Family’s trauma after dog attack leaves horses ‘covered in blood’

  • A rider whose horse was badly bitten and her children terrified in a dog attack wants to raise awareness of similar situations.

    Sarah Casavieille-Iacaze’s nine-year-old gelding was put down just before Christmas, six months after the dog attacked her family as they hacked out in woods near their home in Devon last Father’s Day.

    Sarah told H&H she, her husband and their two daughters are still living with the after-effects of the incident.

    “I haven’t had a full night’s sleep since,” she said.

    “The girls are absolutely terrified of dogs now, I am having flashbacks, I’ve had endless treatment for whiplash and internal bruising. My horse has been gone six weeks now and I’m still crying; it’s a huge loss to us all as he was such a special horse.”

    Sarah said she was riding her horse Jack, with her then-six-year-old daughter alongside on her own pony, while her husband was riding his bike, with their then-four-year-old daughter on the back.

    “We met this woman with a dog, not on the lead, and it looked lively,” Sarah said. “She said it didn’t like horses so we said we’d take the track to the left.

    “Later, the track forks; we went on one and my husband the other so he could video my daughter cantering. The next thing, I heard my four-year-old absolutely screaming. I shouted back and heard my husband say: ‘The dog’s loose, and it’s coming to get you’.”

    Sarah said the dog plunged down the bank separating the two tracks and “went straight for my daughter’s pony”.

    “I couldn’t get to her so I just said: ‘Drop the reins and hold on to the front of the saddle’,” Sarah said. “Luckily, Bluey was amazing.”

    But the pony reared several times to avoid the dog, Sarah’s daughter fell and the pony ran off, followed by the dog.

    “Then the dog came back,” Sarah said. “I shouted to my daughter to get behind a tree, out of the way, as the dog was determined to attack my horse.

    “Jack was bucking and rearing, the bites were horrific, then the dog went for me. He grabbed my leg and was hanging off my ankle while I was still on the horse. My daughter was in hysterics as her pony and my horse were covered in blood and I couldn’t do anything.

    “I shouted to my husband for help so he left our other daughter on the bike and ran straight down the bank to us.

    “Jack was amazing. The dog eventually pulled me off and I was underneath him, with the dog still attached, but he stayed by my side and didn’t trample me.”

    Sarah said eventually, her husband was able to force the dog to let go and its owner took it away. The family led the horses home, where they received veterinary attention and the police were called.

    After extensive treatment and rehabilitation, it appeared Jack was “slowly starting to recover”, but Sarah said he started napping when he returned to work. He was diagnosed with gastric ulcers, believed to be caused by the stress of the attack.

    “And he never came right,” she added. “He had so much treatment, but he just wasn’t coming right and he started having wobbles.

    “Then they found he had a neck lesion sitting on his spinal cord and he had to be put down two days before Christmas — I couldn’t even keep him as a companion.

    “I’d only owned him three months before the attack; I’d had him vetted and I’d been eventing and hunting him; he was absolutely fine. And everyone – the healer, the vet, the acupuncturist – all said Jack was suffering delayed-onset post-traumatic stress.”

    After a long process, the owner of the dog has now been given a conditional caution, for being in charge of a dog dangerously out of control, causing injury, and has to pay £400 to Sarah. She said she was also told by police that the dog died last autumn in a “freak accident”.

    “The whole thing was horrendous,” Sarah said. “And this – £400 doesn’t even cover the cost of putting my horse down.

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    “This has been really, really sad; it’s taken such a toll on my family. We’ve lost a wonderful horse, had a huge financial loss and had to go through such trauma for months.

    “People need to be aware of what can happen, what dogs can do if they’re not under their owners’ control, and the aftermath, because it was horrendous.

    “In this situation, people do need to go to the police but owners must keep their dogs under control in public. I want my family, friends and the public to be able to enjoy the area we live in, free from the fear of this happening again, and move on with our lives. I could not bear it if another person, animal or, in particular, a child got hurt.”

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