Rider injured after fall demands £5million from dog owner
A rider is suing a dog owner for £5million after his West Highland terrier spooked his horse on a beach, resulting in life-changing injuries in a fall.
Dutch financial adviser Lourens Koetsier suffered a serious spinal injury and now uses a wheelchair when he was thrown from the horse during a guided ride on a beach in Pembrokeshire, Wales, in 2018.
Mr Koetsier, who was on holiday with his wife, claims the accident happened because the raging West Highland Terrier called Max ran under the horse, startling it and knocking it to the ground. He is now suing Max’s owner, David Clifford Thomas, for £5million in the High Court in London and claims the dog should have been kept on a leash.
Mr Thomas, who told the court he had owned Max since he was a puppy, denied responsibility, saying there was no reason to blame his ‘small, elderly and sweet’ dog for the ‘accident. He added that there was no requirement for his dog to be leashed on the beach, as local regulations allow dogs to run free.
On the day of the incident in 2018, Mr Koetsier had joined the ride organized by Nolton Stables in Haverfordwest, taking riders along the mile-long Druidston Haven beach. The court was told that Mr Koetsier is an experienced rider and owned a pony as a child and competed as an adult. He rode Dutch warm-blooded sport horses from his teens to his forties.
Lawyers for Mr Koetsier said the riders saw Mr Thomas’ dog stray off its leash on the sand and as they began a second gallop, Max ran barking towards the group from behind. Mr 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 presence of the dog,” Mr 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. The incident caused Mr Koetsier to have spasms and restricted the use of his hand, which his legal team said had “significantly impaired” his mobility and ability to care for himself. He now uses a wheelchair when outdoors – but can walk short distances with a frame, his lawyers have said.
Andrew Arentsen, the solicitor representing Mr Thomas, said there was no reason the dog should be on a leash as Druidston beach is regularly used by dog walkers to exercise their pets freely. company. He denied that the terrier was aggressive and said “Max has always been a friendly, gentle and social dog”.
Mr Koetsier is also suing the company that owns the stables, LJP Owen, for allegedly allowing the group to ride a second time after Max lost his lead. “The plaintiff is an experienced rider and had, up to the time he was thrown, been able to control and manage Bonfire during the ride,” Mr Chapman told the court.
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.