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Loose dog spooking my horse, horse is badly injured

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  • Loose dog spooking my horse, horse is badly injured

    Mondays aren't my favourite day to begin with and after yesterday, I hate them even more. I rode my horse first thing in the morning before work. I was in the saddle by 6:30am. My barn's outdoor backs up to a network of trails where leashed dogs are allowed, though many people (including myself) allow their dogs off-leash as long as they are friendly and have a good recall. It's kind of an unspoken agreement between dog owners that if you come across a dog on a leash and your dog is off-leash, you should call your dog back and put it on a leash also to prevent an issue. Everyone seems to operate in harmony this way. I have gone on many trail rides with my horse (and my dog) and never had a problem before.

    Anyway, I was in the outdoor having a good ride, until we got down to the far end of the ring, which borders the woods/trails. On the other side of the fence was a dog, about 50 lbs. My horse paused mid-stride for half a second and it "pounced" down into the play stance, with its hind end up in the air and the front legs on the ground. It scared both me and my horse because neither of us were expecting anything to be there. My horse spun and bolted. I took a major digger because my saddle slipped to the side and I fell hard onto my lower back/ribs. My horse panicked from the dog and the saddle slipping around her belly, and took off. The ring has no fence around it and she ran up past the barn and onto the main road during rush hour traffic. She slipped and fell and gave herself some pretty horrific road rash. A few spots are almost down to the bone. My saddle got absolutely trashed...it is a beautiful Stubben Edelweiss that I bought brand new two years ago. Both stirrup leathers came off and I don't even know where one of them went. I found the other one in the middle of the road. My horse ran a mile down the road and then was caught by a kind horsey person who jumped out of their car and by some miracle caught her.

    I had to call the emergency vet out at 7am. She cleaned all of my horse's wounds and took lots of x-rays to make sure she didn't fracture anything. My horse is on stall rest for at least a week. My vet bill is going to be almost as painful as my ribs are today...thank goodness she is insured. We were supposed to ride in a clinic at Equine Affaire at the end of this week but I am now unable to go. I also think I aged about ten years in one day. My nerves are shot.

    The dog that was in the woods belongs to the neighbour and has a reputation for getting loose and into trouble. My BO recommended I call the town's animal control and report it, but I feel kind of bad doing that since I allow my own dog to be loose in the same area, though NEVER without me right there. She has a fenced in yard and is not allowed to just go gallivanting through the trails and woods by herself, which is what this dog was doing, and has done on numerous occasions before. Would me reporting the dog to the ACO be totally two-faced and hypocritical?

    Custom Painted Saddle Pads and Ornaments

  • #2
    that's too bad, nasty.

    I don't know if you want to report the dog- I, and most people, and even the law, consider the two situations: dog off leash but in the company of and under the control of owner, vs. dog running at large by itself, to be very different situations. In our local "off leash allowed" dog park, if a dog was running around by itself people would feel motivated to do something about it, vs. dogs walking with their people is normal and acceptable. The owner is there to control the dog vs. not.

    Really, though, the problem was your animal spooked and bolted, and your saddle slipped. If it was a deer or other non-dog animal popping up and causing the spook, most likely you'd be thinking your horse's behavior was the problem, though, wouldn't you? or perhaps you'd blame the saddle, which shouldn't have slipped like that.


    • #3
      Have to disagree. Call neighbor, let him know what happened. Do not feel you must say "I let my dog off leash out there too". That is not part of this story! Hopefully neighbor will man up and pay for injuries/vet/saddle. If he hesitates, call animal control and report. The dog has a reputation for getting out and into trouble - owner MUST know this, and should have taken action to prevent this. If, even after AC gets involved, he still hesitates, get a lawyer. What if the dog came onto your property and spooked your horse? Or ran him into a fence and he tragicly broke a leg?


      • #4
        Yes, quite frankly it would be hypocritical. If you decide you want to report the neighbor then IMO you should never allow your dog off leash in that area or any area where they are not allowed off leash.

