A woman visiting a horse in a city park has credited him with preventing her from being seriously assaulted after a man attacked her.

Julie Bassett, 37, and her toy dog Harry from Mile Cross in Norwich, were feeding Ollie, a 15hh piebald stallion tethered in Sloughbottom Park on 4 February, when a man grabbed her from behind.

“I was bending over to put Ollie’s feed on the ground when someone grabbed me around the waist from behind and assaulted me,” explained Julie.

“I was terrified and shouting at Harry to run away because the attacker kept telling me to shut the dog up and I thought he would try and hurt him. As he attacked me, I heard the rattle of Ollie’s chain behind me I saw Ollie rear up over and tower over us – I was worried he might come down on me, but the horse obviously scared the man because he got up and ran off.”

Since the attack Julie has been left shaken. “I’m on drugs prescribed by the doctor to help me cope, but I won’t go out on my own.

“I really miss my daily visits to Ollie and will only visit him if my husband comes with me. Before all this happened my husband was very wary of Ollie, but the first time he saw him after the attack, he gave Ollie a huge cuddle and said ‘thank you’.”

Julie, who owns eight miniature Shetlands and two cobs, continues: “I don’t own Ollie, but I have been visiting everyday for nearly two years and love him to bits. When the story came out his owners came over to see how I was.

“I’m indebted to Ollie because without his intervention who knows how much worse it could have been.”

Julie’s attacker is described as white, with a scruffy and unkempt appearance, aged between 25-30. The attacker was wearing jeans with a three-quarter-length heavy cotton jacket with black trainers and black laces.

Mark Hudson, an equine behavioural expert, said: “This is a very unusual case and have never heard of this happening before.

“It is most likely that Ollie felt threatened himself, particularly as he was tethered. However, it could also be that the pair has such a strong bond, he was indeed protecting her, as it is in their instinct to protect others in their herd.”