Should dogs be allowed at equestrian events? It’s an ongoing debate which, after several incidents this summer, has left riders and spectators calling for action.

Although people with horses often have dogs as well, they can be a menace at horse trials; leaving mess, chasing horses and attacking other dogs.

One reader contacted H&H as she was “appalled” to see a dog pursuing Matthew Wright and Cossan Lad on course at Burghley (pictured) (6 September).

“It’s time something was done. A heavy fine would make people take note — this cannot keep happening,” she said.

During the Pony Club open eventing championships, a small black terrier reportedly “ran amok” for five minutes, hampering riders.

“When will a loose dog be taken as a safety issue the same as a loose horse?” asked Fran Lockyer, the mother of one rider (letters, 28 August).

“I would like to see an outright ban of dogs, but I don’t think this will happen — loose dogs can ruin the highlight of a competitor’s whole season.”

After Blenheim (13 September) footage emerged of Millie Dumas being chased in the CCI3* on Aristiek.

“It certainly affected my placing as I picked up time faults while trying to avoid it,” she told H&H. “It was very disappointing but I was lucky as my horse coped well —it could have caused a nasty fall had he been concentrating on the dog and not the fence.”

Millie added she didn’t want a ban introduced, but that she would support a fine for owners of out of control dogs.

Patricia Clifton of Blenheim, said Millie received no jumping penalties, but an adjustment was made to her time [after an appeal from Millie].

“There is no doubt that unruly dogs are a nuisance and cause headaches to officials,” she said. “We all need to think about ways we can address the issue, while still welcoming responsible owners.”

No ban considered

Last year H&H asked organisers of major horse trials whether they were considering banning dogs after an unofficial poll on the H&H forum found 63% of users were in favour of keeping dogs away from events.

Organisers said they were not planning on taking action, but urged owners to keep control and clean up.

The same answer stood when asked again this year.

Louise Harwood  riding WHITSON  during the Cross Country phase of The Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials on 8 September 2012Cross Country phase of The Blenheim Palace International Horse T“At present there are no plans to revisit this matter. However, each event can implement their own policy regarding dogs if they wish,” said a spokesman for British Eventing.

A spokesman for Burghley said that dogs are welcome “on the premise they are kept on a lead and that bags around the show ground are used to clean up after them”.

Nigel Bunter from Barbury added: “We love canine visitors, but if they were to chase a horse this can cause a serious risk, so we aim to communicate responsible ownership as loudly as possible.”

However, some events have taken a stand. The Royal County of Berkshire Show has had a no-dog policy for several years.

Simon Frere-Cook of the show said: “It just doesn’t work for dogs or visitors. We simply don’t have the space for dogs, so in interests of welfare we don’t allow them. However, we do review this policy every year.”

This news story was first published in H&H magazine on 25 September 2014