WARRANDYTE horse riders are urging dog owners to abide by on leash areas along the Warrandyte River Trail following aggressive attacks on horses.
Those who ride their horses and ponies along the scenic trail believe most dog owners are cautious and friendly, but say a small percentage of dog owners are putting riders and horses at risk of injury by not doing the right thing.
“Most dogs are fine but usually the most aggressive dogs have never seen a horse before,” Warrandyte rider Jane Sutherland said.
“Then there are owners who don’t abide by the on leash area signs.
“A couple of weeks ago my horse was chased by two dogs off lead. They tried to bite my horse’s leg and my friend, who was riding my horse at the time, asked the owner of the dogs to put them on lead because it wasn’t an off lead area.
“So off the lady went but then she came back the other way with the dogs off lead again and they attacked my horse again.”
In another recent incident along the trail a dog tried to bite a pony’s throat and another horse’s back legs, landing the owner a $2500 vet bill.
Jane estimates 50 riders use the trail each week.
However, horses won’t be able to use the trail for much longer.
Manningham council chief executive Joe Carbone says the Warrandyte River Trail is expected to be closed to horses in a year when another horse trail is complete.
“Council is working on an alternate horse trail along Gold Memorial Rd through Warrandyte State Park and ending at Ringwood-Warrandyte Rd,” Mr Carbone said.
“This route will be along quiet local roads and horse trails through the state park with horse and rider safety a priority.”
Removing horses from the Warrandyte River Trail was a recommendation of Council’s Warrandyte River Reserve Management Plan, following two dog attacks on horses in 2012.
However, Lauren, 19, and Eliza, 16, have been riding their horses along the trail since they were eight years old and say it would be upsetting if they could no longer bring their horses along the trail to exercise and swim in the river.
“It would be a major loss for the whole community, not just us,” Lauren said.
“Most people like seeing horses down here, kids especially. Horses
have been a part of this town for so long so it would be really, really sad if that gets taken away from us.”
Jane says many trails around Warrandyte Park have already been closed to horses, mostly due to environmental reasons.
She says the closure of a small trail near Tindals Rd, which many riders rode along to get to pony club, is just one example of how riders are being forced onto roads with potentially life threatening consequences for horses, riders and motorists.
“A couple of months ago a group of kids were riding back from pony club along the side of Tindals Rd and there was a guy on a motorbike flying up Tindals Rd,” Jane said.
“A girl, who was 12 years old, put her hand up to ask him to slow down but instead he deliberately sped up, went as close to her as he could and the horse freaked. She fell off and the horse was running up Tindals Rd without a rider.
“Thankfully there were no injuries but those sort of idiotic things happen often unfortunately. Surely these people wouldn’t put their own animals or their children in that sort of danger, so why would they do it to somebody else?”