Dog owner being sued for £5m after rider was thrown from horse

DirectorFury

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https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/dog-owner-sued-5m-after-23957804

Snippet of article:
"The owner of a West Highland terrier faces a £5 million claim from a rider who now has to use a wheelchair after the dog spooked his horse on a beach. Lourens Koetsier suffered a severe spinal injury after he was thrown while on a guided ride along the beach in Pembrokeshire, Wales, in 2018.

The 63-year-old financial adviser told the High Court in London that the accident occurred because the unleashed dog, called Max, ran under the horse. He said it frightened the horse, which bucked and threw him to the ground. Koetsier, who was on holiday in Wales with his wife, is suing for up to £5 million in a claim that alleges the dog’s owner, David Clifford Thomas, should have kept him on a lead.

Thomas, who told the court that he has owned Max since he was a puppy, has denied liability, saying that there is no reason to blame his “small, elderly and gentle” Westie for the accident. Thomas said there was no requirement for Max to be on a lead while on the beach as local bylaws allow owners to let their dogs run freely.

Documents filed at the court in London state that Koetsier, who is Dutch, is an experienced horseman, having owned a pony as a child and competed as an adult. He rode Dutch warmblood sport horses from when he was a teenager until his forties. On the day of the accident Koetsier had joined a ride arranged by Nolton Stables in Haverfordwest. The route took riders along the mile-long Druidston Haven beach.

Lawyers for Koetsier said that the riders spotted Thomas’s dog running off its lead on the sand and as they began a second canter Max ran barking towards the group from behind. Koetsier’s horse, Bonfire, was stationary when the small white dog went underneath him from behind, said Matthew Chapman QC, in written submissions.

“Bonfire reacted explosively to the presence of the dog,” Chapman said. The horse’s head went down “while he jumped from the ground and flung up his hind legs in a violent and propulsive buck”. The rider was “violently propelled out of the saddle, over Bonfire and on to the ground. The claimant landed on or about the top of his head and suffered catastrophic personal injury.”
"

The rider is also suing the riding stables.

The outcome of this case is going to be interesting.

Personally, if I ever see a dog off lead on the beach I don't go any faster than a walk, but we still regularly have dogs come flying over barking and trying to get under/behind my horse. Luckily she's rock-solid with dogs and will circle to keep facing them but I've always worried about what would happen if she kicked out at a dog and injured it (am I liable?), if she kicked out at a dog and caught a human (I assume I'd be liable?), if a dog injures her (are the dog owners liable?), or if she flipped out and I was injured (my own risk, no one is liable?). It's also impossible to identify dog owners unless they swap details or unless you can follow them to their car as they leave, so even if the dog owner is liable you'd have a hell of a time getting them to actually pay.

If I'm on the beach with my dog and I see horses I always put her back on the lead - I know she has no interest in them but the riders don't know that and I don't want her caught up in an accident if another dog goes for the horse and it bolts.
 

ester

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I saw this at the weekend being in a DM reading household ;).
I find the defence that an out of control dog didn’t need to be on the lead an odd one tbh. But equally agree that I wouldn’t canter in the vicinity of loose dogs (though there has been the odd occasion one has picked up from a distance and we’ve had to go back to deliver it to its owner rather than take it the whole 5 miles with us).
Having a staffy hanging off the horses tails was probably the worst incident but even frank (who has form with dogs so not 100% trusted with them) didn’t try and kick it.
You did get quite good at identifying likely problematic dog/owner combos. It did seem that most dog owners hadn’t really considered the amount of damage they might happen to their dog, which is weird as I’d have thought it quite obvious based on size alone.
 

Alibear

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It is undoubtedly going to be an interesting case. I'm guessing it's the first time this issue has been brought to court? So possibly the outcome will set a precedent? If our horses escape or are even let out deliberately, we as owners are liable for any damage they might do. So I can see why perhaps the same should be the case for dog owners? I say this, having had 2 pug puppies run up and under our horses out hacking a few weeks back. Thankfully horses coped and stood like a rock, but the owner didn't want to get close to the horses to catch his dogs! He did in the end. No words were said as we were all just focused on controlling the situation as best we could.
That said, this could lead to dogs only being able to run off lead in designated/paid dog parks or their gardens. Is that better welfare for the dogs? Then you get to cats :D
 

Tiddlypom

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See a horse, put it on a lead. It’s quite simple really.
This.

