When dogs and horses meet

Many steps can be taken to prevent conflict between horses and dogs

Many steps can be taken to prevent conflict between horses and dogs - Credit: Archant

As the warmer weather and longer days encourage longer dog walks and horse rides, The British Horse Society offers advice for keeping everyone safe when dogs and horses meet

The British Horse Society launched its accident reporting website horseaccidents.org.uk at the end of 2010, aware that high numbers of incidents involving riders were going unrecorded. The aim of the website was to gather the evidence needed to raise awareness of key issues faced by equestrians.

Since the website was launched, more than 850 incidents involving horses and dogs have been reported. There is no typical incident. Reports received identified more than 50 breeds of dog and include horses being led, loose in fields, ridden and driven. It is also a common misconception that these always involve aggressive behaviour from the dog – if an out-of-control dog runs up to a horse in any circumstances, even in play, there can be a devastating outcome if the horse takes flight.

At this time of year, more people are getting out and about to enjoy the longer days and better weather with their four-legged friends, whether that’s horses or dogs. Therefore, we expect to see a higher frequency of incidents reported during spring months. However the figure for March this year hit an all-time high with 39 incidents reported, more than three times the number reported during the same month last year.

Sheila Hardy, senior executive at the BHS, said, ‘It is very concerning to have received such a high number of reports, especially as we are only just entering 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 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.’

Precautions horse riders can take to help prevent an incident

• Socialise and train your horse with dogs so they do not react badly to their presence.

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• 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.

Advice to dog owners

• Socialise and train your dog with horses from an early age so they are not a scary or exciting thing to come across.

• Ensure dogs are under close control and have a reliable recall through training.

• If you see a horse approaching, recall and keep your dog as still as possible in a visible but safe place.

• If you do not have a sound recall, keep your dog on a lead.