out loud the things that had been bothering me for so long; to the point I was having nightmares about them.

The session in total lasted just over an hour and although it may seem strange doing this while on Skype, it was a really good way to communicate with Ferris who is now based in Ireland… funnily enough she has lived just down the road from me for the past 5 years!

We left the conversation on a positive note and I was all set to give hacking a try again. Unfortunately my planned hack for the next day didn’t go totally to plan as I ended up with a sick child to look after, but I did get out a few days later. I didn’t ride on my own but I wanted to test myself in company then gradually remove the safety net of having another horse between me and other vehicles. However, I came home from our ride with a new found understanding about how I needed to address my emotions and stress reactions in order to support and guide Wanda. I felt more responsible in ensuring that I was going to be the confident one that would tell her that it was ok to be around cars. This sounds quite softly softly for me as most of the time I’m a very black and white thinker and tend just to get on with things. I think it is just testament to how much accidents like these can damage both your horses and your own confidence.

The knock on effect has been interesting. I think I am riding with more confidence, when I get a few nerves I think I’m able to tune into these and try to focus on banishing them. Like a conversation with nerves, something like ‘ok so I hear what you are saying but I don’t think it’s helpful so can we move on please’. I’m by no means nerve free but I have a strategy to ditch the negativity now.

I wouldn’t say that I am 100% over our accident. I’m still not keen on other road users coming near us but I think I’ve accepted that it’s more dangerous to revert to pure panic than it is to try and ride objectively and deal with the matter in hand.  I definitely have the feeling that I am there to guide and support my horse which is reassuring in its own way. I really appreciate the insight that Ferris has given me into new ways of dealing with negative feelings and stressful situations and I will be continuing to have sessions with her until the last bits of nerves are banished.  As I’ve said I think the shock of the accident will stay with me for some time to come but at least I feel now I am making tracks towards healing the stress and enjoying my horse.

More information about Ferris Jay can be found at www.ferrisjay.com

A really useful BHS site with road riding information and a section for reporting horse related road accidents and http://www.horseaccidents.org.uk

A company selling Hatcams to use out hacking and some Highvis kit http://www.thehacksafecompany.co.uk

Equisafety… suppliers of a wide range of high vis kit http://www.highvisibility.uk.com/equisafety