        It is not like the dog was being aggressive or even playfully chasing the horse. It sounds like he was actually play bowing. It was his presence and movement that caused the spook. It also sounds like if a deer was there instead of the dog and the deer flipped up her tail and turned away your same accident likely would have occurred. It also sounds like if the owner was near the dog and dog was allowed close to the ring things might not have happened any differently.

        It is awful what happened to you and your horse. But indirectly you likely contributed to the problem by not having properly checked your girth. If your girth was properly tightened would you have hit the dirt at all? If your girth was fully tight and your saddle still slipped you may need to assess the need for a breast plate.

        I don't mean to be harsh. I am just pointing out that riding horses is risky and that we can't bubble wrap ourselves or our horses. It isn't fair if you ignore the leash laws and then report the neighbor who also ignores the leash laws just to a slightly different degree. You both are still ignoring the leash law.

        Hope you and your horse feel better soon.
        Oh, well, clearly you're not thoroughly indoctrinated to COTH yet, because finger pointing and drawing conclusions are the cornerstones of this great online community. (Tidy Rabbit)


        • #5
          Firstly, I hope that you and your horse recover well and quickly!

          Next, I think you'd be far ahead by contacting the owner yourself. Let them know what happened. They may be totally mortified an offer to help pay for some vet expenses even. You definitely WON'T get that if you involve AC.

          Lastly, based on your description, this was a spook accident. Not a dog attack. I've actually been attacked by a dog on horseback without so much damage (thank God!) but there is a difference. It sounds to me like your horse simply spooked. The dog wasn't being aggressive.

          Yes, maybe the dog shouldn't be out. But we have to know that when we are riding a flight animal that they are liable to spook at a deer, a turkey, a dog, a person, a loud noise, a horse, etc. Unless the dog came after you aggressively (which from your OP wasn't the case) I wouldn't report given that you do the same thing. Even if the dog was under control of the owner nearby, I suspect you would've had the same outcome.

          Feel better soon!
          A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

          Might be a reason, never an excuse...


          • #6
            I'm sorry about your accident and I hope you and your horse are better soon.

            But no, in your place I wouldn't report the dog to Animal Control. I'd feel differently if the dog did anything aggressive, but he only play-bowed. He didn't even (I guess) chase your horse once she got loose from you. Are you sure there's even a leash law in your area? Outside of the city limits around here, there's not - the dog would have to do something harassing or destructive for AC to act.

            I once nearly came off because I was riding down the long side of the ring and the BO's husband happened to appear at the far end. He didn't play-bow but his presence sure spooked the crap out of my schoolie, who did a 180. I stayed on - barely - but if my girth had been a little loose I probably wouldn't have.
            I'm not ignoring the rules. I'm interpreting the rules. Tamal, The Great British Baking Show


            • #7
              Sorry about your horse, I clicked through and saw the pictures on your blog. Big fan of Derma-Gel for wound care. It works really nicely.Don't have much to add other than that; it sounds like your horse has been in those woods and exposed to dogs there... and that this particular time, for whatever reason, that didn't matter a whit... Best wishes for a speedy recovery to you both... and may those scuffs and dings on the saddle be a tale well-told someday.
              Nudging "Almost Heaven" a little closer still...


              • #8
                You can call the owner, but you have some problems.

                From your story, "On the other side of the fence was a dog, about 50 lbs. My horse paused mid-stride for half a second and it "pounced" down into the play stance, with its hind end up in the air and the front legs on the ground. It scared both me and my horse because neither of us were expecting anything to be there."

                Did the dog ever cross the fence? If so it was a "trespass" and the owner might well be responsible for the consequences. If it did not then, assuming no other basis for liability, the dog's owner would not be responsible.

                Another problem is that, from your story, the dog was not acting aggressively, but playfully. The horse might not have appreciated the difference, but it can mean a lot when talking about liability.

                You didn't have your horse under control. We've all had "spooks" and sometimes we come off and sometimes we don't. In any event the rider is on the horse's back and has primary responsibility for control of the horse.

