Responsible Dog Ownership Around Horses And Riders

Throughout many parts of the world, there has always been a strong association between the two closest domestic animals to man – dogs and horses. 

However, the two animals don’t always get on so well. Alarmingly, in recent years, there has been a worrying rise in dog attacks on equines – especially those being ridden. Read our Holidays4Dogs article for tips on how to make sure your dog – and horse riders you may meet – are kept safe.

There are many similarities between the horse and the dog and they often work together. Even today, there are many situations where the two species work together, from herding cattle in Mexico or working alongside each other in police, or armed sitting, pet sitting

For example, in the United States, miniature horses have been experimentally utilised as guides for people with disabilities.

This includes assisting people with visual impairment. Similarly, many programmes across the U.S. and the UK employ horses in animal-assisted therapy,  helping people to cope with emotional, or mental health conditions.

However, while there are many stories of the respectful friendship between canines and equines, it is still wise to bear in mind that this isn’t always the case.

Predators and prey-dog attacks on horses.

Dogs are predatory animals, which is why their instinct is to chase prey. Horses, as many may know, are prey animals whose instinct is to run away from predators. This combination has the potential to create a volatile relationship. As a result, this can be very dangerous when it comes to horses with riders, or drivers.

While many people may think dog-to-horse attacks don’t happen very often, they are on the increase. The British Horse Society raised concerns in 2022 about an alarming rise in dog attacks on horses.

Unfortunately, there have been numerous incidents involving dogs attacking horses in the UK – many with disastrous consequences and injuries to both animals and riders.

What should dog owners do when they see a horse rider approaching?

  • Always put your dog on a lead, as soon as you see a horse and rider.

  • Make sure your dog has an excellent recall and will come back straight away as soon as he, or she, is called.

  • If possible, get your dog used to being around horses from an early age, using positive reinforcement.

  • Teach your dog to sit quietly as horses pass. Some horses may have had terrible experiences with dogs in the past, so may react in dangerous ways.

  • If your dog is barking, or lunging, immediately move your dog as far away from the horse as possible. Get advice from a trainer.

What should riders do when they see a dog?

  • Slow down and give dogs a wide berth. Remember they may very scared of such a large animal and may be reactive as a result.

  • If dogs are off lead, call the owner and ask them to put the dog on a lead.

  • If a dog attacks your horse, try and ride away putting distance between you and the dog.

  • Your horse needs to be able to defend his, or herself, so allow them to do this.

  • Try to keep your horse’s head facing away from the dog.

  • Try and stay as calm as possible.

Final thoughts

Dogs and horses can be great team mates – but it’s not always the case. It is really important that pet owners exercise responsible dog ownership, especially around other animals, livestock and wildlife. Owners can be prosecuted under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, or the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953. Therefore, training your dog to be calm around equines, should be part of a socialisation plan.