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To ask horsey people what I should have done

(109 Posts)
hitchedhiker Mon 21-Sep-20 13:33:10

I was out for a walk with DP yesterday, dog well-behaved on his lead. We were on a well-marked public footpath crossing a field with 2 horses and a small pony in it. The shape of the field meant that we were already past the horses and moving further away from them as soon as we entered.

The horse came towards us, as they sometimes do, DP said 'hello boy' to it in a friendly way, but it immediately started prancing around trying to get at the dog. Turning it's back towards us and kicking, stopping us leaving the field. By this time the other two had come over and they were starting to act oddly as well.

When I'd stopped laughing at DP (who was struggling to keep hold of the lead as the dog was trying to get away from the horses) I managed to position myself between DP and the horses and backed out of the field waving my arms and shouting to try and keep the main attacker away from them.

I'm an ex-farmworker and a keen walker, I've worked with pigs and cattle and worked around (but not really with) horses many times. I've never even heard of a horse going out of it's way to attack a peaceful dog on a lead.

What should I have done in that situation? And AIBU to have reported the landowner to the council?

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maxelly Mon 21-Sep-20 13:38:29

Sounds like you did the right thing! I've never heard of/seen a horse being aggressive to a dog either (even when faced with aggression/barking/growling from the dog) - horses are flight animals and when loose in a field their far more normal reaction would be to run away from a threat rather than being aggressive. Was it actually trying to kick the dog or just bucking exuberantly?

I wonder if the horse was behaving that way in an expectation of getting treats/food from you? Unfortunately some of ours are in a field with a public footpath running through it and the amount they get fed is ridiculous (despite huge signs everywhere asking people to please not and explaining why) and some of them have gotten really bolshy/bite-y as a result!

Either way, glad you all got out safely, if you were feeling public-spirited and you know who the horses belong to you can let them know what happened, perhaps with a view to moving the main aggressive horse out of that field for both his and the public's good?!

hitchedhiker Mon 21-Sep-20 13:41:59

Was it actually trying to kick the dog or just bucking exuberantly?

It was backing up to us - aiming itself at us - and kicking out. It nearly hit the dog.

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Lockheart Mon 21-Sep-20 13:43:38

I'm not super horsey, so I'm willing to be corrected, but that does sound like unusual behaviour. I've been hurt by horses by accident (you'll know about it if they step on you!!) but I've never been attacked by one before.

I don't suppose you managed to see if it was a mare, stallion, or gelding? I don't have much direct experience with stallions but I could believe one might act like this if it thought you were a threat.

maxelly Mon 21-Sep-20 13:47:57

Yes in that case I think it's more likely the aggression was actually aimed at you all than the dog per se, possibly wanting food from you or generally being territorial that you were in 'his' space (stallions can exhibit this behaviour but it's very dangerous to keep a stallion in a field with a public path so that's totally irresponsible of the landowner/horse owner if so - far more likely it's a rig (gelding with un-descended testicles so can exhibit stallion like behaviour), a mare in season which can make them grumpy or simply a horse with a screw loose shock

Either way sounds scary and you've done the right thing by reporting...

hitchedhiker Mon 21-Sep-20 13:48:01

We can't even agree what colour it was, never mind noticing what sex! It seemed quite young though I think, so maybe it was nervous. That path must get a lot of dogs on it though - it's a danger if it behaves like that with a well-behaved dog.

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MimiLeBonk Mon 21-Sep-20 13:49:58

I had a horse that would "go" for dogs when loose. There's no way I would have put it in a field with a public footpath! You did the right thing but I wonder if it should be reported to someone because that's an incredibly dangerous situation

Lockheart Mon 21-Sep-20 13:50:47

Fair enough! Just a thought .

I think you've done the right thing in reporting it. An animal that's aggressive shouldn't be kept in a field with a public right of way running through it. It could be the owner has never seen this behaviour before but it should be brought to their attention.

Florencex Mon 21-Sep-20 13:52:13

I live in the countryside and have never seen a free roaming horse, that is very strange and I would let someone know.

hitchedhiker Mon 21-Sep-20 13:56:10

You've never seen a horse in a field?

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SurreyHillsGirl Mon 21-Sep-20 13:59:55

Horses can be territorial, especially stallions but mares can also be mardy if they are 'full of piss and vinegar' as horses sometimes are. Horses are prey animals and see dogs as wolves, but that's not to say they won't 'go' for dogs, we have horses in a field at the bottom of our garden and I always ensure my dogs are on the leads when we pass them on walks, sometimes the horses come very boldly up to the fence trying to get at the dogs. I've been 'horsey' all my life but as horses are such magnificent, large creatures I am very respectful of them and have had a few sketchy experiences, being chased, etc throughout the years!

maxelly Mon 21-Sep-20 14:00:41


I live in the countryside and have never seen a free roaming horse, that is very strange and I would let someone know.

