sfjwzls · 2021-09-14

Charges laid in hit and run that killed horse and injured rider

A young horse named Bella was left to bleed on the side of the road and later died after a motorist hit the horse and rider and drove away.

Police announced on Thursday, April 9 that The Blue Mountains resident Martin Wickens, 46, was charged with careless driving and failing to remain at the scene. He is scheduled to appear in court in Owen Sound on May 14.

Jessica Ruppel, a show rider and coach, was riding three-year-old Bella on the 9th Concession outside of Redwing around 5:30 on Tuesday, March 31. Something she does often. She had put a deposit down on Bella and was trying her out before buying her. Monica Wolf was riding on the road with Jessica, about 15 feet in front of her. Several cars passed them with no reaction from the horses.

Ruppel said she noticed a pick-up truck coming towards them quickly and on the wrong side of the gravel road. She and Wolf moved to the side of the road as far as they could and began waving at the driver to slow down.

The driver held his speed and continued towards them, missing Wolf and colliding with the back end of Bella, causing her to fall forward on top of Ruppel.

The driver stopped his landscaping vehicle about 50 feet away from the injured horse and rider. Wolf watched as the driver and passenger got out of the vehicle, walking a little of the way toward them. Ruppel and Wolf both said they were angry at the driver, and asked him why he hadn’t moved over. The driver yelled at the two women who were riding the horses, both he and the passenger got back into the vehicle. They fled the scene.

Bella was injured and bleeding on the side of the road. Ruppel, Wolf and Bella’s breeder, Suzanne Hess, tried to keep her from standing while they waited for the vet. The vet attempted to stabilize the horse with painkillers and fluids.  But, according to Ruppel, she became more distressed. The vet then sedated her in order to turn her over. The horse’s pelvis was shattered.

Two hours after being hit, Bella was euthanized.

“My only regret,” said Hess. “Is that I trained her to stand still when traffic is around. She stood still and trusted that she was doing the right thing.”

Ruppel said she had a black eye and was bruised. She had some aches, and on the encouragement of family and friends, went to the hospital on Wednesday to be examined. She sustained no serious physical injuries.

Police are still investigating the collision.

Ruppel works with horses full-time, and often rides on the road. She and Wolf said that cars rarely slow down and move over enough to make way for a horse and rider. Often the horse and rider are sprayed with gravel and the horse gets spooked.

“We have the right of way,” said Ruppel. “Horses are allowed to be on the road.”

Hess described Bella, a Hanoverian Thoroughbred Cross, as a very curious horse, who sometimes acted more like a dog. Her show name was Royal Symphony.

“She always understood exactly what you wanted from her,” said Hess. “She was loving … she had real character and a super temperament.”

Hess said Bella was the best babysitter horse she had. When freshly weaned horses were put in the pasture, Bella took care of them, making sure they stayed in a group, acting like a “big sister.”

Bella would have turned 4 years old on June 3. She started training for riding at age three. After just nine times with a rider on her back, she was walking, trotting and cantering, according to Hess. That summer, several children rode her, and she remained calm, relaxed and quiet for the new riders.

Bella was buried at the farm where Ruppel works. Hess said one student rider is going to plant a tree with small pink flowers at the grave.

Hess said she and others will approach the local MP and mayor to ask that any road with a horse and rider pedestrian sign be designated a 50 km/h zone. She encourages others to make the same requests so that no other horses and riders are injured or killed.

“I hope Bella hasn’t died in vain,” she said.