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A 111% increase in reported incidents between horse riders and dog owners in two-year period

The British Horse Society confirmed a 111% increase in reported incidents with dogs over a two-year period.

As a result, it published advice on how to pass horses safely which has been welcomed due to situations often arising where inexperienced dog owners or those unfamiliar with horses are unsure how to react around them.

It provides helpful information, designed to keep everyone safe and reduce the risks to horse riders and dog walkers, as follows:

Advice for dog walkers

  • Be confident your dog will return on command;
  • Always keep your dog on a lead or in sight;
  • Make sure your dog does not stray from the path or area where you have right of access;
  • Introduce your dog to horses and train them to maintain calm around horses;
  • Don’t allow your dog to jump up at the horse;
  • If you’re not sure how your dog will react around horses, keep them on a lead and ask them to sit and stay while the horse passes.

Advice for horse riders

  • Always slow to a walk to pass dogs;
  • Communicate with the owner if they have not seen you, or call out for an owner if a dog is loose or unaccompanied;
  • If necessary, stop to allow the owner to put their dog on a lead;
  • Give dogs a wide berth so they do not feel threatened;
  • Always wear hi vis to enable other route users to see you.

Unfortunately, loose dogs or over-excited, barking and lunging dogs can be a cause of incidents because horses are unable to distinguish between what may be playful behaviour by the dog and a dog which is intending to attack or bite the horse.

Since horses are flight animals, their instinct can be to flee to get out of danger. Dogs off the lead are then likely to give chase and this can escalate the situation.

Unfortunately, as a serious injury lawyer, I've represented a number of horse riders who've been injured when their horse has been scared by a dog, bitten or chased.  There are often life changing injuries due the fact the rider has lost balance and fallen, sometimes at speed due to the actions of the dogs and their horse’s reaction.

It's important the dog owners and handlers understand the potential risks and consequences of their dogs behaving in a way which could frighten a horse and that they take steps to ensure that their dogs are controlled and obedient around horses.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting people affected by incidents involving horses at our dedicated section on the website.