A British Columbia woman is still recovering from a horrific fall from her horse following an incident with a passing car. The Saanich-based rider, Tessa Connolly, was riding a horse named Jetta when she noticed a car and driver reduce speed next to her as she rode along a roadside trail.

Her first assumption was that the driver was being cautious because she was on a horse; instead, the driver intentionally began to rev the engine.

“He started backfiring…and I ended up going over [Jetta’s] shoulder, head into the ground, while she fell and her heads and knees were tucked down onto the ground,” Connolly told CHEK News.

Connolly was left with “seizing pain” and Jetta had bleeding gums and road rash. She spread the word of her accident online and locals came forward with help trying to identify the driver and car, which Connelly described as a “newer” white Chevy Corvette.

“It’s concerning. We don’t want it to happen, we want to prevent it,” said Saanich Police Insp. Damian Kowalewich, whose department opened an investigation, which is still pending.

While riders can’t control how drivers behave, especially ones with nefarious and dangerous behaviour, there are things both parties can do to help prevent such accidents.

The Horse Council British Columbia offers up a guide for drivers that include tips such as be aware when driving in rural communities that horses and riders may be present.

Other tips include things that are obvious to horse people such as don’t honk, blast loud music, or as in the case of Connelly’s bad experience, don’t rev the engine.

The Ontario Equestrian Federation also has a tip sheet for road safety that recommends:

  • riding in single file only and in the direction of traffic to avoid horses becoming spooked by oncoming vehicles
  • wearing bright, reflective clothing and equipment, proper footwear and a certified helmet
  • avoiding riding before dawn or after dusk when lighting is poor
  • crossing all roadways at right angles, and as a group, not in single file
  • obeying all traffic signs and indicating your intent to cross, turn or stop.
  • not riding horses that are prone to spooking on roadways
  • horses pulling buggies are classified as a slow-moving vehicle in Ontario and require a slow-moving vehicle sign affixed to the rear of the cart.

On the other side of the pond, the British Horse Society has kept stats on horse-and-vehicle incidents as part of its Dead Slow campaign. According to the site, in 2023 alone there were 3,383 accidents involving riders and horses and cars; 85% of these involved vehicles travelling too close and/or to fast. In all, 66 horses have died, as have three people.

It should be common sense for all: if you’re driving, pass slow and wide and be prepared to stop completely if you see the horse(s) become agitated or a rider losing control. If you’re a rider, wear an approved safety helmet and proper footwear, make yourself visible, and always be aware of your surroundings. You can even order a VisiWhip,  which not only alerts cars to your presence but when held out to your mount’s side shows drivers the safe distance at which to pass. And never, ever ride double, bareback, or at high speeds.

Let’s all be safe out there!