He's also suing the riding stables. I can't see that they are at fault, any horse could have reacted the same way. The horse was stationary at the time, so the ride appears to have halted?

He's likely hedging his bets, though. He has sustained life changing injuries, so I don't blame him.
 

Ambers Echo

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I have no issue with dogs off leads. But dogs should always be under control and have good recall. Katie and I were chased by a dog. We were in walk and it came bounding over from a fair way away barking furiously and jumped up at Amber. She is good with dogs but that was too much for even her and they both spun and ran. That same woman is still allowing her dog off the lead on the field where people often ride and it still chases horses. I totally see the owner as being liable on this instance and I hope the dog owner loses the case and it's a wake up call for owners who have no control over their animals. It's no better than allowing your dog to worry sheep.
 

Ambers Echo

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It did seem that most dog owners hadn’t really considered the amount of damage they might happen to their dog, which is weird as I’d have thought it quite obvious based on size alone.
Amber and Lottie are in a field with a footpath running rthrough it. I was turning out when a man said 'will your horses be ok if my dog runs up to them?' I said "the horses will be fine but they might kick out and kill your dog so I suggest you don't let it!" He seemed very surprised. Some people are very strange.
 

stangs

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I don't expect dogs to be put on a leash around horses - if their owner knows that their dog has good recall around them. If they've got a bad history with horses or chasing vehicles/livestock in general, or if they've never met a horse, then I would think any sensible dog owner ought to leash it. Once it's leashed, I'm usually happy for owners to approach with their dog so it gets a calm introduction to horses and hopefully won't get so wound-up by them in the future.

But it does surprise me how many insensible owners there are ought there. People that will let their dog chase your bike and bite at its wheels, or who think that horses pose no danger to dogs (the amount of times I've been reassured that "don't worry, he doesn't bite!" Yes, but she might kick...), or who'll happily let their dog chase deer. I'm sure they mean well but...
 

Pinkvboots

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See a horse, put it on a lead. It’s quite simple really.
I do this if I see horses and my dog is really used to horses and has a really good recall but I don't want to risk my dog or someone else or there horses getting hurt.

You just never know what could happen so I don't risk it.

I do think a lot of dog owners are very clueless when it comes to horses, they just don't see them as a danger to there dog.
 

TPO

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The local vet walked their dogs off the lead and they were in thr field chasing in lamb ewes. Thankfully the farmer was there and no sheep were killed. He quite rightly read the riot act and reminded them that he is within his rights to shoot the dog and the fine is 40k for damage to stock. That was a small animal vet/dog owner and breeder so when they are that clueless and moronic what hope is there?

My dogs recall is (so far!) reliable, he's around my horses all the time and he's walked past fields of lambs, sheep, cattle and calves as well as seeing hares, deer and a plethora of birds/ducks/geese. He has been easy to call back and "stop" in every situation so far. However I still put him on a lead to walk past livestock. It takes 2 seconds and just removes all chance for something to go wrong.

If the riding stables were awre of the dog I can understand why the rider is suing them. They should never have taken the group off in a canter and also they should have liability insurance. Certainly be easier to claim from them than an individual I would have thought?

Also a reminder for all horse owners to have their own public liability insurance.
 

Tarragon

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I think I am hoping that he doesn't win his case. I think that where horses have to share their space with other members of the public, including places where there can be loose dogs. or children, or kite flying or whatever, then the horse owner, the dog owner, the parent and everyone, all need to be responsible for their actions. As a horse rider, I would be wary of going faster than a walk if I was aware of anything that might be a problem, and he was experienced horse rider. I think all involved in the incident share some responsibility for the accident; the dog owner should have had more control over the dog, the riding school could have seen the loose dog as a risk, the rider was apparently an experienced horse rider and could have made some different decisions based on the horse and the situation. I feel very sorry for all involved. Would a dog owner even have insurance to cover this sort of claim?
 

Amymay

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The rider was stationary at the time, Tarragon. I’m not sure what more he could have done to mitigate the situation.

I’m a dog owner. I absolutely claim my right for my dogs to be off lead in areas I deem to be safe. However if I see a horse and rider, I put them on a lead.

God forbid my actions (or lack of them) could result in such a catastrophic injury to someone else. All for the sake of 10 mins on a lead….

