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For most horse owners, dogs and horses go hand in hand. Most yards have yard dogs or allow liveries to bring their dogs. Dogs are allowed at most competitions, many travel with their owners in lorries and of course there are the hounds out hunting. However, I seem to be seeing more and more stories online about near misses between dogs and horses.
Riding Accidents Out Hacking
Horses are getting ambushed out hacking where they either come across dogs with no owner in sight or dogs who are out of control and ignoring their owners attempts to get them back. Sometimes the horses stand their ground, maybe getting nipped by the dog. Other times the horse takes off in panic. Some riders have even had to resort to hitting a dog to get them off their horse. I vaguely remember a story where a rider was bitten by a dog who was being aggressive to their horse.
Not only do these incidents put the horse at risk. But also the rider, the dog, the dog owner and anyone else the horse might encounter if they spook and bolt. It is a huge risk.
Interfering In Competitions
With dogs being allowed at many competitions, it isn’t unusual for a dog to get loose and start chasing horses competing. I have lost count of how many times I have seen horses chased during the cross-country phase of eventing.
Not only does this have all the same risks as a horse out hacking, you also have the added risk of crowds of spectators. And while it isn’t a welfare issue, riders having their competition results ruined by a loose dog and possibly knocking theirs or their horse’s confidence is not ok.
I also hear of stories where owners come to get their horse in from the field to find them with puncture wounds, covered in sweat or with serious injuries caused by running in blind panic. Owners often never get to the bottom of what happened, but their vet might suspect a dog attack or a neighbour might remember seeing a dog in the field.
Keep Dogs On Leads
None of these incidents are okay and should not be happening. Current guidelines are that dogs should be kept on leads around livestock, at competitions and if your dog does not have good recall. However, with these incidents still happening, it seems that these guidelines aren’t enough.
Do We Need More?
Unfortunately, there will always be people who don’t consider the risks of letting their dog off in risky situations. And there are times when even well behaved, well trained dogs could cause and accident. But surely there is more what can be done?
Organised shows could be an easy fix of not allowing dogs in. I don’t know of any doing this yet with the general consensus being that the majority of the dogs are fine. But at least there is a fairly easily solution to that problem.
What about dogs coming across horses on their walks? Should puppy classes include some meeting animals in a controlled way similar to meeting new dogs? Should there be harsher punishments for dogs out of control in public areas? I would love to hear any of your suggestions.
Cecil & Horses
I took Cecil up to the yard on his first ever walk as a puppy because I had always had dogs who were nervous around horses and I wanted him to enjoy being at the yard with me. This worked great in that he has no fear of horses. But, much like his view on other dogs, he thinks everyone is a friend and everyone wants to play rough.
Because of this, he is still kept on the lead around horses. He can get close to them if he is calm and I am lucky to have lots of relaxed horses at my yard who aren’t too phased by his excitable behaviour. But he will not be let off until I trust that he won’t charge at their faces and if he does forget himself, he is trained enough to come away as soon as he is told.