Increasing numbers of riders are being thrown from their horses and suffering injuries after their steeds have been spooked by low flying drones
Around a dozen incidents of drone horse scares have been reported over the past year, but the actual figure is feared to be far higher – with many riders not reporting their experiences.
The British Horse Society has now called for the law to be strengthened to allow police to clamp down on drone owners who fly them close to horses.
The society has said the 11 incidents of drone scares reported to it between 2016 and 2017 is “just the tip of the iceberg” and that it has received numerous from members worried about the increased use of drones.
Alex Hiscox, the BHS’ director of Safety, told The Telegraph: “We’ve received dozens of calls from concerned members, who are worried about the increase in drones.
“Many drone users may not realise that they can frighten horses, causing them to quickly move away from what they perceive as a threat. This can cause them to run and injure themselves, or if they are being ridden, could result in serious injury of the horse and rider.
“We are asking drone users to be mindful and not set off drones around horses. Avoid flying a drone near stables or bridleways. We have met with the Department of Transport to discuss this issue and will continue to raise awareness.”
Riders have told how their horses have been spooked by drones, throwing them off or bolting and only being brought under control after a struggle.
Joanna Jeans said she was lucky to avoid a serious accident when a drone came within yards of of the horses she and her husband Simon were untacking after a ride in the Mendip Hills last November.
She told Horse & Hound: “Both horses went into full flight mode. Simon’s mare is very spooky, but luckily he managed to hang on to her.”
Ms Jeans said the drone operator appeared to be indifferent. “He could have caused a serious accident, as well as killing one of our horses,” she said. “But he was completely deadpan. I don’t think he had any understanding of what he’d done.”
The Government is currently drafting a new bill to allow police to order drone owners to ground their machines and force the owners to register their drones before being able to fly them.
The BHS said it had lobbied for tougher legislation on the use of drones, with heavy penalties for owners who fly their machines near riders, above fields where horses are tethered and above stables.
A BHS spokesman said: “Our members are increasingly concerned about the use of drones where they ride. FLying drones near horses can have consequences. Users should avoid flying over horses – in fields or ridden.”
The CLA, which represents rural land and business owners, has joined the call for tougher rules.
“An increase in recreational drones with cameras is a worry to farmers and landowners over privacy, potential for damage to property and the safety of people with livestock.
“We will continue to push for change to the Civil Aviation Act, so users would need landowners permission to fly over their land.”
Baroness Sugg, the aviation minister, said the new legislation would “strike a balance”, allowing the majority of users to carry on flying responsibly while still allowing drone technology to be used by businesses and public services.
She added however: “If we are to realise the full potential of this incredibly exciting technology, we have to take steps to stop illegal use of these devices and address safety and privacy concerns.”
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