Dog owner faces £5m lawsuit for beach riding accident in West Wales
An accident on a Pembrokeshire beach has left the owner of a dog facing a £5m claim from a rider who was injured after the dog spooked his horse.
In 2018, Lourens Koetsier, a 63 year old financial advisor who was on holiday in Wales with his wife, suffered a severe spinal injury after he was thrown from his horse while on a guided ride along Druidston Haven beach.
Mr Koetsier told the High Court in London that the accident occurred when the unleashed dog, called Max, frightened the horse by running under it, causing it to buck and throw him to the ground.
The claimant is suing the dog’s owner, David Clifford Thomas, for upto £5m, alleging that the dog should have been kept on a lead.
Mr Thomas told the court that he has owned Max since he was a puppy and has denied liability, saying that there was no requirement for Max to be on a lead while on the beach as local bylaws allow owners to let their dogs run freely.
Andrew Arentsen, the barrister representing Mr Thomas, said as Druidston beach is regularly used by dog walkers to exercise pets freely, there was no reason for 14 year old Max to have been on a lead and he said that dog has always been friendly, gentle and social, not aggressive.
Mr Arentsen added that the dog has been exposed to most farm animals, including horses, and has never behaved aggressively around them, saying that Max had shown initially only a ‘mild interest’ in the horses, suggesting he may have ran towards them ‘out of a sense of fun’ as they were travelling at speed.
Documents filed at the court in London state that Mr Koetsier, who is Dutch, is an “experienced horseman, having owned a pony as a child and competed as an adult” and that he rode Dutch warmblood sport horses from when he was a teenager until his forties.
The ride on the day of the accident was organised by by Nolton Stables in Haverfordwest and the route took riders along the mile-long Druidston Haven beach.
Lawyers for the claimant said that the riders spotted Thomas’s dog running off its lead on the sand as they took their initial canter, and as they began a second canter Max ran towards the group from behind and was barking.
According to written submissions from Matthew Chapman QC, Mr Koetsier’s barrister, the horse named Bonfire was stationary when the small white dog went underneath him from behind.
The horse “reacted explosively to the presence of the dog,” and its head went down “while he jumped from the ground and flung up his hind legs in a violent and propulsive buck”.
The rider was “violently propelled out of the saddle, over Bonfire and on to the ground. The claimant landed on or about the top of his head and suffered catastrophic personal injury.”
Chapman told the court: “The claimant is an experienced rider and had, up until the point when he was thrown, been able to control and manage Bonfire during the course of the ride.”
Mr Chapman said that the financial adviser experiences spasms and has impaired use of his hand as a result of the accident, impacting his mobility, his ability to care for himself and his work, adding that although he can walk short distances with the use of a frame, he now uses a wheelchair when outside.
Mr Koetsier is also bringing an action against LJP Owen, the business that owns the stables, for allegedly allowing the group to canter a second time after Max had first been seen running off his lead.
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 at the stables so horses can acclimatise to them and any which are not comfortable around dogs would be sold.
The case is set to move to a full trial at a later date.
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