Dr Debbie Marsden BSc PhD, Equine Behaviour Consultant Contact Details  
Dr Debbie Marsden, one of the world's leading experts in the field of equine behaviour
About Behaviour Problems Lessons Courses Expert Witness Work Fees

Expert Witness Work


I believe that everyone concerned in any legal dispute involving horses has the right to accessible and affordable information about horses and the horse industry where this helps to clarify the crux of the problem and reach a mutually agreeable settlement.

It is my aim to provide this information by offering solicitors the ideal ‘expert witness package’;

Click here for CV Summary Click here for Fees, Terms & Conditions


Qualifications and Experience

  • Top level academic and professional qualifications (see CV)
  • A lifetime’s practical experience of living and working with horses (over 40 years) with all the usual insights and knowledge of a ‘poacher turned gamekeeper’!
  • More than 20 years experience of expert witness work
  • Up to date and familiar with ‘real world’ due to everyday professional involvement with all sorts of horses and riders in a great variety of riding schools and stables, offering unparalleled experience of a broad spectrum of industry standards and common practices
  • Up to date on Civil Procedure Rules and Codes of Conduct on ‘Expert Witness’ matters

Prompt Professional Service


  • Just call 01899 221888 for initial informal discussion without obligation
  • Email enquiries welcome
  • Easy to read, well structured reports, in plain English with clear conclusions
  • Free ‘hotline’ telephone support throughout on-going cases
  • Caseload prioritisation allowing immediate attention when required to meet deadlines according to procedural deadlines or Court dates and 'time bar'. Most reports are completed within 4 weeks of instruction


  • NO charge for initial, informal advice regarding any potential new case
  • Site visits, if required, with travel at cost
  • I am ideally situated to cover Scotland and the North of England and happy to travel throughout Britain at 45p per mile or economy class fares
  • Capped fee structure, fixed fee and guaranteed fee limits available for reports
  • Legal Aid cases welcomed

Your Reassurance

Vetted Registers

  • UK Register of Expert Witnesses since 1993
  • Law Society of Scotland Directory of Expert Witnesses or many years.

Fully Insured

  • Third Party and full Public Liability for all horse-related work
  • Professional Indemnity including specifically for Expert Witness work


  • References available on request from solicitors who have instructed me in a variety of cases, including those representing Pursuers/Defenders, Claimants/Defendants, private individuals, insurance or other large companies


  • I meet all the usual requirements of professional confidentiality expected in this kind of work

Other Benefits


  • Many years of lecturing in science at University level and speaking at major international conferences has honed my public speaking skills, which is particularly useful when explaining ‘horsy’ facts and defending opinions with confidence in Court. I have over 20 years experience of expert withness work supported by reports offering clear, straightforward opinion with reference to and quotations from Industry Standard Guidelines and other reference material including accademic text books if necessary.


  • I have the professionalism and common sense to know ‘what I don’t know’ and the boundaries of my own area of expertise. This allows me to comment with complete authority on aspects of equestrian matters I am certain about and clearly highlight any points requiring further information or input from an alternative expert where required. I also use copies of industry standard guidelines and other reference material wherever possible to support my opinion.


  • As a completely independent individual I am free from any potential conflicts of interest which may detract from the value of comments by some other equestrian professionals. (For example, such as British Horse Society (BHS) officials when commenting on BHS Approved Establishments and BHS Qualified Instructors working at these Riding Schools or Vets when commenting on the conduct and practices of horse owners or Riding School proprietors who may also be their clients, or whose Establishments they found adequate upon their annual licensing inspection)

Customer Service

  • I aim to provide instructing solicitors with the best possible service
  • I am happy to translate ‘technical’ terms in witness statements or other reports and can provide copies of any published material, including codes of conduct and professional guidelines, which may be useful in supporting my opinion free of charge
  • I treat every case, solicitor and their client as individuals and do my very best to ensure that my reports deal fully with all of their questions, comments and any equestrian issues they express an interest in. I do not charge for written clarification or short telephone calls providing additional information in on-going cases, as I believe that if I do my job properly in the first instance there should be no need for this!
  • I aim to provide a comprehensive Expert Witness service. However, there are some horse cases where a vet, saddler, farrier, bloodstock agent or an equestrian professional with particular experience or specialised qualifications is a more appropriate kind of Expert, and where such is required, I will find one for you and give you their contact details free of charge.

Some Useful Information for Solicitors on Horse-related Accidents

Whose fault was it?

Many horse-related accidents are sadly neither predictable nor preventable. Horses are highly reactive and lively animals weighing on average ½ ton each! People can be very seriously injured or killed by the best of horses in the best of situations, through no fault of their own or anyone else.

However, many riding schools and equestrian professionals ‘get away’ with lax and at worst extremely dangerous practices for many years before the inevitable accident occurs. While to the untrained eye a horse may ‘suddenly’ leap around ‘for no reason’ resulting in serious injuries, there is always a reason for this, and I can nearly always tell you that reason, sometimes simply from a few tiny details in a precognition taken years ago. Check out the ‘Body Language Clues' Section on my ‘Behaviour Problems’ page.

What horses can and cannot do!

