A HOLIDAYMAKER who was left needing a wheelchair after a local's Westie terrier ran at his horse during a ride on a Pembrokeshire beach, is suing the dog owner for up to £5 million.

Dutch financial advisor Lourens Koetsier, 63, suffered a severe spinal injury when he was thrown from his horse during a guide-led canter on the sands of a Druidston Beach in June 2018.

Mr Koetsier claims the accident occurred because an unleashed West Highland Terrier called 'Max' ran under the horse, spooking it into bucking and throwing him to the ground.

The tourist is now suing for up to £5 million at the High Court, saying Max's owner, David Clifford Thomas, should have had him on a lead.

But Mr Thomas, who had had Max since he was a puppy, says there is no reason to blame his 'small, elderly and gentle' Westie for the accident, and denies liability.

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

According to documents filed at the High Court, London, Mr Koetsier is an experienced horseman, having owned a pony as a child and competed as an adult, riding Dutch warmblood sport horses from his teens until he was in his forties.


On the day of the accident, he paid for a guide-led canter along Druidston Haven through ride providers, Nolton Stables.

His lawyers say that as the riders set off for a second canter Max began running towards Mr Koetsier's group from behind, barking as he approached.

"[Mr Koetsier's horse] Bonfire was stationary when the same small white dog went underneath him from behind and behind the claimant," says his barrister, Matthew Chapman QC.

"Bonfire reacted explosively, [his] head went down while he jumped from the ground and flung up his hind legs in a violent and propulsive buck.

The National Wales:

Experienced horse rider Lourens at home with his own horses prior to the incident

"The claimant was violently propelled out of the saddle, over Bonfire and on to the ground. The claimant landed on or about the top of his head and suffered catastrophic personal injury."

Mr Koetsier was evacuated by air ambulance, having sustained a central spinal cord injury, which required fusion of some of his vertebrae, leaving him with incomplete tetraplegia.

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.

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

Mr Chapman claims that Max's owner, Mr Thomas, is liable to pay compensation because he should have had the dog under control, which would have prevented the accident happening.

The National Wales: The air ambulance took Lourens to the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff where he was diagnosed with central spinal cord syndrome injuryThe air ambulance took Lourens to the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff where he was diagnosed with central spinal cord syndrome injury

The air ambulance took Lourens to the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff where he was diagnosed with central spinal cord syndrome injury

He also blames LJP Owen Ltd, trading as Nolton Stables, for allowing the group to canter a second time after Max had first been seen running off his lead.

"The accident would not have happened if the dog had not been running loose and/or out of control and if the cantering group had not been led for their second canter while the dog was still loose," he said.

For Mr Thomas, barrister Andrew Arentsen said there was no reason why Max should have been on his lead, since Druidston beach is regularly used by dog walkers to exercise their pets freely.

"It is precisely the type of location where dog owners can reasonably allow their dogs to run without restraint," he said.

He also denied that 14-tear-old Max was an aggressive dog, saying that he had always been ‘friendly, gentle and social’. “He has never chased or been aggressive to horses at all,” he said. "Max was an obedient dog who would return to Mr Thomas when called.

He says Max had shown initially only a "mild interest" in the horses that day and he only ran after them when they cantered a second time.

“He was not barking or acting aggressively,” he said. "It is admitted that the claimant fell from his horse. It is not known precisely why that occurred, save for the fact that the claimant lost control of the horse and lost his seat.

"Max was not disobedient or out of control, nor barking or yapping."

He adds: "The accident occurred because the group of horses stopped, having cantered past Max, and because the claimant lost control of his horse and lost his seat upon the same."

For LJP Owen Ltd, which operates as Nolton Stables, barrister Charles Woodhouse denied that it was at fault for Mr Koetsier's accident, since the horse in question was perfectly comfortable around dogs.

The company, which serves 6,000 customers a year, keeps dogs loose at the stables so horses can acclimatise to them, and any which are not comfortable around dogs would be sold, he says.

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

"The risk of a horse bucking, jumping, rearing or otherwise moving in such a way as to unseat its rider is an ordinary risk of riding horses of which the claimant was well aware and which he voluntarily accepted in choosing to ride Bonfire," he says.

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

Lawyers for Mr Koetsier said they would be seeking a damages payout of up to £5 million.