Would a dog owner even have insurance to cover this sort of claim?
I do.
 

Schollym

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Amber and Lottie are in a field with a footpath running rthrough it. I was turning out when a man said 'will your horses be ok if my dog runs up to them?' I said "the horses will be fine but they might kick out and kill your dog so I suggest you don't let it!" He seemed very surprised. Some people are very strange.
My welsh mountain pony was spooked by a doberman that came rushing out on to the road as my husband walked her past in hand. The following week the dog did the same thing but the pony was ready for it and gave it both barrels, never saw the dog again.
 

milliepops

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The rider was stationary at the time, Tarragon. I’m not sure what more he could have done to mitigate the situation.

.
agreed. plus i think riding your own horse, you are in perhaps a better position to predict how it will behave so you can make a sort of informed decision about moving off, dismounting, etc.
having paid for a hire horse and going on a guided ride, you're probably more included to (a) expect the horse to be familiar with that sort of event and (b) do what the ride leader suggests. so, much as i hate blame culture, i actually understand why the stables would also potentially be responsible.
 

SEL

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I've had two bad run-ins which could have ended up with me on the floor.

There's a cafe at Clent Hills in Worcs with a bridlepath running right by it. I was the back guide for a riding school hack on a pony as close to bombproof as you can get. A loose dog got on the bridlepath and was actually biting at the pony's legs. I felt the pony's anxiety rise as the dog continued to follow and various people from the cafe were trying to help (we had children on the ride who were getting upset), but none of them owned the dog and obviously its blood was up so it wasn't responding to strangers. The pony made contact twice. Finally the owner turned up and got an earful from one of the bystanders. I told her that the horse had made contact and all she said was 'well that'll teach him'. Walked off without an apology.

I used to ride over Cannock Chase all of the time and got chased by a large grey dog whilst out on my friend's welshie. The owner was obese and couldn't keep up with his dog and the welsh boy just kept spinning with his bum to it while I prayed I didn't come off (horse legs vs dog bite - wasn't sure what I was more worried about). Owner caught dog but then 20 mins or so later I found the ****** thing behind me again.

If I'd been hurt in either of those situations I'd have tried taking the dog owner to court, except I have a sneaking suspicion that responsible, insured dog owners wouldn't have let their dog loose in the first place
 

Amymay

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If a riding stables is deemed liable for an accident caused by an off lead dog belonging to a member of the public who is unconnected with them, then IMHO that will sound the death knell of escorted RS hacking on anywhere bar private land.
I agree. But I also understand the action being taken against them in terms of the injury sustained and the potential cost of care going forward for this man.
 

MiJodsR2BlinkinTite

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I think I am hoping that he doesn't win his case. I think that where horses have to share their space with other members of the public, including places where there can be loose dogs. or children, or kite flying or whatever, then the horse owner, the dog owner, the parent and everyone, all need to be responsible for their actions. As a horse rider, I would be wary of going faster than a walk if I was aware of anything that might be a problem, and he was experienced horse rider. I think all involved in the incident share some responsibility for the accident; the dog owner should have had more control over the dog, the riding school could have seen the loose dog as a risk, the rider was apparently an experienced horse rider and could have made some different decisions based on the horse and the situation. I feel very sorry for all involved. Would a dog owner even have insurance to cover this sort of claim?
^^^ Tend to agree with this.

There was an awful case a few years back (before lockdown) on a beach fairly local to me where someone's dogs spooked a horse and the rider was thrown and quite badly injured.

Eventually the owner WAS traced, and they were given the requisite slap-over-the-wrist by the local Dog Warden, but to my knowledge the rider did not instigate legal proceedings.

I totally get it that the poor guy was badly injured and feels he is due some recompense because of his "life changing" injuries. However there is a part of me that is fearful of the future implications if he DOES win his case......

Just hoping the dog owner has insurance......... if he doesn't - and doesn't have the sort of assets that could/would cover the amount being claimed, then it won't be any sort of a "victory" will it, if at the end of the day the guy cannot pay??
 

DirectorFury

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If a riding stables is deemed liable for an accident caused by an off lead dog belonging to a member of the public who is unconnected with them, then IMHO that will sound the death knell of escorted RS hacking on anywhere bar private land.
Definitely this, and it also has massive implications for individual horse owners. Say a dog attacks my horse and I fall off. The horse bolts onto a nearby road, pursued by the dog, and is hit by a car. The occupants of the car are seriously injured or killed.
Am I, as the owner of the horse and the person who lost control, liable for the damages to the car's occupants? Even though I wouldn't have lost control had an out-of-control dog not attacked my horse?

