I was coming up to my favourite bit of country road, which is downhill, and because of the layout of the road I could see for about two miles ahead. As I was coming up to my favourite stretch of bends I blipped past a Ford people carrier and accelerated away. I still had a completely clear line of sight for about half a mile and then I could see two horse riders ahead of me, riding two abreast.
I slowed as I approached the horses, but as I passed them I downchanged and my bike started banging on the overrun. The horse on the inside of the two went mental, rearing up and bucking. The horse on the outside joined in and one of the horses backed into me, knocking me off my bike. At this point I was stationary with both feet on the ground. I had not killed the engine, but it was just ticking over.
The riders eventually got the horses back under control, but by this point a small army of people had gathered around, including the passengers In the Ford people carrier whose reactions seemed to vary between wanting to shout at me and wanting to kill me. The driver of the Ford Galaxy said that “the guy went past me like a bat out of hell”. The horse riders were mother and daughter, the daughter being about 15 years old.
Eventually a police officer showed up in a Land Rover, and the result was that I have been written up for “careless and inconsiderate driving”. Luckily he did not notice the “not for road use” mark stamped on my exhausts.
My insurers are not prepared to go after the horse riders’ insurers for my damaged bike. As no one was hurt, no one is suing me. My no-claims bonus is stuffed and my renewal premium has gone up from £788 to nearly £2000. Is there anything that I can do?
Not a lot really. Careless and inconsiderate driving is the correct charge to bring based on these facts. You will almost certainly be getting three points, because on your own evidence you changed down a gear near horses, on a bike with aftermarket pipes. It was foreseeable, though unfortunate, that the bike started popping and banging on the overrun. What you did directly caused the horses to lose control.
You also said that the horse rider should not be on the road if they cannot control their horses, but the truth is they did control their horses and the horses’ reaction is pretty typical. The riders’ reaction was competent and you have no action in law against the horse riders. The Highway Code is really clear: you need to take special care when overtaking and do not scare the horses by noise or sudden movement.
What is perhaps unfair about this outcome for you is that you were trying to pass carefully but you made the wrong decision to change down. That one down change is going to cost you three points and a bumped-up insurance premium.
The Highway Code also says that horses tend to ride in double file when there is a young and inexperienced horse or rider on the inside. This is exactly what the Highway Code says and you are deemed to know the Highway Code, even if you have not looked at it since you passed your test.
RiDE Magazine July 2016