                Lastly, you didn't have your saddle properly cinched up. If it rotated as you came off and that rotated saddle was the cause of the horse running into traffic then the responsibility is yours. Of course I don't know that you didn't have the saddle properly cinched, but the dog owner's lawyer might well use this as a defense against liability (it would be a species of "contributory negligence."

                I'm sorry to hear of your accident and injury, but I'm not at all sure that the dog's owner will have to answer for the loss.

                Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão


                • #9
                  I'm really sorry about your accident, but I agree with the other posters that say getting AC involved would hypocritical. Spooking is annoying and sometimes dangerous thing that all horses do, as riders we have to be ready for it at all times and accept that sometimes when horses spook their riders get hurt. It is a risk we accept when we mount a horse.

                  Another responsibilty we have as riders is to be sure our girths are tight. If your girth was tight and the saddle still slipped, I would check the fit of the saddle. Again, sorry that this happened to you but the dog is not to blame for the saddle slip and resulting fall.
                  Impossible is nothing.


                  • #10
                    Problem #1
                    The dog was not 'trespassing'. The dog was in the woods on the other side of the fence

                    Problem #2
                    The exact same dog on a leash on the other side of the exact same fence could have done the exact same thing, and the end result would have been exactly the same, too. Loose or not, that's not relevant to the situation.

                    Problem #3
                    The saddle rolling is your fault, and no one else's. Had that not happened...you wouldn't be posting this today b/c chances are darn good you'd have sat the booger and been fine.

                    I'm really sorry that you're hurt, truly I am. But I don't see that there's anyone to blame but bad luck.


                    • Original Poster

                      I am not looking for the owner to pay any bills, but I think they should take the responsibility for their dog being out. An apology would be nice. The dog wasn't on farm property...probably less than a foot from the line, though. He didn't chase us, nor did he seem aggressive. There have been deer back there on a few occasions and we run into deer and dogs on the trails frequently. For whatever reason, this dog just really set my horse off.

                      I thought my girth was tight - I did check it, but I was put so off-balance when my horse spun that I think my weight just pulled it around to the side. It could have been tighter, I'm sure.

                      I accept that my horse is young and can be spooky, but this accident really sucked and it took a lot out of me. To be honest, I am not even interested in riding right now. I am really sad that this happened just a few days before we were supposed to go to EA, which we've been working hard toward for a long time. If the dog had jumped into the ring or chased us, then I wouldn't hesitate calling animal control, but the fact that he didn't do that or seem like he intended harm is what is giving me pause. As a dog owner, though, if my dog was somehow getting out and causing trouble, I would like to know so I could prevent future issues, and I have heard from other boarders that he has been back there and spooked horses before. This is why I would consider reporting it. I don't know the neighbour's name or phone number and their house is fenced in with a gate so it's not like I can just walk up and knock on the door.

                      Custom Painted Saddle Pads and Ornaments


                      • #12
                        I would contact the owner and encourage them to contact their insurance company. You may or may not be able to collect but you should inform them. Don't think animal control should be contacted nor would they care.
                        McDowell Racing Stables

                        Home Away From Home


                        • #13
                          Over the years I've had a lot of troubles with a neighbor who refused to fence in his dogs. Talked to them many times, played 'nice neighbor,' but no dice. Dogs just kept coming. I love dogs, but they should not be running at large.

                          One day their dog came over and ran through my barn area, harassing two critical layup horses (one with a broken pelvis, one with internal pigeon fever) severely. Then the dog mauled my rooster. I took photos of the bloody rooster, blew them up to 8x10 size, took photos of the two horses and blew them up to 8x10, and obtained a letter from the vet regarding the stress and potential damage to the horses. Then filed a report with Animal Control and asked them to press charges. Packaged all this up and delivered it to neighbors with a very firm letter documenting everything in detail and stating that they were now officially on notice regarding their dog and future incidents would result in criminal and civil action/liability.

                          MTA: Didn't see that the dog was on his own property. That changes things. When I had my neighbor issue, AC said nothing could be done as long as the dog was within the confines of his 20 acre farm. In your case, you may be out of luck. Tighten that girth next time!


