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HOW MANY MORE MUST DIE ON OUR ROADS?

Updated: May 17

A MumsHaynet Exclusive

Horse killed on UK roads in February 2024
HACKING HORROR: Kelly and her beloved mare, Bess, who died following a road accident

A traumatised mum-of-two has vowed never to ride again after a car ploughed into the back of her horse while they were out hacking – leaving her with multiple injuries and snapping her mare’s leg in two.

The horse named Bess was left in such excruciating pain following the collision the decision was taken to put her out of her misery immediately.

With the sound of gunshot still ringing in her ears, Kelly was then rushed to hospital to be treated for a broken pelvis among other injuries.

Speaking for the first time about her horse’s tragic death, Kelly Jowitt said: “The image of her standing there, sweating from pain, will haunt me forever.”

The horror accident occurred on February 24 – just weeks after Kelly’s pal Julie Fields met with British Horse Society officials to bolster a campaign for greater road safety in South Yorkshire.

“I warned people something like this would happen,” said Julie, 52. “I was proved right, but I’m absolutely devastated for Kelly and Bess.

“This could have and should have been prevented and I will vigorously continue with my campaign to try and stop anyone going through the trauma Kelly has suffered.

“How many more lives will be lost before people start to sit up and listen. Our country roads are getting more congested with cars and drivers need to be more educated at passing horses and riders on the road.

“Even the most placid of animals can be unpredictable at times. There needs to be more respect and safety awareness from motorists, but many are in too much of a hurry to simply slow down and pass widely.”

Dead Slow road safety for horse riders  campaign
MEETING OF MINDS: Campaigner Julie with British Horse Society Director of Safety Alan Hiscox

Speaking exclusively to MumsHaynet about the day that changed her life, Kelly said she had been hacking six-year-old Bess on a local road when a car smashed into the back of them, almost severing one of her horse’s hind legs.

The pair were hurled to the ground and as the terrified 17hh bay mare rolled over her, Kelly was knocked temporarily unconscious.

Despite the extent of her injuries, stricken Bess managed to get up and hobble into a nearby garden, groaning in pain.

Kelly, 28, who is still suffering from severe shock after the traumatic incident, said: “I heard a car behind me and assumed it would stop or pass us. Suddenly, there was a terrific bang and I remember being catapulted through the air before blacking out. I woke up lying on the road in excruciating pain, but I was more worried that my horse was okay.

“Poor Bess took the brunt of the accident and was pushed into the horse in front of us as she fell into the road. She managed to scramble up and hobble on three legs to a nearby garden.

“My cousin rang our yard owner and someone arrived quickly on the scene to put her out of her misery, she was in such pain there wasn’t even enough time to call a vet.

“Her hind leg was hanging by a thread and you could see the bone piercing through the skin. I’m just relieved she didn’t suffer for too long.”

Traumatised

Badly injured herself, Kelly was rushed to the nearest hospital with a shattered pelvis, a broken wrist and ring finger, and multiple cuts and bruises. She is still undergoing medical treatment and doctors have warned she will need further surgery.

Kelly, who lives with fiancée Lee in Barnsley, now says her riding days are over following the death of her beloved horse.

She said: “I won’t ever ride again. I couldn’t face getting back in the saddle after this. I was so traumatised after the accident it took me weeks just to be able to leave my bedroom.”

In a sad twist, Kelly said she had always been supportive of her pal Julie’s “tireless” campaigning to make roads safer for riders.

“She kept warning people that someone would get killed or seriously hurt and she was right. I just never expected it to be me,” said Kelly.

“My physical injuries are healing slowly, but I don’t know if the psychological ones will ever recover. I’ve been told I will need counselling.”

Bakery Manager Julie, who keeps her horses at the same yard as Kelly, said: “I’ve been petitioning our local councils for the past two years to make the roads safer for horses.

“We have very few bridleways in the area where we can hack safely and these are badly rutted and in dire condition.

“Councillors have even erected large concrete boulders at the entrances of bridleways to stop motorbikes and quads from using them and tearing up the ground. But the move is counterproductive as it’s difficult for some horses to get passed the barriers while others spook at them.”

Julie says that while Barnsley Council has been supportive of the campaign and permitted her to post ‘Pass Wide and Slow’ signs in the area, neighbouring Wakefield Council refused permission saying the signs would be “tantamount to littering.”

“Soon after they contacted me, signs went up for the local elections and to advertise a fun fair,” said Julie.

“Swans are protected by The Crown so why aren’t horses given the same status when you think what these animals have done for us.

“Millions died in the World Wars helping to protect our freedom and thousands work in service every day whether it’s the army or the mounted police force.

“The recent incident in London where two highly trained cavalry horses were injured after getting spooked and running through the streets highlights the risks.

“Even the quietest, most placid ponies and horses can take fright.”

Campaigners for road safety for horse roders
HIGHWAY CODE: Julie ( front right) and fellow campaigners remind drivers of speed limit to pass horses

Julie said that riders these days didn’t take the decision to go out hacking lightly, and most would prefer not to use roads at all, but with limited bridlepaths to ride on there is little other choice and drivers need to recognise that.

She also pointed out that the Highway Code has been updated with motorists now instructed to pass horses at 10mph only and to leave a two-metre gap.

“This is an issue which needs urgent attention,” said Julie, who runs the Shafton and South Hiendley Horse Riding Community in Barnsley.

“The number of near-misses our group’s members are reporting is getting higher and it’s really frightening. We need more warning signs on our roads.”

As well as campaigning locally, Julie is backing the British Horse Society’s national Dead Slow campaign, an initiative that was launched following an alarming rise in incidents involving vehicles and horse riders in recent years.

The BHS says 82% of incidents occur because a vehicle passed too closely to the horse, while 78% involved a vehicle passing too quickly.

Distressingly, a total of 66 horses were killed last year and 96 injured – the highest rate of equine deaths since 2018.

Alan Hiscox, Director of Safety for the British Horse Society, said: “Action is needed urgently to make every user aware of changes to the Highway Code and, critically, why it is so important to pass horses with care.

“Together with road safety partnerships, the police, and driving instructors, we can inform and raise driver awareness to stop these tragic incidents from happening.”

Alan, a former mounted police officer, has travelled all over the region to promote the Dead Slow campaign and met with Julie in February during one of his visits to Barnsley.

He said: “I’d like to thank Julie for her tireless hard work and MumsHaynet for highlighting this important safety issue.”

Injuries

Gary Blenkinsop, Wakefield Council's Service Director for Environment, Streetscene and Climate Change, said: "Our main priority is of course the safety of all road users in our district, and we are saddened to learn of this incident. 

“We consider all road safety requests very carefully. Although we cannot manage driver behaviour, we are working with partners through the Vision Zero initiative to eliminate traffic fatalities and severe injuries in the region. 

“We are also setting up the Active Travel Infrastructure Group, where those who use our roads and footpaths can help make improvements. It will include walkers, cycle groups, disability groups and horse riders. 

“Shafton and South Hiendley Horse Riding Community will be invited to join and share any concerns they have with us.

“We would welcome any other community groups to contact us if they have an interest in promoting active travel."

South Yorkshire Police are continuing to investigate the accident involving Kelly and a female driver of the car involved.

  • To find out more about the British Horse Society's Dead Slow campaign click here.

  • There is also a very active Pass Wide And Slow Facebook group here.

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