"We all want to enjoy the National Park, but we also need to be sensible, v…

"We all want to enjoy the National Park, but we also need to be sensible, vigilant and tolerant of its other users too…"

Back on the blog is our Dog Warden Russ, who this week shares a perfect example as to why we all need to be careful and in control when walking our four-legged friends on the South Downs.

Read Russ story below…

Hi again.

Well it's been an interesting week, which included a report of an incident which thankfully hasn't come up before in my time as a Dog Warden and hopefully won't again as it could have resulted in serious injury or worse.

It happened on the South Downs above Worthing, an area popular with cyclists, dog walkers, horse riders, joggers, ramblers and others who want to escape the town and enjoy the peace and quiet of the South Downs National Park which we are so lucky to have on our doorstep.

A horse rider was coming towards Cissbury Ring and a dog walker was walking in the other direction with her dog off lead.

As the horse rider galloped along a bridleway in a field owned by the Cissbury estate, the dog walker entered the same field. But due to the topography of the area, neither could see the other until the last minute when the horse and rider appeared over the hill and scared the dog who barked and chased the horse causing the rider to fall heavily to the ground.

The incident was reported to us and it's fair to say that the rider was very lucky indeed. He suffered whiplash and severe bruising to his side and ribs area which would have been far worse had he not been wearing a hit air vest which works on the same principle as a vehicle's air bag.

On first impression it seems to have been a total accident and neither party were to blame. Neither human or animal saw each other until the last seconds and everyone was taken by surprise.

However on closer inspection the horse was being exercised on a bridleway which by definition is “a path or track along which horse riders have the right of way”.

Dog owners have a duty under Section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 to keep their dog under proper control which clearly wasn't the case.

Every entrance to the field had a sign on the gate warning that the land formed part of a livestock farm and that under the Protection of Livestock Act 1953 dogs must be on a lead.

I think a lot of people fall into the trap that if they can't see any livestock in a field then it's okay to enter with their dog off lead.

However the livestock could just be hidden from view, or in the case of horses, when you enter the field there might not be any there but during your walk one or more suddenly appear.

Also perhaps we think of livestock as cattle, sheep and pigs. But horses are also classed as livestock under the Act.

I think the message is that we all want to enjoy the National Park and we all need to be sensible, vigilant and tolerant of other users of the park.

Cissbury Stables are a riding school and provide livery and training and are keen to encourage children to take up riding so there will be an increase of horses in the area in the future. Had it been a child or novice rider involved in that incident I honestly feel it could have been fatal.

Since November 2010, the British Horse Society has logged more than 1,605 reported horse and dog related incidents. Of these, there have been:

– 24 horse fatalities
– 550 horses injured
– 3 human fatalities
– 487 humans injured

So please take care and keep your animals safe.