Sunday 26 January 2020

Woman suing riding school after pony 'on its last legs' buckled under her - court hears

Stock image of a horse
Stock image of a horse

Tim Healy

A dentist claims she was injured when an unsuitable pony she had been given on her first time riding buckled under her from hunger and exhaustion.

Maria Gray (33), Saintfield Road, Belfast, told the High Court the animal, which was allegedly only suitable for a child under 14, had been worked before she got on it on a very hot day and was so hungry it kept stopping to eat grass.

She claimed the pony, called "Chancer", was 'on its last legs' when its legs buckled going downhill, throwing her and injuring her chin and wrist.

She is suing Gerard and Siobhan Feeney, trading as Feeney's Riding School, Thonabrocky, near Galway City, over the incident on July 15, 2013.

She claims they supplied her with an unsuitably small animal for a 10stone 5lb woman, 5 feet 8.5 inches in height.   She also claims she did not receive any instructions in how to ride.

The defendants deny the claims, say the pony was suitable and she was given riding instructions.

Ms Gray, a married mother-of-three, told the court she was on a pony trek as part of a hen weekend in Galway with five friends.

She told a teenage instructor she had no horse riding experience and when she was given "Chancer" she asked if the animal was strong enough to hold her.

While one of her friends was given what looked to be a proper horse, she thought her animal looked "very aged and seemed to be on its last legs". 

She felt strongly Chancer had been out earlier with some children who were finishing their riding lessons when her group arrived.   It was a very hot day in the middle of a heatwave, she said.

As the trek made its way along a road, Chancer was repeatedly stopping to eat grass on the verge, she said.

At one stage, to try to exert more control over it, Ms Gray wrapped the reins around her hands not knowing, and not having been told, that this was very dangerous because should the pony bolt, and she fall off, she would be attached to the animal.

The group did a little trotting and shortly afterwards made its way down an incline when Chancer's legs buckled throwing her on to the tarmacadam-ed ground.

She went to hospital where she received five stitches to her chin, leaving a scar.  She said it is visible to her patients because they are looking up at her when she is working on their teeth.

An injury to her wrist got worse with the result that her hand was shaking as she worked.  

She eventually had wear a splint and receive physiotherapy and was out of work for eight weeks.

Under cross-examination, she disputed she had horse riding experience from having previously been on a pony trek during a summer holiday when she was 12 or 13. 

She denied she was offered a bigger horse called "Dreamer" but had turned it down.

The case continues before Mr Justice Raymond Fullam.

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