Equestrian alleges driver purposefully revved engine, scaring horse and causing injuries


A Saanich woman is still reeling from her injuries, claiming a driver purposefully revved their engine while she was riding on her horse, scaring it and causing a fall.

For the last five years, Tessa Connolly has spent half of her week at a friend’s farm to spend time with her companion horse, Jetta.

“It’s something about being around horses that just makes all of the worries go away,” said Connolly.

As a result of her mental health depleting, she quickly grew a bond with Jetta, and would often ride with her along trails in rural Saanich.

“It was love at first sight,” said Connolly.

On May 30, during a routine ride on the Glendale Trail near Interurban and Quayle roads, Connolly noticed a driver slow down next to her while she was walking on the trail.

She thought the driver was being courteous with his speed, but then the driver started revving their engine.

“He started backfiring…and I ended up going over [Jetta’s] shoulder, head into the ground, while she fell and her heads and knees were tucked down onto the ground,” said Connolly.

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The fall left her with seizing pain throughout her upper body, while Jetta had bleeding gums and road rash.

Connolly could only make out the type of vehicle that drove past her, but after sharing her story online, people came forward with who they believed the suspected driver is.

“It’s concerning. We don’t want it to happen, we want to prevent it,” said Saanich Police Insp. Damian Kowalewich.

Saanich police have opened an investigation. The year of the vehicle is unclear, but Kowalewich says they’re looking to speak to the driver of a “newer” white Chevrolet Corvette.

“It could be criminal, it could be under the Motor Vehicle Act, it could be a conversation. We just don’t know at this point,” said Kowalewich.

‘I do feel it’s a prominent issue’

Connolly says this is a prominent issue of road safety, with drivers often not respecting the speed limit or the distance of vulnerable people on the road.

A claim with ICBC has been opened and the corporation says all persons are entitled to their Enhanced Accident Benefits if they sustain injuries caused by a vehicle, adding that there doesn’t need to be a collision.

However, Connolly says her claim is temporarily on hold due to a lack of witnesses and footage of the accident.

“We’re sorry to hear about the incident Ms. Connolly has described to us and the injuries she says she sustained after falling off her horse last month. We’re ready to provide support for her in the event we receive more information about the incident in question,” said ICBC in an email.

ICBC says one of its tips to drivers is to pass carefully and not to sound their horns when horseriders are near. Earlier this month, new rules kicked in requiring drivers to keep at least one metre away if the speed limit is 50 km/h and 1.5 metres if the speed limit is higher.

“We’ve heard a number of complaints,” said Pamela Harrison, co-founder of Livable Roads for Rural Saanich.

Harrison says at least 25 horseriders expressed complaints about road safety in a 2022 petition, with more than 200 comments submitted.

“Equestrians are really vulnerable…what’s really needed is for people to slow down and understand the patience you need in driving on narrow rural roads,” said Harrison.

Connolly still hasn’t been able to ride since the accident but is still visiting Jetta every week, hoping the driver will come forward.

Oli Herrera

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