There are horses for courses and never more so than when looking for a riding expert.
In the horse world, nearly everybody thinks they are an expert and the lawyer litigating a horse-related incident must carefully consider what sort of adviser is needed.
It is safe to say for most personal injury riding accidents a Fellow of the British Horse Society (FBHS) is the proper person to advise. This is the highest qualification in the British Horse Society's (BHS) system of examinations and there are only about 42 in the UK.
The BHS has a complex system of riding qualifications and it is important to become familiar with the grades of qualification. An intermediate instructor, for example, would not usually be as well favoured in the witness box as an FBHS.
The BHS keeps a register of these experts and discloses it upon request. But beware – while the BHS has an excellent record for improving safety in the industry it does not always appear to understand legal negligence.
Most FBHSs have little understanding of the litigation process or legal analysis and the first report must often be followed up with a conference so that you can actually explore the issues.
Also consider carefully the problem of conflict of interests. With such a small pool of experts most know each other, so make sure your chosen expert has no connection with the yard or school which your client is suing, preferably before you send them the papers.
In any event, an FBHS would not do for a racing accident – the Jockey Club can help – or a carriage-driving accident or similar incident. Horsey pursuits are infinitely varied and when dealing with an unusual situation, unusual research is often required.
Like dogs, there is a breed society for most horse types, often run on a voluntarily basis, which is useful for giving a valuation in contractual disputes.
The starting point for an expert for an unusual accident must be Horse & Hound magazine – read it and study the terminology.
There are plenty of other horsey papers whose editorial staff are usually helpful. For example, if your client can no longer ride, cost out driving lessons; if a client was sold a useless dressage horse, somebody on a dressage magazine may give you the names of a selection of top dressage trainers or perhaps just reading the paper will identify them.
An expert whose mind has been directed to the issues can win or lose the case and as with most unusual types of work, great care must be taken to find the appropriate adviser.