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The Risks of Dogs Off the Lead Around Horses

5th April, 2023 | Equestrian, Road Safety

For many horse riders, the sight of dogs off the lead running towards them can be a frightening and unsettling experience. Horses can become easily spooked by dogs off the lead, especially when approached by an unfamiliar animal that is barking, growling or chasing after them. Even a well-behaved dog can pose a risk to horses, particularly if they are off the lead and running freely.

Unfortunately, the issue of dogs off the lead around horses is becoming increasingly common, particularly in public spaces and country parks where there are lots of people and animals. This can be a real problem for horse riders who are trying to enjoy a peaceful hack or leisurely ride with their equine companions.

Not only can dogs off the lead cause horses to become nervous and agitated, but they can also pose a risk to the safety of riders. If a horse becomes spooked and bolts, it can be difficult for the rider to maintain control, which could result in an accident. Additionally, dogs can be injured if they get too close to a horse’s hooves or if they are kicked or bitten by the horse in self-defense.



We were recently sent the above video footage by Anne-Louise Ramsay, showing her recent interaction with a dog off the lead. Here is what Anne-Louise had to say when we asked her to give us a breakdown of the video.

Me and a friend were out for a hack, we were walking along a back road (60mph) when walking past a house the dog came running out at us. The guy said he didn’t realise the gate was open when he let the dog out. Luckily no cars came and tried to pass us, one car did come at the end and he moved into the middle of the road to stop anything passing until the guy caught the dog. You can’t see it in the video but the dog was biting at my horses legs but he has boots on so no damage was caused, it also had a hold of his tail at one point and was running underneath him.
The main reason I got the camera was because of dogs as my horse is chased at least once a week (hack mostly in a country park) so I wanted to have evidence if anything serious was to happy but it also now means he’s not calm around dogs like he used to be.


Here is another video submitted to us recently.


Before writing this blog post we asked people on Facebook to tell us about their interactions with dogs off the lead. The response was quite disturbing and highlights the issue. Below are just some of the comments we received.

Dogs Off the Lead     Dogs Off the Lead     Dogs Off the Lead


Dogs Off the Lead     Dogs Off the Lead     Dogs Off the Lead

Dogs Off the Lead     Dogs Off the Lead     Dogs Off the Lead

Dogs Off the Lead     Dogs Off the Lead     Dogs Off the Lead


In this blog, we will explore the dangers of dogs off the lead around horses and the impact they can have on both riders and their equine companions. We will provide tips and advice on how to keep both horses and dogs safe while out on a ride or walk, as well as what to do if you witness dangerous dog behaviour. So, whether you’re a horse rider, a dog owner, or simply someone who enjoys spending time outdoors, read on to learn more about this important issue.

The Dangers of Dogs Off the Lead Around Horses

  • Biting behaviour: As mentioned by Anna-Louise, dogs can bite at a horse’s legs, which can cause serious damage.
  • Running under the horse: This is a common behaviour that can cause the horse to trip and fall, potentially causing serious injuries to both horse and rider.
  • Tail grabbing: Dogs that grab a horse’s tail can cause the horse to panic and potentially rear, putting the rider in danger.
  • Startling behaviour: Even a well-behaved dog that suddenly appears from behind a tree or bush can startle a horse, causing them to bolt or rear.
  • Lack of control: When a dog is off the lead, their owner has less control over their behaviour. If a dog starts chasing a horse, the owner may struggle to regain control and prevent an accident.
  • Prey drive: Dogs have a natural instinct to chase and hunt, which can be triggered by the sight of a horse. This can be especially problematic if the dog is not used to being around horses and doesn’t understand that they are not prey animals. Dogs that chase horses can cause the horse to panic, potentially leading to accidents and injuries for both the rider and horse.
  • Anxiety and stress: Dogs that are allowed to run freely and without supervision can become anxious and stressed, which can cause them to behave unpredictably around horses.
  • Injuries to the dog: While much of the focus is on the potential harm that dogs can cause to horses and riders, it’s worth noting that dogs can also be injured in these types of situations. A horse’s hooves and teeth are incredibly powerful and can cause serious harm to a dog that gets too close.
  • Legal consequences: Dog owners have a responsibility to keep their pets under control and prevent them from causing harm to others. If a dog attacks a horse or rider, the owner could be held liable for any damages or injuries that result.

