NEWS AND COMMENT: Lourens Koetsier, an experienced horse rider, was riding a horse provided by a business, LJP Owen, on Druidston Beach in Haverfordwest, Wales, when Max, a small, elderly and gentle West Highland terrier, ran underneath his horse, Bonfire, causing the horse, who was stationary at the time, to buck violently and throw Mr Koetsier to the ground onto his head causing catastrophic spinal injuries. He has to use a wheelchair when outside but can use a frame for short distances. He was an active 63-year-old.
Koetsier was on holiday at the time with his wife. He is suing for up to £5 million in a claim against Max’s owner who he says is liable in allowing his dog to run under his horse who was stationary at the time. He is also suing LJP Owen the business that owns the stables, Nolton Stables, for allegedly allowing the group of riders including Mr Koetsier to canter along the beach a second time after Max had been seen running off the lead.
Max is owned by David Clifford Thomas, who said that dog owners are allowed to let their dogs run free, off the lead, on Druidston beach. Further, he said that he has owned Max since he was a puppy and he denies liability saying that there is no reason to blame his “small, elderly and gentle” Westie for the accident.
Mr Koetsier is an experienced horseman. The Times reports that he has been riding since childhood when he owned a pony. And he has competed as an adult. The riding session took them on a mile long route along the beach. The riders spotted Max running off with lead as they began to canter and Max began to bark.
They turned around for a second run and Max went under Bonfire. Mr Koetsier’s barrister at court, said: “Bonfire reacted explosively to the presence of the dog”. He added: “He jumped from the ground and flung up his hind legs in a violent and propulsive buck”.
The barrister for Mr Thomas said that there was no reason for Max to be on a lead. The beach in question is regularly used by dog walkers who exercise their pets freely. And he said that Max was not aggressive and had “always been a friendly, gentle and social dog”.
A third barrister acting for LJP Owen said that Bonfire was comfortable around dogs and that the business has 6,000 customers annually. They keep dogs loose at the stables so that horses can acclimatise himself to their presence. If one of their horses was uncomfortable around dogs, they would remove them from the stables.
The case continues.
COMMENT: I feel that I need to make a comment rightly or wrongly. Judging by what has been reported, my belief is that the judge will decide that this was an accident and that the dog’s owner is not liable. If anybody is liable it will be the person in charge of the group, the employee of the stables who might have stopped the riding in order to allow Max to remove himself from the environment. They had seen Max and it might have been reasonable to judge that he might cause a problem and therefore they should stop riding until he had moved away. I don’t think Mr Thomas is liable because he was not careless and it was not foreseeable that his dog would cause the horse to buck.