IT was only a question of time before it happened and within seconds it did.

Shying away from a bewildered walker, the horse hurdled a hedge and unapologetically dumped its drunken rider in the mud.

"He was rolling from one side of the saddle to the other," Pc Butler said of Robert Gibbs's demeanour.

It was late one December afternoon and Butler was walking through the Waterside hamlet of Marchwood when he saw a horse galloping at such speed he feared for the safety of a man coming in the opposite direction, but just as a horrific accident seemed inevitable, it suddenly swerved, leapt a hedge and the groom gracelessly parted company.

Gibbs collared his mount but instead of accompanying it through a gate, Gibbs bizarrely tried to pull it through the hedge back on to the road.

Butler had seen enough.

"I went up to the defendant who was staggering about and he smelt strongly of liquor. He insisted on getting back onto the horse and upon going several yards, his hat fell off. And then did he."

Gibbs bent down to retrieve the hat but Butler feared he was so drunk that he would not get home safely.

"I will take you," he insisted.

New Forest Post: Marchwood

Not that Gibbs was grateful for his concern.

"He used very bad language and walked, falling against the horse. I put the horse into its stable and he then used threatening language towards me. I took him to his master's house, Captain King's, but the next morning he came to my house and said he was very sorry for what had happened."

Frank Drake was hanging gates at a house adjacent to the chapel at 3pm when he saw a horse galloping up the road from 'Noisy Town,' being beaten with a stick.

"There is a short corner in the road and rounding it, the horse fell into the hedge. I saw him come back at quarter past four on horseback and then I saw him in the field. I then heard the constable speak to the defendant who brought his horse over the hedge into the road. He was drinky.

"The constable led the horse a little way and the defendant remounted. His hat fell off and he fell off as well. I am sure the defendant was urging the horse. It had not bolted."

New Forest Post: Marchwood

But the groom's unsteadiness was disputed by local farmer Mark Payne who said he had twice walked the horse around his yard before mounting it.

"The mare was very stubborn and wanted to go home. He was going to exercise her. He was at 4.30pm as sober as he is in court today."

He was supported by another Marchwood resident in W G Roy who said he had often met Gibbs riding the horse.

"He has frequently had a battle with it. I remember this particularly one afternoon when I spoke to him and he told me the horse wanted to go home. He was treating the horse very kindly and I assisted the defendant, who had been a cavalry private, to get him past the place. But I cannot speak positively as to the date."

Gibbs denied threatening Butler but accepted that instead of walking through the gate, he had pulled the mare through the hedge.

"I could have led through it if I had liked. The mare is tall and powerful. She bolted and I went over into the field. The time was about 4.20pm. The constable threatened to take the reins which was very dangerous. I was quite sober and when I got home, the mare was quite warm, and that was all."

The Bench sitting at Lyndhurst petty sessions on January 11, 1882, then had the court cleared to ponder the charge of being drunk while in charge of a horse. When the public was re-admitted, Gibbs was told he had been convicted and fined 30 shillings with costs.