The British Horse Society, the UK’s only equine charity with a dedicated safety team, has expressed concern after a record number of dog attacks on horses were reported to the charity last month.
The charity launched horseaccidents.org.uk at the end of 2010, aware that high numbers of incidents involving equestrians were going unrecorded. The aim of the website was to gather the hard evidence and statistics needed to raise awareness of key issues faced by equestrians with those in power.
For incidents involving dogs and horses, the figures are as follows:
• More than 850 incidents have been reported since the site was launched at the end of 2010
• 39 incidents were reported during March 2015 – more than three times the number of incidents reported during the same period last year
• The previous record was 29 in May 2014 – the total for March 2015 was 35 percent higher
• There is no stereotype – reports received since the launch have identified more than 50 different breeds of dog and include horses being led, loose in field, ridden and driven.
Sheila Hardy, Senior Executive (Safety) at The British Horse Society, said: “It is very concerning to have received such a high number of reports, especially as we are only just entering what is historically the period in which we see the highest incident rates – from March until May.
“We will be monitoring the situation very carefully to see whether this is just an isolated spike, or indeed the beginning of an upward trend in the number of dog attacks on horses.
"Either way, it serves as a timely reminder to owners of both dogs and horses to take care and be considerate around each other so that everyone – walkers, riders, dogs and horses – can all get out and about and enjoy the spring weather together.”
The charity offers the following advice to dog owners:
• Socialise and try to train your dog with horses from an early age so they are not a scary or exciting thing to come across
• Ensure you have your dog under close control and have a reliable recall through training
• If you see a horse approaching, recall and keep your dog as quiet as possible in a visible but safe place
• If you do not have a sound recall, please keep your dog on a lead
Horse riders can also take a few simple precautions to help prevent an incident:
• Socialise and try to train your horse with dogs so they do not react badly to their presence
• Always slow to a walk to pass dogs, and communicate with the dog owner at the earliest opportunity; they may not have seen you – particularly if you are approaching from behind!
• Give dogs that appear nervous a wide berth so they do not feel threatened
• If necessary, stop to allow an excited dog to be caught.