The owner of a West Highland terrier is facing a £5million claim from a rider who now has to use a wheelchair after the dog spooked his horse on a beach. Lourens Koetsier suffered a serious spinal injury after being thrown while on a guided walk along the beach in Pembrokeshire, Wales, in 2018.
The 63-year-old financial adviser told the High Court in London that the accident happened because the raging dog, called Max, ran under the horse. He said it spooked the horse, which reared up and knocked him to the ground. Koetsier, who was on vacation in Wales with his wife, is suing for up to £5million in a claim that alleges the dog’s owner, David Clifford Thomas, should have kept him on a leash.
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Thomas, who told the court he had owned Max since he was a puppy, denied responsibility, saying there was no reason to blame his ‘little, elderly and sweet’ Westie for the accident . Thomas said it was not necessary for Max to be leashed on the beach, as local regulations allow owners to let their dogs run free.
Documents filed in court in London indicate that Koetsier, who is Dutch, is an experienced rider, having owned a pony as a child and competed as an adult. He rode Dutch warm-blooded sport horses from his teens to his forties. On the day of the accident, Koetsier had joined a ride organized by Nolton Stables in Haverfordwest. The route took runners along the mile-long Druidston Haven beach.
Koetsier’s lawyers said the runners spotted Thomas’ dog losing its leash on the sand and as they began a second gallop, Max ran barking towards the group from behind. Koetsier’s horse Bonfire was stationary when the little white dog ran under him from behind, Matthew Chapman QC said in written submissions.
“Bonfire reacted explosively to the dog’s presence,” Chapman said. The horse’s head lowered “as it leaped off the ground and launched its hind legs in a violent, propulsive motion”. The rider was “thrown violently out of the saddle, over Bonfire and onto the ground. The plaintiff landed on or near the top of his head and suffered catastrophic bodily injury. »
As a result, the financial advisor experiences spasms and poor use of his hand. Chapman said Koetsier’s mobility, ability to care for himself and work were “significantly impaired”. He now uses a wheelchair when outdoors, although his lawyer said he can walk short distances using a frame.
Koetsier is also suing LJP Owen, the company that owns the stables, for allegedly allowing the group to gallop a second time after Max was first seen losing his lead. “Claimant is an experienced rider and up to the time he was thrown was able to control and manage Bonfire during the ride,” Chapman told the court.
Andrew Arentsen, the solicitor representing Thomas, said there was no reason for the dog to be leashed, as Druidston Beach is regularly used by dog walkers to freely exercise their pets. He denied that the terrier was aggressive and said “Max has always been a friendly, gentle and social dog”.
Appearing for LJP Owen, Charles Woodhouse told the court that Bonfire was comfortable around dogs. The company, which serves 6,000 customers a year, keeps dogs loose in the stables so that the horses can acclimate there and those who are not comfortable with dogs would be sold.
The case is expected to proceed to a full trial at a later date.