This isn't entirely a thought experiment as something similar happened locally last summer. The car didn't hit the horse but only missed it by a matter of inches and it could've easily had a very different and very tragic outcome.
 

teapot

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Short of bringing a ride to a halt and then perhaps asking riders to dismount I’m not sure what the riding school could actually be sued for? If they followed their own processes, made clients aware of hacking in public space risks etc. Though how robust anything clients sign actually is something I’ve always wondered…

The only way of guaranteeing no dogs/walkers/cyclists etc is only to offer hacking on private land with zero public access. Not many yards can offer that! But then what happens if a deer pops out? Dangerous spiral that…
 
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ester

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I agree. But I also understand the action being taken against them in terms of the injury sustained and the potential cost of care going forward for this man.
Yes I think it’s pretty standard in this sort of case for all possible insurance covered parties to be taken to court wrt to funding future care.
 

DirectorFury

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It’s why we should all have 3rd party liability @DirectorFury
I agree, but I don't think the 3PL limit on a lot of policies would cover the payout for 4 seriously injured occupants of a car. A single claim where there are huge ongoing care needs could easily top £20m. I currently have BHS Gold which has a 3PL limit of £30mil but this has prompted me to look for something with a higher limit.
 

Fransurrey

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See a horse, put it on a lead. It’s quite simple really.
Unfortunately it seems more and more of dog owners are also 'simple'.

Only two days ago a dog was lucky to live, having run under my horse's belly. I'd seen it behind us on a narrow trail, having looked round only because up ahead I could hear a dog whistle. Horse gave an explosive buck which I thankfully sat, but it must have been close - he's normally rock solid, so he mustn't have seen it. When I eventually came across the owner she put her dog on a lead immediately and said the usual, "Sorry, I hadn't seen you - he's not sure about horses." She was out of view of the incident and I did tell her he'd had a very close call, but not sure if that sank in or not. It was a narrow twisty trail so she was unlikely to see horses further than a few feet away, so why she had a young energetic pooch off lead (and far away from her) is anyone's guess. I actually hope he wins against the dog owner, so it does set a precedent, as there are way too many incidents locally, now. I had to stop hacking my mare even before Covid because of it, as our area became one of those 'dog walker' hotspots, with 6 off lead at once.
 
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canteron

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I think I am hoping that he doesn't win his case. I think that where horses have to share their space with other members of the public, including places where there can be loose dogs. or children, or kite flying or whatever, then the horse owner, the dog owner, the parent and everyone, all need to be responsible for their actions. As a horse rider, I would be wary of going faster than a walk if I was aware of anything that might be a problem, and he was experienced horse rider. I think all involved in the incident share some responsibility for the accident; the dog owner should have had more control over the dog, the riding school could have seen the loose dog as a risk, the rider was apparently an experienced horse rider and could have made some different decisions based on the horse and the situation. I feel very sorry for all involved. Would a dog owner even have insurance to cover this sort of claim?
Yes, as it will be the horses, not the dogs, that are banned from the beach.
 

BallyRoanBaubles

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A week or so ago a friend and I were riding on a bridle way when a loose collie dog ran up behind our horses ( I was leading and my friend behind) barking at the horses legs. Luckily the horses were rock solid and didnt move (we were only walking and came to a halt when the dog appeared). The owner was no where to be seen, so I called out 'call your dog please', owner finally appeared but took her 5 mins to get hold of the blooming thing by which point it had come round the front and was barking at my horse.

We took a video of it barking at us just incase one of our horses kicked it. I dread to think what could have happened if the horses werent solid.
 

tatty_v

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I’ll be interested in the outcome of this case too. We’ve noticed a big uptick in the number of off lead dogs around us when hacking - sometimes nearly a field away from their owners and clearly not under control. I wonder if a lot of inexperienced people bought puppies over lockdown and now we’re seeing the results.

We’ve also had an awful dog attack happen recently on a very well used bridleway, which has made me a lot more anxious when riding out.

This isn’t to take away from the vast majority of sensible dog owners who share the countryside perfectly well!
 
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