Out-of-control dogs v. horse riders: FEI to fine owners

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Even a photographer brought a dog to Britain's Burgley Horse Trials. Under proposed new regulations, dog will need to be leashed at FEI events in future.
Even a photographer brought a dog to Britain’s Burghley Horse Trials in 2012. Under proposed new regulations, dog will need to be leashed at FEI events in future. © Mike Bain

Loose dogs have been in the news in recent weeks following the serious injuries sustained by a horse rider on an equestrian trail in New Zealand. Now, horse sport’s governing body is looking to clamp down on loose dogs at events, with fines for the offending owners.

In the latest proposals for modifications to its General Regulations, the FEI said there was currently no provision in its rules about dogs at FEI Events. “It is proposed to clarify that dogs must be leashed at FEI events as otherwise it can be dangerous for the horses/riders if there are loose dogs running.”

Gwendolen Fer's dog Marcel enjoys a paddle during the CIC3* course walk at Bramham.
Gwendolen Fer’s dog Marcel enjoys a paddle during the CIC3* course walk at the Bramham Horse Trials earlier this year. © Mike Bain

If allowed at an event, dogs must be leashed and “affixed to a human or stationary object”, under the new, proposed wording. Violation of the rule will incur a fine of the equivalent of $US100 for each offence. Repeat offenders may be excluded from the venue.

The new rule will be welcomed by both recreational and competition riders, particularly eventers, where chasing dogs have caused mayhem on numerous cross-country courses.

It is common for spectators to bring their dogs to such “country” events, and there are often terrier races and other displays and events for canines at horse trials and shows.

Dealing with loose dogs is an age-old issue for all riders, particularly recreational and trail riders.

In June Barbara Coates was riding with a friend at Baynons Brake near North Canterbury’s Waimakariri River, when a dog leapt out of the undergrowth ahead of them and ran towards them, startling the horses. The park is promoted as a horse riding area.

Both horses spun around and bolted. Ros Lugg fell off and cracked her ribs, and Coates was also thrown off, suffering a broken neck, serious spinal injuries and broken arms. She spent 23 days in intensive care, and it is not known if she would walk again. A spokesman from the government department in charge of the area, Environment Canterbury, said “While it is a distressing accident that occurred, we do not consider any rules were broken in this instance.”

Lugg said: “The simple fact is that this accident would not have happened if that dog had been on a lead.”

Dogs in control. Sadly, some owners don't keep their dogs leashed and in control.
Dogs in control at an equestrian event. © Mike Bain

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