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Icelandic Horse Fought Dog to Protect Rider
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Icelandic Horse Fought Dog to Protect Rider

On Live Oak Trail, in the O’Neill Region of the majestic Trabuco Canyon in Orange County, California, a dog attacked three Icelandic horses and riders in March 2015. The park is a popular location for hiking, family picnics and camping. Three of the horses received bites and a woman was injured during the attack. The woman was tossed off her horse. She sustained injuries that required a trip to the hospital.

Helga Thordarson and her companions were traveling down a trail peak, when a 95 pound boxer mix, attacked one of the horses on the neck and legs. The riders defended the horses with riding crops unsuccessfully. The unprovoked attack lasted three to five minutes.

Thordarson’s horse, Tyr, a 15-year old gelding, began to fight the dog to protect riders and other horses. The horse’s heroic efforts were met with several bite marks to the neck. The dog retreated after chasing the horse to the bottom of the trail, although the horse continued to fight back.

The O’Neill Rangers were alerted to the attack and a report was written concerning the incident. The riders saw a group of women hiking with the dog as they walked the injured horses back to the stable. The woman that Thordarson believed to be the dog’s owner refused to reveal her identity. One of the riders took a picture of the hikers with the dog. Information gathered by the picture that was circulating on Facebook led to identification of the owner. The owner of the dog was contacted by investigators with Orange County’s Animal Care Agency late in April, 2015.  

A veterinarian cautioned the owners of the horses concerning the importance of quarantine procedures for the dog. Animal control officials wanted the dog tested for rabies. Quarantine protocol and rabies testing is standard procedure for animals involved in a bite attack.

Tyr, the heroic horse, is on strong antibiotics for the bites sustained during the attack. Although on a ledge when the attack occurred, the horses never panicked. The Icelandic horses are original Viking horses.


*Photo courtesy of Helga Thordarson's Facebook page.

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  1. immasweetiepie
    Great article!
  2. Julie Sinclair
    What a great story and the rider is lucky to have such a horse.
  3. Ann Johnston
    The owner is very lucky and so is the horse. I owned a horse one time but had to sell it when I was moving too far to keep it. It was a sad day to sell my horse but sometime life changes and we need to move on.
  4. Sarah Johnston
    Sarah Johnston
    What a fantastic story about courage.

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