Care near horses

I RECENTLY experienced a very frightening and potentially extremely dangerous situation whilst horse riding in the beautiful Cosmeston Country Park and which, might I add, was absolutely nobody’s fault.

I wished to ride across the concrete bridge on the Mile Road and on approaching it saw an elderly lady walking her small dog off the lead coming towards me. As I am one of the many experienced, polite and responsible horse riders in the area I stopped the horse I was riding until she came across. She very kindly put her dog on an extending lead and assured my friend and I that it was all right with horses. When we were a few strides onto the bridge a swan, which had been quietly swimming around nearby, decided to launch itself virtually underneath the bridge. The horse I was riding took fright, pivoted round and made off at a gallop back up the Mile Road.

Unfortunately, the dog got away from the lady with the lead fully extended trailing behind it and chased after the horse, at which point he bolted at a flat out uncontrollable gallop. When I eventually managed to stop him, he was absolutely panic stricken and terrified and it was very fortunate that no one else was on the Mile Road at this particular time.

Cosmeston Country Park is the only off road riding local horse riders have, for which they have to pay an annual permit fee and also have heavy public liability insurance. Access for horse riders is very limited within the park, whereas dog owners and the general public have free access to all areas, would it not be possible to open up one or two more places to horse riders during the summer months?

The general public, in many cases, do not seem to be aware that horses are large unpredictable animals that can become easily frightened. Horses are herd animals and their immediate response when startled is flight. It might be a good idea to have a large prominent notice erected within the park to this effect and requesting that people visiting the park behave responsibly towards them.

Whilst horse riding in the park, I have encountered the following: 1. Dogs off the lead and not obedient to their owners calls, resulting in the horse I am riding being chased, snapped at and barked at. I know of several dog attacks on dogs and humans that have occurred within the park. Two local farmers have also had sheep killed by straying dogs. Any dog that is not totally responsive to its owner’s commands should be kept on a lead at all times.

2. Owners throwing things close by for their dogs to chase, including sticks being thrown into the lake for dogs to retrieve.

3. Parents letting young children run up to horses or worse still approaching them at speed on their scooters.

3. Bin bags being shaken not far away.

4. Adults trying to launch a kite nearby.

5. Joggers and cyclists not letting you know they are there when approaching from behind and passing too fast.

The park is a lovely relaxing place and with a little thought and consideration can be enjoyed by everyone.

Name and address supplied

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