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Is your dog safe around horses?

Since we moved back to the country I have been reminded once again of the importance of having control of dogs around livestock and horses. Over the years I have been lucky enough to work with many landowners who have horses and they have been kind enough to welcome us to use their outdoor riding schools for dog training purposes. This has allowed me to remind owners of the importance of keeping their dogs under control.

However, there’s been an explosion of new dog ownership this year and it seems that once again we need to remind people that the countryside is a working place and when they visit, we should respect this. Only last week I heard about a young dog that had sadly been trampled by a horse. The dog didn’t make it. Luckily for the horse rider she did. A horse rider takes many precautions when they ride out with protective hats and back braces in case of accidents, but they still must be careful when riding. It’s a long way down, if you come off! Speaking to experienced riders recently, they tell me that it doesn’t take much for a horse to be worried and if that’s a young horse it can be challenging for the owner to help them recover and this can take many months.

Many horse owners are also dog owners too and understand the lure of the wide-open spaces to allow dogs to run and have fun. They teach their young dogs how to behave around horses by introducing them carefully to steady horses. Then the relationship grows and develops slowly, and trust is built. We have all seen many horse riders with their dogs running by their side as they ride. This doesn’t happen overnight and takes months of careful management and something that I wouldn’t recommend unless you have plenty of experience.

We must be aware that what we perceive as big grassy fields, are working spaces where the farmer earns a living. That open field you choose to walk in may be next to the sheep field (many of these in lamb by now!) Around the corner, where your dog has run, is a field of cattle who will kill your dog if it runs into their safe space. As your dog goes running off into the woods, a horse rider is coming out and the horse is startled. Now the horse is a flight animal, and their instincts are to flee when threatened. If there is a rider onboard, they either hang on or fall off. If the horse cannot flee, then they buck and whatever is underneath will get hurt – the rider? the dog? You? Can you see the problem?

And what about when your dog is going crazy barking in the car? As a rider goes past, it is up to us to keep our dogs under control, not to let them bark at the horse. Please dog walking companies, consider this when you park up!

Enjoy your country walks, especially over the next few weeks. Take your dog towels to dry off your dog, your cup of coffee and you will feel so much better being out in the open. Walk with a friend and enjoy the wonderful fresh air, and even if it is raining, you will feel better for it. But make sure you have control over your dogs – here are some tips to help you:

· Keep your dog within reach – can you stop them and bring them back to your side immediately?

· If you can’t do this – consider using a long line, they shouldn’t be off lead

· Pay attention to your dog – too many dog thefts going on, and your dog may go missing

· When you see people coming, call your dog back to you and make them wait. – simple manners really.

· While you are waiting in the car, keep your dog quiet and under control so they set off in a steady way – ready to listen to you.

· Put your phone away and enjoy your walk.

· Pay attention and really see what is around.

· As soon as you see livestock, bring your dog back on lead to walk with you

· Give horse riders plenty of space – keep your dog calm, and if that’s not possible, then move out of the way.

· Get help now, we have specific livestock and horse awareness sessions available

Our training centre will be open throughout the holiday period and we look forward to welcoming dog owners to our meetings and group walks. Naturally, we will be keeping to all Government guidelines (we are Tier 2), but we know that many of you will want to be out and about with your dog, so wanted to offer people the opportunity to have some fun safely. There is also the chance for some 121 sessions with us if you are quick. Contact us through the website to book.


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