Ellen Shipton

Solicitor

DATE PUBLISHED: 15 Feb 2022 LAST UPDATED: 24 May 2022

Equine Discussion: Footpath Walkers vs. Horses (or Cows)

Throughout the country many footpaths run through animal grazing fields whether they be sheep fields, horse fields or cow fields. The general attitude is that if you leave the animals alone, they will leave you alone and the majority of the time there are no issues.

Recently, a walker made a claim against a cow owner on the basis that she had been injured by a cow grazing on a footpath.  In this specific case, the claimant was walking through a cow field when she claimed to have been trampled, thrown in the air and mauled by a cow. It was later found that her leg got tangled with the cow which subsequently walked over her. The claimant was on her phone during the duration of her walk and was criticised by the judge for not paying attention to her surroundings. The claimant also had criticism in respect of the lack of signs warning walkers of cows being in the field. It was found that the farmer had adequate signage which afforded appropriate protection to walkers in the area.

Fortunately for grazing animal owners, the walker’s claim failed. This is, in particular, good news for the equestrian community especially given the amount of horses which graze on horse paths in fields. Had the walker’s claim succeeded, this would have potentially opened the floodgates for numerous unwarranted claims against animal owners.

Whilst the outcome is positive for horse owners, it is very important that owners ensure there are clear and appropriate warning signs where a footpath enters a field and also take any appropriate steps to ensure that the animals within the field do not cause issues to walkers such as ensuring that horses are settled and/or not galloping around posing a threat. Generally, horses are seen as safe and non-aggressive animals which is why they are permitted to graze footpaths however should a horse who is known to have kicked or bitten someone do so whilst grazing on a footpath then the owner could become liable. It is therefore extremely important for horse owners to manage the specific risk depending on the horse in question and the field/footpath.

In such circumstances, owners can be found liable for damages that their horse may cause even if the horse is not in their control at the time. It is therefore extremely important to take into consideration these risks when deciding where to graze your horse.

If you would like to discuss an Equine related matter, please contact Ellen Shipton on 01202 525333 or ellen.shipton@ellisjones.co.uk.

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