The Impact on Horses and Riders

The impact of dogs off the lead around horses can be significant. Horses that are chased or attacked by dogs can become nervous and anxious around them, making future rides stressful and unpleasant. In some cases, horses may develop a phobia of dogs, which can impact their behaviour and performance. Riders can also suffer from the psychological impact of a dog attack or chasing incident.

Solutions to the Problem

The problem of dogs off the lead around horses can be tackled through responsible dog ownership. Some solutions include:

  • Keeping dogs on the lead in areas where horses are present.
  • Training dogs to behave appropriately around horses.
  • Educating dog owners about the dangers of dogs off the lead around horses.
  • Reporting dangerous dog behaviour to local authorities.

Keeping Your Dog Under Control

As a responsible dog owner, it’s important to understand that not all horses are comfortable around dogs. Before you take your dog out for a walk, make sure they are well-trained and under your control at all times. It’s important to be aware that not all horses are comfortable around dogs off the lead.

If you see a horse approaching, put your dog on the lead and move to the side of the path. If the horse and rider seem nervous or anxious, it’s best to keep your distance and wait until they have passed before continuing your walk..

To keep your dog under control around horses, there are several steps you can take. Firstly, make sure that your dog has undergone basic obedience training. This can include teaching them commands such as “sit,” “stay,” and “come,” which will help you keep them under control in the presence of horses.

Additionally, it’s essential to keep your dog on a lead when walking near horses. This will help you to control your dog’s movements and prevent them from running towards horses or chasing them.

Overall, keeping your dog under control around horses is crucial for the safety of both the horses and their riders. By following these simple steps, you can help to prevent accidents and ensure that everyone can enjoy their time outdoors.

Reporting Dangerous Dog Behaviour

If you witness dogs off the lead displaying dangerous behaviour around horses, it’s essential to report it to the appropriate authorities as soon as possible. This can help to prevent a serious accident from occurring in the future.

Depending on where you are located, the relevant authorities may vary. In many cases, it may be best to contact your local animal control or animal welfare agency. They will have the knowledge and resources to investigate the situation and take appropriate action if necessary.

In some cases, it may also be necessary to involve the police. If a dog or dogs off the lead are displaying aggressive behaviour towards horses, their riders, or other pedestrians, it could be considered a criminal offense. In such cases, it’s important to contact the police immediately and provide as much information as possible about the situation.

When reporting dangerous dog behaviour, it’s important to provide as much detail as possible about the incident. This can include the location, time, and date of the incident, as well as a description of the dog and their owner. If possible, take photographs or videos of the incident as evidence to support your report.

By reporting dangerous dog behaviour around horses, you can help to protect the safety of riders and their equine companions. If you’re unsure about who to contact or how to report an incident, speak to the RSPCA or the police for guidance.

Educating Others

As a horse rider, you have the power to educate and raise awareness among other riders and dog owners about the dangers of dogs off the lead around horses. Share your experiences with others and encourage them to be responsible when walking their dogs around horses. You can also share information on social media or online forums to spread awareness about this issue.

By working together and sharing knowledge, we can create a safer and more enjoyable outdoor environment for all. Let’s work towards a future where horses and dogs can peacefully coexist in public spaces without any incidents or accidents. Remember, it’s everyone’s responsibility to keep our outdoor spaces safe for both horses and dogs.

Conclusion: The Importance of Responsible Dog Ownership

Dogs are beloved companions, but the behaviour of dogs off the lead can pose a serious threat to horses and riders. By being responsible dog owners, we can help to minimise the risks and ensure that everyone can enjoy their time outdoors safely.

Remember, keeping your dog on the lead around horses is not just a legal requirement, it’s a moral obligation to keep everyone safe.

The safety and well-being of both horses and riders should always be a top priority. So let’s work together to create a safer and more enjoyable outdoor environment for everyone.

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