Dogs and horses to stay safe in forests

Horse riders and dog walkers are set to have safer and less stressful visits to the outdoors thanks to a new initiative in Moray forests.

The move comes after a number of incidents where different interests have clashed – including one where a dog chased a horse which eventually threw its rider and bolted, to then be hit and killed by a car.

Forest Enterprise Scotland (FES), Police Scotland, the British Horse Society and the Kennel Club will raise awareness of how dogs and horses can safely share forest trails at a responsible access event at Roseisle Forest in Moray. (Thursday 25th October between 11:00 and 12:00)

Justin Livesey, Visitor Services Manager at Forest Enterprise Scotland, said;

“We have thousands of hectares of forests in NE Scotland with hundreds of miles of paths and trails.

“They are enormous places that for tens of thousands of visitors every day are great places to relax and unwind, which is probably why the majority of visits pass without incident. However, this year we have had more reports of clashes between different types of users.

“Some of our woodlands, like those at Roseisle and Culbin, are quite busy and different people come here for different reasons. Everyone needs to be aware of that variety of pursuits that they might encounter but they also need to be mindful of their own responsibilities to other visitors.

“This is particularly true for dog and horse owners who will know that, all animals can be unpredictable at times and should always be kept under control. We have already had one tragic accident and that is one too many.”

Dogs and horses speak different languages. A dog that has never encountered a horse before might approach it to investigate and try and make friends. However, in that situation a horse’s natural instinct is to run away, whilst the dog’s natural instinct could lead it to chase it. This misunderstanding can soon escalate out of control.

Julie Thomson, from the British Horse Society, said:

“Horse riders need to be aware of this difference in animal behaviours and slow down to a walk when passing dogs and their owners.

“This gives dog walkers more time to see us approaching and to get their dog under close control.

“Simple actions like this can help prevent accidents and potentially save lives.”

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club secretary, said;

“Walkers with dogs can help avoid potentially fatal accidents by always keeping their pets calm, quiet and at their sides around horses. Always stay in sight when a horse approaches as it’s more likely to panic if it first sees your dog at close quarters.”

Sgt Scott Brander from Police Scotland, added;

"Police Scotland would like to encourage people to enjoy themselves when out and about in the forests.  There are a number of people who use the woods such as cyclists, walkers, riders and pet owners. We hope that everybody would be courteous to one another and show responsible behaviour.

"As previous incidents show, dogs can on occasion cause horses to panic and react, and I urge all dog owners to always keep their dog under close control and put on a lead if necessary when they see a horse."

"It also goes to show why it is so important that riders are highly visible wherever they are riding and wear a riding hat that meets the current safety standards."

Notes to editors

  1. Forestry Commission Scotland is part of the Scottish Government's Environment and Forestry Directorate.
  2. Forest Enterprise Scotland is an agency of the Forestry Commission and manages the National Forest Estate on behalf of Scottish Ministers.
  3. Tha Coimisean na Coilltearachd Alba na phàirt de Bhuidheann-Stiùiridh na h-Àrainneachd is Coilltearachd aig Riaghaltas na h-Alba agus bidh e a’ toirt seachad comhairle air poileasaidhean coilltearachd agus air riaghladh. Tha Iomairt Choilltean na h-Alba na fo-bhuidheann aig Coimisean na Coilltearachd a tha a’ ruith Oighreachd na Coille Nàiseanta as leth Ministearan na h-Alba.
  4. Media enquiries to Paul Munro, Forestry Commission Scotland press office, 0300 067 6507 / 07785 527590 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.