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Car-on-horse collisions rare in Palos Verdes

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Kelly Byere and her horse Aquinoh take a jump at the Palos Verdes Stables in Palos Verdes Estates. Photo by David Rosenfeld

How exactly a horse got loose at one of the Peninsula’s premiere riding stables in the early morning hours of Sept. 18 and ended up on Palos Drive North is still unknown.

A car struck the horse that escaped the Seahorse Riding Club in Rolling Hills Estates at 2 a.m. and veered into a fence. Both the driver, 69-year-old Ryan Koyama – an optometrist – and the horse were killed in the accident.

The owner of the stables, Devon Gibson, did not return a phone call inquiring about the incident. Neither did a spokesperson for California Highway Patrol, which was investigating the collision. Seahorse Riding Club has a local history in the area of more than 35 years providing lessons, boarding facilities and a place for competitive riders to train and groom their horses.

News of the accident last month spread quickly among the equestrian community here. Few could recall an incident before where a driver was killed in a collision with a horse, but accidents do happen on occasion when horses get loose, said Madeline Ryan, a 45-year resident.

“I bet every year to year-and-a-half we have an incident,” Ryan said. “You put a horse near a motor vehicle going along on a highway and you’re going to have an accident. Sometimes the horses survive but most times they do not.”

Sgt. Dave Rozas at the Lomita Sheriff’s Office, which patrols Rancho Palos Verdes and Rolling Hills Estates, said the department did not have statistics readily available as to how many collisions with horses occur each year, but he estimated it occurs about once a year.

Palos Verdes Estates Police Sgt. Tony Gonzalez said it’s extremely rare.

“I’ve been here going on 14 years and I’ve had two incidents where a horse got loose that we responded to,” Gonzalez said. “We’ve never had an accident with a horse.”

Gonzalez, who grew up in New York City, remembers far more incidents with horses in Central Park and the Bronx than in Palos Verdes, which is known as a horse-friendly community.

Ryan said there’s a horse keeping resurgence on the Peninsula these days. Her neighborhood off Palos Verdes Drive East houses close to 25 horses where a decade ago there were around 12, she said.

“A lot of them are like little Hoodinis that can play with their lock enough and get it open on their own,” Ryan said. “I had a couple like that myself. We hear about horses that are loose, but we seem to find the owners and get them home safely.”

Ryan said the Seahorse Riding Club has a superb reputation.

“It’s a very well-run facility,” Ryan said. “It’s a very clean, very horse-knowledgeable facility.”

David Mclewee, who manages Palos Verdes Stables in Palos Verdes Estates, said loose horses have never been an issue at their facility. He speculated there could be a lawsuit pending with regards to the accident down the road. He said normally a horse that escapes will try and return to its stable unless spooked by something.

“Horses are flight animals so if you try and catch them and raise your arms they will run away,” he said. “I hope it doesn’t affect the horses being here.”

In years past, the City of Rancho Palos Verdes limited the number of horses any one homeowner can board on a 12 acre parcel to four as a way to prevent the proliferation of private boarding facilities that could disrupt the neighborhood.

As development increased, the equestrian community in Palos Verdes has increasingly been pinched for trail access, said Ryan, who formerly served on RPV’s now-defunct Equestrian Committee. It’s all part of living in an area where development and outdoor recreation often collide.

“We’re very vigilant now when there is any development going on that we go to the city and ask to be given an easement,” Ryan said. “We’re not always so lucky.” ER


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