Guns and horses – how to keep the peace

12th November 2018

The shooting season is upon us and whilst many people are looking forward to a day of sport, horse owners may be concerned about the risk of their horses being disturbed by the noise and injuring themselves and others. We are often contacted for advice about who is entitled to shoot and what can be done when shooting interferes with the keeping and riding of horses.

The first question we ask is who is entitled to shoot, and where. Landowners or tenants may have the right to hunt any wild animal or bird on their land and may also hold sporting rights over neighbouring land. But since sporting rights can be bought, sold or leased, they may not be held by the same person that owns the land. Often a landowner sells off a portion of their estate, but reserves their sporting rights over that portion.

Where disputes do arise, an affected party may seek an injunction to curtail the sporting activities of another. They might also claim damages, if they have suffered financial loss. A court would look to balance the entitlement of one party to exercise their shooting rights against the right of the other party to the quiet use and enjoyment of their land.

The High Court in Fuller v Kitzing [2017] refused to impose a restriction on shooting within close proximity of the defendant’s property, as it would deny the claimant the benefit of their reserved sporting right.

However, it did reiterate the requirement for shooting rights to be exercised with reasonable care which should be taken at all times to minimise the risk of causing a nuisance to other parties. The High Court did restrict shooting in order to avoid it taking place in the direction of the defendant’s house, garage and outbuildings. It also required the claimant to give advance notice to the defendant of any shooting they would be doing in the vicinity of the defendant’s property.

Where horse owners are concerned about the risks posed by shooting on or near their land, they should raise their concerns with the shoot organisers in the first instance. Where the shoot organiser is informed of the risk posed by shooting in the vicinity of horses, this may assist the horse owner if things do go wrong: the other party may be more likely to be found to be in breach of their duty of care should they fail to take reasonable steps to minimise a risk about which they have been told.

As always, good neighbourly relations should be preserved if at all possible and the parties should look to find a workable solution, such as advanced notice of shoots giving the horse owner time to bring their horses in or turn them out away further away from the noise.

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