AN angry white van driver has been jailed for ramming a horse and terrified rider in a "road rage" attack.

Father-of-five, Nadeem Hussain, 31, reversed towards university student Charlotte Watmough and her horse Merlin in a country lane after she signalled for him to slow down.

The frightened animal was pushed into a wall, panicked and reared up. Miss Watmough, who lost her stirrups, had to fight to cling on to him, Burnley Crown Court heard.

The hearing was told that after the collision, Merlin was seen by a vet who found he had suffered bruising to his fetlock. He reported the animal was nervous and jumpy. Miss Watmough, 20, was left with a sore left arm, shoulders and neck, caused by the force with which she had had to hold on to Merlin.

Hussain, of Park Road, Accrington, admitted dangerous driving last June.

He was jailed for 10 months, banned from driving for a year and must take an extended retest.

Judge Beverley Lunt told the defendent said: "You behaved like a bully. You used your vehicle to intimidate and threaten. That's like using it as a weapon.”

After the sentence, Miss Watmough, of Park Street, Haslingden, said she had been left extremely shaken by the attack.

She also called on drivers to show more respect to riders.

Miss Watmough said: “Because Merlin was rearing up, I just hung on trying to control him. I thought I was going to get trodden on or run over by the van.

"I didn't think he would stop until either I or Merlin was on the floor.

"I couldn't sleep for about a week afterwards. I just kept waking up crying and I was referred to counselling by my doctor. It still upsets me and I'm nervous when I go out riding.”

Sarah Johnston, prosecuting, said Miss Watmough described herself as an experienced rider, having ridden almost every day for 16 years.

She was wearing a specialised hat and a high visibility vest.

Miss Watmough was riding her 12-year-old horse in Back Lane, Baxenden, when a small white van come round a bend in front of her and instead of slowing down, approached her at some speed, drawing parallel with her and her horse.

Miss Johnston said Miss Watmough had put up her right hand, with her palm out flat, to signal to the driver to slow down, but he made no effort to do so and then skidded to a halt.

She had tucked Merlin in as far as possible and was effectively looking down on the van roof. At the time the horse was not frightened, as he was used to vehicles and traffic.

Hussain got out, words were exchanged and he was said to have threatened to ram the horse with his van.

The court heard he was aggressive, Miss Watmough was scared and explained all she had intended by her gesture was to invite him to slow down.

The defendant got back in his van, drove forward ten to 12 feet, slammed on his brakes and then reversed towards the horse, pushing him into a wall. The defendant then drove off.

Miss Watmough had noted Hussain's registration number and he was traced and later arrested and questioned . He accepted there had been an "altercation" but initially denied getting out of his vehicle or reversing into the horse.

Martin Hackett, for Hussain, said he accepted reversing towards the animal and rider was dangerous and likely to frighten the horse. He did not deliberately aim for the animal.

The barrister said: "This was an unpleasant incident, where the complainant and horse were put in fear."

Sentencing him Judge Lunt told the defendant he had intended to frighten the horse and rider and his actions could have had very serious consequences.

She said: “People who lose their temper and use their cars to threaten and intimidate, and where they cause fear and harm, must understand the consequences will be severe."

Following the case Miss Watmough, a former Haslingden High School pupil, said: "The ordeal really affected me. He clearly had no respect for women or animals.

"Every time we see a white van now, Merlin flinches."

Countryside campaigner and Cliviger councillor Cosima Towneley said drivers needed to show respect to other road users.

She said: "On the whole motorists are sensible, but some have no patience. Horse riders are very very vulnerable - overtaking them properly could be the different between life and death.

"Horses react, unlike a car, and people need to see them as animals."