                          • #14
                            I would say you should not call animal control. Guilherme laid out the circumstances well, and I agree with that characterization. I think that this simply falls into the "accidents happen with horses" category.
                            You also have to think about the unintended consquences of "reporting" to AC. Could the entire area then become one where AC regularly patrols and issues tickets to off leash dogs...yours included? Is this an area where the network of trails might suddenly become off limits to horses, to avoid this possibility in the future?
                            I hope that your horse recovers quickly.


                            • Original Poster

                              To clarify, I was riding my horse in the outdoor ring on my barn owner's property. The dog, who belongs to the neighbour, was on the edge of the barn's property in the woods, which is a town-owned park. He was not on his owner's property at the time, so I don't think their homeowner's insurance would do anything about this.

                              I also think there is a big difference between a dog running loose unsupervised, and a well-trained dog with a solid recall off-leash with the owner close behind.

                              Custom Painted Saddle Pads and Ornaments


                              • #16
                                Your homeowners insurance does pay for damage your animals cause even when it isn't on your property. I board and specifically asked if I would be covered if my horse got loose at the boarding barn and ran into traffic and injured someone and the answer was yes. I realize all policies aren't the same however. That is the dog owner's problem to figure out.
                                McDowell Racing Stables

                                Home Away From Home


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Starhouse View Post
                                  To clarify, I was riding my horse in the outdoor ring on my barn owner's property. The dog, who belongs to the neighbour, was on the edge of the barn's property in the woods, which is a town-owned park. He was not on his owner's property at the time, so I don't think their homeowner's insurance would do anything about this.

                                  I also think there is a big difference between a dog running loose unsupervised, and a well-trained dog with a solid recall off-leash with the owner close behind.
                                  In TN there is no State requirement that a dog be on-leash. There is a requirement that the dog be "under control." I actually had to "educate" one of our ACOs who cited a lady who was riding a bike with her dog running alongside. I showed him the statute and he agreed that the citation was wrongfully issued.

                                  The statute also says that the owner of a dog is liable for the damage they cause. If the OP were in TN she might actually have a valid claim as the dog was loose with no human control in the immediate area. But she'd still have the problems of control, tack adjustment, etc. This would be really interesting in front of one of our local judges 'cause he's been riding, breeding, and training QHs for about 40 years.

                                  I've really got no sympathy for people who allow their dogs to run at large. That said, riders have to be ready for the unexpected.

                                  I hope the OP and her horse heal up quickly and fully.

                                  Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão


                                  • #18
                                    Perhaps see about adding a fence to the ring? I'm sure that is expensive but how much is your vet bill going to be? If there had been a fence with a close gate perhaps the horse wouldn't have made it to the road.

                                    Sorry about your accident. That really sucks.


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Starhouse View Post
                                      To clarify, I was riding my horse in the outdoor ring on my barn owner's property. The dog, who belongs to the neighbour, was on the edge of the barn's property in the woods, which is a town-owned park. He was not on his owner's property at the time, so I don't think their homeowner's insurance would do anything about this.

                                      I also think there is a big difference between a dog running loose unsupervised, and a well-trained dog with a solid recall off-leash with the owner close behind.
                                      I'm very sorry you were scared and your horse was hurt, but there really isn't much if any difference between a dog running loose and one that is running loose with an owner behind it... either dog could easily adopt the posture that spooked your horse. And even "well trained" dogs can ignore an owner at times - off leash is off leash, and the dog can "bow" either way. For what it's worth, I think a leashed dog being walked on that trail could have spooked your horse just as easily; it's very unfortunate but horses do spook at things and sometimes the results are awful, but it's not like the dog was being aggressive or chasing you or anything of that nature.

                                      If it will make you feel better, I suppose you could tell the dog owner sadly that their animal spooked your horse, who got away from you and ended up hurt, for which they will most likely apologize. But since you let your own dog run off the leash in the same area, I don't think you can judge others just because you think they are not quite as attentive as you are when they do it.
                                      We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.


                                      • #20
                                        If your dog had been "off leash" and had caused a spook, what would you do?