‘In the zone to kill’: dogs tried to ‘take down’ pony in frightening beach attack

  • A riding school owner seriously injured in a terrifying dog attack has been left with “mental scars” from watching dogs try and “take down” her pony.

    Helen Hart-Mitchell, of Daffodil Paddock Riding Centre in Kent, was on the beach with 11.2hh Milo and 12.2hh Billy, and 12-year-old riders Jasmine and Anabel, when a dog appeared and started “nipping” at Billy’s heels.

    “A second dog appeared and ran towards Jasmine and Milo. It grabbed Jasmine’s foot and started viciously shaking it,” Helen told H&H. “The other dog then came away from Billy and started joining in.

    “I grabbed Milo’s reins and told Jasmine to jump off then the next thing the dogs were jumping at Milo’s face and throat.”

    Helen said the owners of the part-bred Staffordshire-type dogs appeared but “just stood in shock”.

    “The dogs were still attacking, they wanted to bring Milo down,” she said. “I shouted at the owners to come and get their dogs and the man got hold of the less vicious one, but the second one was in the zone to kill.

    **Warning: graphic image**

    “I still had hold of Milo’s reins and he reared up and came down on my face. I lost my vision in my right eye and remember thinking I was going to lose consciousness. I touched my eye and all I could see was blood.”

    Helen said the man eventually managed to get hold of the other dog and the police were called. Helen was taken by ambulance to hospital with a suspected broken eye socket while Anabel’s mum Lauren, whom Billy had also trodden on, drove the ponies back to the riding school.

    “A vet was called for Milo who needed staples for lacerations to his face and neck, and some wounds were left open to drain. He has been left with a droopy lip due to nerve and muscle damage,” said Helen.

    “I was taken for a CT scan but only had bad bruising. The doctors said I was very lucky not to have broken my eye socket. I think the fact Milo wasn’t wearing shoes saved the day.”

    Helen is still suffering with peripheral vision issues and is dealing with the “mental scars”.

    “I’ve had horses all my life and never experienced anything like that. It’s every rider’s worst nightmare – it was terrifying. Jasmine and Anabel’s mums are traumatised after seeing that happen to their children,” she said.

    “We have so much fun on the beach and the ponies love it, but as the riding school is due to reopen and because horses aren’t allowed on the beach during the busy summer season I feel relieved to have an excuse not to go back at the moment. This has put the fear into me.”

    Helen said Milo has become afraid of dogs since the incident.

    “I have two spaniels that used to greet Milo and they would touch noses but now if the dogs are on the yard he runs to the back of the stable, it’s really sad,” she said. “Hopefully time can be a great healer.”

    Helen would like dog owners to be more aware of horses on the beach and to consider using a lead.

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    “I don’t know what the answer is to stop these things happening when a dog instinct kicks in like that. I know it has been hard with lockdown; more people have bought dogs and maybe not been able to get them out to training but some dogs should be on a lead, or muzzled,” she said.

    “You read about these incidents and don’t think it will ever happen to you, but sadly it was us on this day. If one person reads this and it makes them put their dog on a lead then it will be one less dog for us to worry about.”

    A spokesman for Kent Police told H&H both parties have been spoken to and an investigation is ongoing.

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