Rider’s terrifying ordeal as attacking dog forces horse into the sea

A rider who was forced into the sea when an out-of-control dog attacked said she is lucky neither she nor her horse was injured.

Gemma Colling was riding Irish draught gelding Rocky on Filey Beach, Scarborough, on 13 January.

Gemma, who rides frequently on the beach, had had a canter and was walking back on a loose rein when she spotted the dog by the sea wall.

“I was aware of it; it was chasing its ball, and I went past,” Gemma told H&H.

“Next thing, I heard someone shouting for the dog. I stood still, thinking they’d come and get it, but they couldn’t get hold of it.”

The dog, which Gemma described as being a Staffordshire bull terrier type, started biting at Rocky’s back legs but as the horse is a hunter, he was not at first fazed.

“He was quite polite, and took it for a few minutes, but then must have thought ‘Hang on a minute, I don’t like this’,” Gemma said. “He started spinning, and the dog started jumping up, and going for his throat.

“He’s 16.3hh; big and tall. If I’d been on a pony, the dog would have got it.”

Gemma said the dog was intent on getting hold of Rocky; getting its paws on his shoulders. The owner was shouting at it and trying to get it back, but without success.

“As Rocky was spinning, I was thinking ‘I’ve got to get out of this’ but if I’d let him go, he’d have bolted and I didn’t want to put me, him or anyone else in that danger,” she said.

“The only thing I could do was go in the sea. I thought it might put the dog off but it kept coming, swimming up to Rocky and trying to go for his throat.

“I didn’t want to go much deeper; the waves were breaking on his saddle and he was having to swim. I thought ‘we’re in danger’. If I’d fallen off, with my boots and body protector on, I could have gone under, and we were in the North Sea, in January.

“I was terrified, and screaming at the woman: ‘Get the dog, get the dog!’”

Soon afterwards the dog, possibly tiring, started to head back towards the beach and the owner walked into the water to get it.

“If it hadn’t gone back at that point, I don’t know how it would have ended,” said Gemma. “The owner didn’t say ‘come out, I’ve got him, you’re safe’. She did say she was sorry and that her dog had never seen a horse before – but then why let him off the lead when you can see a horse coming towards you?”

In shock and very cold, Gemma found Rocky had not been hurt. She says onlookers praised her riding but said they had had to watch, terrified but helpless, as there was nothing they could do to help.

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She reported the incident to police and says they and the dog warden are dealing with it.

“But it doesn’t look like there’s much they can do,” she said. “The dog warden said all they can do is educate people – what kind of protection is that?”

A spokesman for North Yorkshire Police told H&H: “If an incident like this is taking place then we urge it to be reported to the police. It should be reported to us at the time on 999 and officers will attend. Initial enquiries will then be made to determine the exact circumstances of the incident. If we believe a crime has taken place, we will conduct an investigation [in line with] available legislation.”

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