I think the OP means the (enclosed) field the horse was in had a public footpath running through it - very common, I have the exact same situation. It's not particularly a desirable arrangement as a horse owner as we have loads of issues with people feeding the horses (often on totally inappropriate food like sandwiches, crisps shock ), loose dogs chasing and scaring them, people putting themselves in harms ways of getting nipped or trodden on posing for pictures and even one 'lovely' chap who was caught putting his young children up on a horses back 'for a ride' - horse was totally loose, no headcollar or anything, he had no idea if horse was safe to ride and the children of course weren't wearing helmets so that was incredibly dangerous for them as well as being really cheeky, our horses aren't there as free pony rides shock shock- when challenged by yard owner he gave her a mouthful of abuse of course, charming.

But if we never used fields with footpaths for grazing (and there are a lot of them), there would be no-where near enough to go around, as it is it is increasingly difficult to find enough land for livestock to graze on as it is, so we put up signs everywhere and only keep the quieter/safer horses in those fields, anything aggressive or bolshy is kept in the quieter/privater fields.

Florencex Mon 21-Sep-20 14:02:37


You've never seen a horse in a field?

Where did I say this? Of course I have seen a horse in a field. But not a field that members of the public have access to, no, never.

justanotherneighinparadise Mon 21-Sep-20 14:05:31

I’ve certainly seen horses doing the same to dogs and it surprised me too. I assumed it was an evolutionary response to protect themselves from a predator.

Lockdownfatigue Mon 21-Sep-20 14:06:48

This exact thing happens here with a particular horse in a particular field! So uncannily similar that I’m wondering if you live in my very rural village in Wales!

tattychicken Mon 21-Sep-20 14:07:32

Loads of footpaths go through fields with livestock, including horses. Hence problems with dogs attacking sheep and walkers getting trampled by cows.

hitchedhiker Mon 21-Sep-20 14:08:40

Of course I have seen a horse in a field. But not a field that members of the public have access to, no, never.

Really? It's not particularly uncommon at all in my experience.

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captainprincess Mon 21-Sep-20 14:09:40

I know of a few fields near me that have public footpaths running through them. Most have cattle in but one has a small herd of horses. I don't walk through the cows unless they are way over the other side but the horses I'll walk through the horses(Had and worked with horses for years) and yes sounds food oriented to me. Walkers probably feeding them which is frustrating as it can make them aggressive, as you saw!

krustykittens Mon 21-Sep-20 14:12:05

I have a mixed herd of six and they do NOT like strange dogs in their field! We are in Scotland and one of their fields is on a core path that is fenced off so people can pass through unmolested with their dogs. In future, if they come to close and you think it is the dog that they are after, let go of the lead! Your dog can outrun them, you can't.

hitchedhiker Mon 21-Sep-20 14:12:22

So uncannily similar that I’m wondering if you live in my very rural village in Wales!

No, on the Salford/Warrington border - which is far nicer and more rural than it sounds. grin

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pinguwings Mon 21-Sep-20 14:12:54

I would have dropped the lead I think so the dog could run.
Obviously a bit dependent on your dogs character, mine was a wuss.
Had to do it once when a load of heifers began encircling us, terrifying!

Alexandernevermind Mon 21-Sep-20 14:14:26

I would never walk through a field with a horse in it, footpath or not, especially with a dog. If you do have to always stick to the edge of the field, near the fence or hedge. One of my own horses would attack us in his paddock when we first had him - he calmed down thank God as he was 16hh. If you are in the situation and being attacked by livestock then the advice used to be to release your dog to enable them to run for cover, which would take the danger away from you. Obviously this opens a whole different can of worms if your dog then starts to chase the livestock. It's all very well saying people should keep their stock in areas where there are footpaths, but if you live in a national park where there is right to roam you are stuffed as a farmer.

RagamuffinAndFidget Mon 21-Sep-20 14:15:31

@Florencex you can't actually live in the countryside proper if you've never had to follow a public footpath through a horse field! hmm I live in a small-ish (but with direct trains to London) countryside-ish village and you can't go anywhere round here without tripping over horses/cows/sheep etc in a field!

TheOrigRightsofwomen Mon 21-Sep-20 14:16:31

There was an incident near to me where a horse killed a dog on a lead being walked through a paddock with a public footpath running through.

hitchedhiker Mon 21-Sep-20 14:16:32

Your dog can outrun them, you can't.

I think he'd have defended us and ended up getting kicked to bits if we'd let him off his lead. He's a thug when he's off lead, but very protective.

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