Man left disabled after falling from horse spooked by Westie sues for £5,000,000

Lourens Koetsier now has to use a wheelchair outside after his horse buckled him (Picture: Champion News)
A financial adviser left needing a wheelchair after a Westie terrier ran at his horse on a Welsh beach is suing the dog’s owner for up to £5million. Lourens Koetsier, 63, suffered a severe spinal injury when he was thrown from his horse on a popular Pembrokeshire beach. The tourist says the unleashed West Highland Terrier, named Max, ran under the horse and spooked it.

This made it buckle and throw him to the ground during the guide-led canter in June 2018.

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Mr Koetsier who was on holiday with his wife Monique, is now suing at the High Court in London, claiming Max’s owner should have had him on a lead. But David Clifford Thomas, who has had the dog since he was a puppy, says there is no reason to blame his ‘small, elderly and gentle’ Westie.

He denies liability and insists there was no reason why he should have had to leash Max on a beach where local bylaws allow owners to let their dogs run freely.

According to documents filed in court, Dutch financial adviser Mr Koetsier is an experienced horseman, having owned a pony as a child.

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Champion News Service Ltd Tel: 07948286566 / 07914583378 Druidston Haven beach, Pembrokeshire, where horseman Lourens Koetsier was catastrophically injured in fall from horse
The accident took place on Druidston Haven beach, where dogs are allowed to run freely (Picture: Champion News)

He competed as an adult, riding warmblood sport horses from his teens until his forties.

On the day of the accident, he paid for a guide-led canter along the mile-long Druidston Haven beach through ride providers Nolton Stables, in nearby Haverfordwest.

Riders spotted the dog running off its leash on the sand as they took their initial canter, his lawyers say.

Then as they set off for their second ride, Max began running towards the group from behind while barking.

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The claimant’s horse, named Bonfire, was stationary when the Westie went underneath him from behind, his barrister Matthew Chapman said. He said Bonfire reacted ‘explosively’, dropping his head and jumping into the air, flinging his hind legs ‘in a violent and propulsive buck’. ‘The claimant landed on or about the top of his head and suffered catastrophic personal injury,’ Mr Chapman added.

Mr Koetsier was rushed to hospital by air ambulance, having sustained a central spinal cord injury.

He now experiences spasms and has impaired hand function, while his ability to care for himself, get around and work have been ‘substantially impaired,’ says his barrister.

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He uses a wheelchair outside, although he can walk short distances with a walking frame, and his home has had to be specially adapted for his needs.

Mr Chapman claims there would be no accident if Max’s owner had the dog under control.

He also blames LJP Owen Ltd, trading as Nolton Stables, for allowing the group to canter a second time after the Westie was first been seen running off his lead. Mr Thomas’ barrister, Andrew Arentsen, said Druidston beach is ‘precisely the type of location where dog owners can reasonably allow their dogs to run without restraint’.

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He said Max has ‘always been a friendly, gentle and social dog’ who was ‘elderly’ at 14 years old.

Champion News Service Ltd Tel: 07948286566 / 07914583378 Horseman Lourens Koetsier who was catastrophically injured when he fell from horse at Druidston Haven beach, Pembrokeshire.
Lourens Koetsier’s lawyers said there would not have been an accident if the dog was kept under control (Picture: Champion News)

The dog has been exposed to most farm animals, including horses, and has never behaved aggressively around them, the lawyer added.

He says Max had shown initially only a ‘mild interest’ in the horses, suggesting he may have ran towards them ‘out of a sense of fun’ as they were travelling at speed.

Mr Arentsen said Max immediately returned to his owner after the fall and was ‘not disobedient or out of control’.

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Representing Nolton Stables’ operator, Charles Woodhouse denies the company was at fault, since the horse was perfectly comfortable around dogs.

The firm, which serves 6,000 customers a year, keeps dogs loose at the stables so horses can acclimatise to them. Any which are not comfortable around dogs would be sold, the barrister added.

He said the company does not know precisely what the horse did when the dog ran to him. But one staff member thought he may have attempted to jump over the Westie.

Mr Arentsen said this sort of behaviour is an ‘ordinary risk of riding horses of which the claimant was well aware’.

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The case reached court last week for a preparatory hearing ahead of a full trial at a later date.

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