A four-year-old Maple Ridge girl is starting her summer with her arm in a cast after a revving truck spooked her pony on 132nd Avenue recently.
Tayah Cooke has been riding for over two years but her mom, Riina Bourassa, was walking alongside her, guiding her pony, Gizmo, as the group walked along 132nd on their way to Horseman’s Park on May 11.
They were planning to meet another mother and daughter pair for a weekly social distancing gathering they looked forward to, when a passing truck revved its engine, spooking Gizmo, who threw Tayah from his back.
The little girl crashed into a wooden barrier separating the road from the trail and hurt her arm. Thankfully, that was the extent of her injuries because she was wearing the proper safety equipment.
“My daughter had on her pink safety vest from Horse Council BC that says – Pass slow and wide, please,” Bourassa said. “There was an actual safety vest underneath and she was wearing her helmet too. If she hadn’t been wearing it, she’d still be in the hospital.”
The concerned mom said she takes every precaution necessary, including having a stable pony.
“He’s pretty much bomb proof,” she said of 19-year-old Gizmo, who Tayah named. “He had never been spooked like that before.”
Bourassa said she wishes more drivers would take into account the writing on her daughter’s vest.
“I’d say maybe one-in-25 cars actually slow down when they pass us on the road,” she said. “Most of them go speeding past us and they don’t pass us wide. It’s just ridiculous.”
The busy stretch of road between 216th and 232nd streets has become known for collisions between vehicles and horses.
“Almost everyone on that street has a horse in their backyard and those horses need to be ridden and we’re close to the nicest trails in BC and all the equestrian centres and Horseman’s Park,” Bourassa said.
“How are people supposed to get to Horseman’s Park safely? They can’t. I’m scared to go on that road ever again.”
Incoming Haney Horseman Association president, Dianne Darlington, said education is key.
“We deal with new people in the community who may not expect horses and don’t know what to do when they see them,” she said, adding the incident with Tayah might well have been a mistake.
“A lot of people will see a horse and slow down to take a look, and when they speed up afterwards sometimes their engine goofs up.”
Regardless, she and many people within the organization put in a number of calls to the RCMP after the incident, asking for increased scrutiny around the 50 km/hr speed limit on that stretch of road.
“They were out there watching the road within 30 minutes,” she said, pleased with the quick response.
Moving forward, Darlington said the association might approach the city with a request to install speed bumps along 132nd Ave. where horse trails are most prevalent.
Bourassa hopes Cooke’s accident can bring some attention to the issue.
“People need to respect horse-shared roads,” she said.