Did you know that the fastest racehorses in the world only get up to speeds of around 35-40 mph! The average horse walks at 4 mph, trots at 6-8 mph and canters at 9-10 mph. Most riding school horses are neither fit nor motivated enough to get into gallop. For those few that do manage this for example when startled or in pain, they are unlikely to keep galloping for any distance. You should view with scepticism tales of riding school horses doing 0-60 in a split second!. Horses are naturally designed to ‘potter’ around constantly, with the stamina to cover long distances at very slow speeds with frequent breaks to snack and snooze. The sudden sprint which often causes novice riders problems and is usually described as a ‘gallop’ or ‘bolting’ is usually just a few steps of fast canter, and often caused by the actions of a frightened or unbalanced rider, however inadvertent.

Oscar Wilde is famously reputed to have described horses as ‘creatures which are dangerous at both ends and uncomfortable in the middle’. I know quite a few people who would agree with him! However, most horses are very gentle, sensitive and highly social animals. They rarely hurt anyone on purpose and usually only leap around or kick out when startled or due to fear or pain. However some do learn to kick and bite with confidence for social reasons causing serious or even fatal injury. Details about the incident allow me to tell the difference, assisting Courts in determination of negligence and blame.

Client Interview tips

Do ask your client exactly what they told the riding school about themselves. Most people vastly overestimate their riding ability and may describe themselves to a riding school as ‘experienced’ after taking a couple of rides on a trekking pony several years ago. This can lead to their being allocated a horse which is not suitable for a beginner and the inevitable accident.

Find out exactly how the riding school assessed your client. A good riding school will follow up initial enquiries with detailed questions as to exactly what sort of riding experience any potential client claims and assess them in a safe enclosed area under strict supervision on the allocated horse before placing them in any lesson or trekking group. The results of this assessment sould be recorded on standard client registration forms. There are clear industry standard guidelines regarding Duty of Care here and delineating the responsibilities of all parties.

It may also interest you to know that it is possible for someone to have a crashing fall from a speeding horse and walk away with no more damage that a little mud on their clothes! It is also possible for a rider to slip gently off a slow moving horse and sustain serious or fatal injuries. The extent of injury in any horse related accident is entirely unrelated to the extent of any negligence which may have contributed to the accident, and it may be helpful to bear this in mind when taking on a new case.

It can be very useful to be aware of all of the above when interviewing a potential client allowing you to target your questions before embarking on any action.

There are a number of failures on the part of trekking centres and riding schools which are common causes of riding accidents. You should ask whether or not your client’s riding was assessed in an enclosed area before being taken out for a ride or trek, and whether or not this was recorded on a standard client registration form, whether or not a rear escort was provided and stayed at the rear of the ride throughout, and whether or not a gap developed between your client’s horse and others prior to their accident. Ask if the horse bucked, reared or changed gait or suddenly speeded up or suddenly stopped. Probe for the ‘body language’ details mentioned above e.g. if the horse kicked did it use a front leg or a hind leg, one hind leg or both etc. You should ask how the riding school determined which level of lesson was appropriate for the client and whether or not the client agreed to try any manouver or expressed concern about doing so or were made to do something they clearly indicated they did not want to do, resulting in a fall. There are clear industry standard guidelines on such matters.

Useful Reading
“Horse Law” by Julia MacKenzie, Barrister, published in 2001 by J A Allen, London. ISBN 0 85131 7820

How I can help

Obviously, I can provide you with all sorts of information about horses and the horse industry, including industry standard guidelines, translate jargon and comment with authority as to whether or not statements describe behaviour and practices which are possible, common, or comply with industry standard guidelines.

If you wish, I can visit an accident site, riding school or stable to assess the situation, current practices or horse where appropriate, although this is not required in many cases, as horse behaviour and condition of premises can change considerably over time. I trained veterinary inspectors of riding establishments for many years and this experience is invaluable when doing assessment visits.

The answer to the question ‘Why did the horse…..?’ can be particularly useful in apportioning blame and deciding whether any accident was indeed the result of negligence on anyone’s part or any failure to meet industry standards. This is where my particular expertise can be really useful. Tiny details about the behaviour of the horse from precognition and witness statements are often enough to enable me to answer this question with certainty. Similarly, explaining sudden and apparently bizarre behaviour in the horses involved in any dispute from tiny details in witness statements or accident book records can often lead to a clearer understanding of what actually happened and appropriate apportioning of blame in any accident.

My particular expertise in horse behaviour is also very useful when helping lawyers decide whether the Animals Act is relevant to any case and in resolving post sale disputes.

The majority of the cases I deal with involve horse-riding accidents and personal injury claims. Additionally, in conjunction with road traffic accident investigators, I can often apply what is known about the behaviour, weights and speeds of horses to clarify sketchy, muddled or conflicting statements and assist with reconstruction of road accidents involving horses. This can be particularly useful in resolving complex disputes involving more than two parties or traumatic and possibly unreliable recollections for witnesses.

I can also comment with authority on many other equestrian matters, with particular expertise in equine behaviour and training methods, stable design and construction, horse husbandry or stable management, the costs of keeping horses and employment issues including pay and conditions in the horse industry.

The equestrian industry is notoriously full of jargon and dealing with some horsy people can be quite a daunting experience! I can reduce any amount of complex jargon to plain English and explain horses and industry practices (standard and otherwise!) for you.

The combination of my professional and personal background gives me easy access to just about all areas of the equestrian industry and I will do my best to provide you with all of the information you need. If I can’t, I will find you someone who can!

Call: 01899 221888 Write to: Dr Marsden, PO Box 8776, Biggar, ML12 6WL. Email: mdmequestrian@gmail.com
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