A teenage apprentice jockey has been assaulted by a man walking his dog while out riding a horse by the gallops near the old racecourse in Lewes, West Sussex.
Dominique Webb, 19, from Hailsham was exercising her boyfriend’s horse Royal Tradition, a 17hh bay Thoroughbred gelding, when the attack took place at around 11.40am on 20 February.
Dominique was on her way back to Windmill Lodge Stables, where she works as a stablegirl for trainer Mark Hoad, when a man walking his dog objected to her riding along the track.
Despite Dominique’s protests that she had the landowner’s permission, the man launched a violent verbal attack before following her home.
According to Dominique, her assailant took hold of her horse and tried to grab her legs before she managed to escape back to the yard.”I was walking Royal back to the yard after exercise and the first thing I knew was when the man ran up behind us shouting abuse. Royal was getting frightened and threatening to lash out, so I warned the man to keep back. I was trying to stay very calm because I could feel Royal getting more and more upset.
“I walked away and got back to the yard but the man followed us for about half a mile back to the stables. The yard’s owner came out and asked him to leave, but as I came out of Royal’s stable, the man walked up and struck me in the face, leaving me bruised and battered.
“The police are taking the matter very seriously and the word has gone round the racing yards in the area to keep a lookout for this man. He has been seen onnumerous previous occasions so we believe he is local.”
Dominique’s attacker is described as 6ft plus, white, in his 50s with grey hair and a Welsh accent, accompanied by a small light brown terrier-type dog.Dominique says she is now more wary of riding out on her own since the attack.
“It’s not something you expect to happen around here,” she says. I ‘m mad about my horses – Royal is a real favourite of mine as he’s had a difficult background and it’s taken us nearly 18 months to form a close bond. The thought of someone threatening us and frightening the horses has left me pretty shaken – if it ever happens again, we’ll run a mile rather than stop to explain!”
According to Dominique, who is helping to prepare Royal Tradition for his next race in three weeks, racehorses and riders have free access about 90% of the land around the grounds of the racecourse.
“The majority of dogwalkers are courteous, but although we have had the odd incident of people shouting at us, no one has ever gone as far as attacking us.”
A spokesperson from Sussex police said: “At the moment no-one has been questioned with regards to this attack, but anyone with any information should contact Sussex police (tel: 0845 6070999) and quote: 686 of 20 February 03.”