A riding instructor has urged dog-walkers to ensure they can control their pets after she broke her arm and two horses were bitten in a frightening attack.
Gemma Collison is now struggling to care for her nine-month-old baby and four-year-old son following the incident on 12 May, and has also been forced to cancel all her summer competition plans.
Both her homebred Lusitano Esperanzo and the riding school’s part-bred Lusitano Celeste were injured when a Staffordshire bull terrier broke loose on Kessingland Beach, Suffolk, where Gemma was hacking with two clients.
“We’d walked past a lady and a dog and the dog was on a lead, then 10 minutes later, as we were walking along the beach, we heard her screaming and it was obvious she had let go,” said Gemma, who is head girl at her family’s Pakefield Riding School.
“I run on the beach every day and I’ve ridden on it for years — we’ve had dogs chase us, but I’ve never had a dog attack in the manner that one did — it came straight up, teeth bared, and went in for the kill.”
Gemma said the dog initially grabbed her 16.3hh horse’s boot but she managed to smack it across the nose with her schooling whip and it let go.
It then came back and as Gemma leant down to strike it again, it sank its teeth into nine-year-old Esperanzo’s leg, which made him swerve, and Gemma fell.
“I landed on my elbow and I knew straight away I’d probably broken my arm,” she said. “Esperanzo was brilliant, he just kept circling round me even with the dog after him. I only wish one of the horses had kicked it.”
The dog also ran up to Celeste and grabbed her belly, “swinging off the floor” while attached to the horse.
Despite her injury, Gemma managed to grab the dog’s lead and shake it off.
“The lady came over and she said to me ‘Oh, I’m ever so sorry. It’s not my dog’. I said ‘I think I’ve broken my arm’ and she said ‘don’t say that’. She said ‘I can’t believe amount of blood on the dog’s mouth’. I said ‘look at my horses!’” Gemma recalled.
As Gemma checked the horses’ injuries the lady quickly walked off, but it is believed she later approached the police.
Gemma was able to hack part of the way home and then called her mother — the yard manager — for help. X-rays showed she had broken her radial head in two — while its hoped the bone will heal in six weeks, the position near the elbow could mean she will not be able to use her arm properly for six months.
“I might be able to do some winter dressage, but I won’t be able to do all the things I’ve planned — its perfect sunshine and I want to be out enjoying it,” she said. “The weekend before this, we did a ridden show and Esperanzo won his foreign breed class, was ridden champion and supreme champion.
“We planned to do the Suffolk and Norfolk [county shows] and the Lusitano breed show — it’s his first proper season as I’ve had two children in four years and now we’ll miss it.”
Esperanzo and 14-year-old Celeste both needed painkillers and antibiotics for their injuries, but are recovering well.
“Esperanzo is just turned away as he still has some swelling and Celeste is back hacking at the riding school — we’ve not had a dog chasing her yet so we don’t know how she’ll react, but we’re playing it safe and just having staff members ride her to see what she’s like and get her confidence back up.”
Gemma believes that had her horse not been wearing boots, his injuries could have been “a lot worse”.
“We have 30 horses at the riding school and at the weekends we take out rides on that beach from 9am to 4pm if the weather is good,” she said. “I’d say 90% of the people clip their dogs on leads when they see us and are very polite and we don’t have many incidents but this was horrendous.
“We were very lucky the horses behaved as well as they did. If Esperanzo had run for home with a dog chasing him there could easily have been a serious accident, he could’ve been hit by a car or anything. Fortunately I think he was worried about me and stayed with me as he’s quite a kind horse.”
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She urged dog walkers to make sure they are in control.
“That Staffie should’ve had a muzzle on and be led by someone who could handle it — the woman was in her 60s and had no chance. It was in an extender lead and its harness didn’t fit,” Gemma said.
“While most people put their dog on a lead, so many don’t and then they say ‘Oh, the dog has never seen a horse before.’ If you don’t know how the dog is going to behave, make sure you clip it on.”
A spokesman for Suffolk Police confirmed the force is continuing its inquiries into the incident.
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