As the largest equine charity in the UK, The British Horse Society is not only dedicated to education, welfare, and protecting and increasing equine access, but also continually increasing the safety of horse and rider.
Since 2010 we have had 1,716 dog related incidents reported to us which regrettably includes 25 horse fatalities, 3 human fatalities, 575 horses injured alongside 526 humans injured, with an increase of incidents being reported over the last couple of years. Unfortunately, we believe these numbers maybe significantly higher as only 1 in 10 incidents are reported to us. In recent years, the BHS has become aware of a great increase in dog related incidents involving horses – not just on loose horses in fields, but also on those being ridden or driven.
We believe that educating dog owners is the best way to reduce the number of attacks, and that is why reporting dog related incidents to the BHS at horseincidents.org.uk is so important, because it means that we can raise awareness of the issue more effectively.
What we want to remind dog owners is that if they see a horse whilst they are out, they need to have their dog under control and ideally on a lead. Just because your dog is ok around horses, it does not mean that the horse will be ok. Horses are flight animals and dogs are predators. Horses are unable to distinguish between whether a dog is playing with them or attacking them.
If your dog runs to greet a horse, the horse may perceive this as a threat and will want to move quickly away, which can result in injury to either the horse or rider.
Should the worst happen, and you are attacked whilst riding, try to remain calm and protect young or vulnerable riders if you’re able to. Keep the horse’s head away from the dog and allow the horse to defend itself; you may even have to distance yourself from the dog by riding away.
Always carry a mobile phone when out riding so you can call for help if needed. Make note of any identifying details of either the dog or their owner, and if possible, take contact details from the owner in case there is need to follow up the incident. Always report any dog attack incidents to the police.
Information on dog attacks and how to prepare for any eventuality is available at www.bhs.org.uk/dog-attacks. We always encourage riders to report any incidents to horseincidents.org.uk as this allows us to have a greater understanding of the scale of the issue. This data also allows us to lobby and support Government and local authorities, as well as creating awareness of the issues and educating the general public.