Jumper injured at Druidston Beach sues for £5million
A HOLIDAYR who needed a wheelchair after a local’s Westie terrier ran over his horse during a ride on a Pembrokeshire beach is suing the dog’s owner for up to £5million.
Dutch financial adviser Lourens Koetsier, 63, suffered a serious spinal injury when he was thrown from his horse during a guide-led canter across the sands of a beach in Druidston in June 2018.
Mr Koetsier claims the accident happened because a raging West Highland Terrier called ‘Max’ ran under the horse, startling him and knocking him to the ground.
The tourist is now suing for up to £5million in the High Court, claiming Max’s owner David Clifford Thomas should have kept him on a leash.
But Mr Thomas, who had had Max since he was a puppy, says there is no reason to blame his ‘little, elderly and sweet’ Westie for the accident, and denies responsibility.
He insists there was no reason he should have held Max while walking him on a beach where local regulations allow pet owners to let their dogs run free.
According to documents filed at the High Court in London, Mr Koetsier is an experienced rider, having owned a pony as a child and competed as an adult, riding Dutch sport horses from his teens until his 40s.
On the day of the crash, he paid for a guide-led canter along Druidston Haven through ride providers Nolton Stables.
His lawyers say that when the runners set off for a second gallop, Max began running towards Mr Koetsier’s group from behind, barking at his approach.
“[Mr Koetsier’s horse] Bonfire was motionless when the same small white dog passed under him from behind and behind the plaintiff, ”says his lawyer, Matthew Chapman QC.
“Bonfire reacted explosively, [his] the head came down as it leapt off the ground and launched its hind legs into a violent, propelling buck.
Experienced rider Lourens at home with his own horses before the incident
“The Claimant was violently thrown out of the saddle, over Bonfire and onto the ground. The Claimant landed on or on top of his head and suffered catastrophic bodily injury.”
Mr. Koetsier was evacuated by air ambulance, after suffering a central spinal cord injury, which required the fusion of some of his vertebrae, leaving him with incomplete quadriplegia.
He is now suffering from spasms and has impaired hand function, while his ability to care for himself, move around and work has been “significantly impaired”, his lawyer said.
He uses a wheelchair when outdoors, although he can walk short distances with a walker, and his house had to be specially adapted.
Mr Chapman claims Max’s owner, Mr Thomas, is liable to pay compensation because he should have kept the dog under control which would have prevented the accident from happening.
The air ambulance took Lourens to the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff where he was diagnosed with a central spinal cord syndrome injury
He also blames LJP Owen Ltd, trading as Nolton Stables, for allowing the group to gallop a second time after Max was first seen losing his lead.
“The accident would not have happened if the dog had not been at large and/or out of control and if the canter group had not been led for its second canter while the dog was still at large” , did he declare.
For Mr Thomas, barrister Andrew Arentsen said there was no reason Max had come out on top, as Druidston beach is regularly used by dog walkers to freely exercise their pets.
“It’s precisely the type of place where dog owners can reasonably allow their dogs to run free,” he said.
He also denied Max, 14, was an aggressive dog, saying he had always been “friendly, gentle and social”. “He never hunted or was aggressive towards horses,” he said. “Max was an obedient dog who would come back to Mr. Thomas when called.
He says Max had initially only shown a “mild interest” in the horses that day and only chased after them when they galloped a second time.
“He wasn’t barking or acting aggressively,” he said. “It is accepted that the Claimant fell from his horse. It is not known exactly why this happened, except that the Claimant lost control of the horse and lost his seat.
“Max was not disobedient or out of control, barking or yelping.”
He adds: “The accident happened because the group of horses stopped, after cantering past Max, and because the claimant lost control of his horse and lost his place on the same .”
For LJP Owen Ltd, which operates as Nolton Stables, solicitor Charles Woodhouse denied responsibility for Mr Koetsier’s accident because the horse in question was perfectly comfortable with dogs.
The company, which serves 6,000 customers a year, keeps dogs loose in the stables so the horses can acclimate there, and those who aren’t comfortable with dogs would be sold, he says.
He says the company doesn’t know exactly what the horse did when the dog ran towards him, but a member of staff thought he may have tried to jump over the Westie.
“The risk of a horse rearing, jumping, rearing, or moving in such a way as to knock its rider down is an ordinary risk of riding of which the plaintiff was well aware and voluntarily accepted by choosing to ride Bonfire” , did he declare. said.
The case went to court last week for a pre-hearing before a full trial of the claim at a later date.
Lawyers for Mr Koetsier have said they will seek damages of up to £5million.