Concerns as massive rise in cases where dogs scare or attack horses

  • “Worrying” new figures show dog-related incidents around horses have risen by 111% in two years.

    The British Horse Society (BHS) reported that the number of incidents involving dogs logged with the society increased from 170 in 2020 to 359 in 2022. Since 2010 there have been 2,818 incidents reported to the BHS Horse i app, including 29 equine fatalities, three human fatalities, 708 horse injuries and 739 human injuries. The incidents related to ridden and carriage driven horses, and horses in fields.

    The BHS has issued guidance intended to help dog walkers and the general public “continue to enjoy the outdoors, alongside horses, safely and considerately”.

    “Horses can be easily frightened by an over-enthusiastic dog; they are unable to distinguish between whether a dog is playing with them or attacking them, especially if the dogs are off the lead and do not have good recall. This can result in potentially fatal injuries to the horse, rider, dog and anyone in the vicinity,” said a BHS spokesman.

    “To reduce risk, it is vitally important that dog owners and riders appreciate and respect each other when out walking and hacking. The BHS strives to support this collaborative approach by releasing educational advice for dog owners and horse owners.”

    BHS safety team leader Des Payne said the society is seeing a “worrying increase” in dog-related incidents.

    “We would ask all dog owners to act responsibly around horses and if in doubt make sure your dog is on a lead. We encourage riders to follow some simple steps too, including wearing high-vis to enable other route users to see you and to always slow to a walk to pass dogs,” he said.

    “We ask all riders, and the wider public, who have experienced or witnessed an incident to log it via the BHS Horse i app. This allows us to better understand the rate of equine-related incidents and, ultimately, ensure horses remain safe, as well as those around them.”

    Kay Scott-Jarvis, founder and head coach at riding school Rockstar Equine in Staffordshire, has experienced “first-hand how critical is it that dog owners and riders support one another”.

    “Towards the end of a recent trail ride, my team were approached by three dogs at speed and no owner in sight. One dog unfortunately got hold of the hind leg of one of our ponies. In turn, a child became unseated and fell from the pony on to hard stone and gravel,” said Ms Scott-Jarvis.

    “As a dog owner and a horse owner myself it is so important that we work together, because everyone involved in these incidents are impacted in some way. It is vital we support each other and share responsibility; this way we all get to enjoy our beautiful British countryside in harmony.”

    For further advice visit: www.bhs.org.uk/dogs

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