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Every year horse riders and their animals are injured on British roads. So, we have put together a handy guide for both riders and drivers to help everyone stay safe.
Top Tips for Horse Riders
- RIDE OFF-ROAD WHEREVER POSSIBLE
Make use of bridleways and byways if you can. Unfortunately this is not always possible and riding on the road is a ‘necessary evil’ for most horse riders. If this is the case, try to stick to smaller, quieter roads. Avoid built-up areas, main roads and dangerous road crossings.
- DON’T RIDE OUT IN POOR VISIBILITY
Avoid riding at dusk or after dark whenever possible, even if you are wearing the appropriate lights. Motorists will probably not expect you to be on the road after dark and may not spot the difference between a car and a horse until it is too late. Also, remember that visibility is greatly reduced in fog, and in wet conditions a car may take much longer to stop than on dry roads.
- WEAR HIGH-VISIBILITY CLOTHING
Wear high-visibility clothing even on bright and clear days. Hat covers and tabards are great, and you can kit your horse out in reflective gear to ensure it can be seen by others if you fall off or it gets loose. This is important because motorists will be able to see you and your horse from much further away.
- BE IN CONTROL
Only ride out on roads once you are certain your horse is ready to do so and you feel confident enough to be able to control them. If you are training your horse or have to ride out on a horse that is traffic-shy, make sure you are accompanied by another rider on a quiet horse which is used to traffic. This will help your own horse gain confidence on the roads.
- CHECK YOUR EQUIPMENT
Check your horse’s tack and equipment for signs of wear and tear before every ride and make sure your horse is regularly and properly shod. If your tack fails while you are on the road, the consequences could be very serious. Similarly, if your horse’s shoes and hooves are not kept in good condition, it is at higher risk of slipping or tripping on roads.
- GIVE CLEAR SIGNALS AND PAY ATTENTION
Make sure you know how to give proper hand signals and give other road users plenty of time to prepare. Keep both hands on the reins at all times when not signalling. Always concentrate on the road and what other road users are doing. Spotting hazards early can often avoid accidents all together.
- GET INSURED
You must invest in adequate insurance if you do not already have it; if you do, check it is still valid. Third party cover is the absolute minimum you need, but it is wise to get the best level of cover you can afford.
- TAKE YOUR TEST
To feel confident that your conduct and competence is as it should be while riding on roads, take the British Horse Society Riding and Road Safety Test. You can find out more by visiting www.bhs.org.uk/Training_and_Qualifications.aspx
- KNOW THE HIGHWAY CODE
Just as motorists are expected to learn the Highway Code, horse riders should familiarise themselves with its rules too. As well as learning more about best practice on the roads as a horse rider, it will also give you a better understanding of how motorists are expected to treat you.
- ALWAYS BE POLITE
It is important to remember to be polite to courteous drivers at all times. Even if they’ve had a bad experience with rude or lazy riders before, they will be far more likely to continue to be considerate next time they pass a horse if you remember to say ‘thank you’.
Top Tips for Motorists
- BE OBSERVANT
Watch out for horses being led, ridden or driven on the road especially in rural areas.
- PASS WIDE AND SLOW
Horses can be unpredictable and spook easily, so make sure you give them lots of room when passing. Keep your speed slow and prepare to stop if necessary.
- KEEP NOISE TO A MINIMUM
Do not sound your horn or rev your engine. Horses are easily scared by noise and may panic around fast moving vehicles.
- PAY SPECIAL ATTENTION ON NARROW ROADS AND BENDS
Take extra care and keep your speed down at left-hand bends and on narrow country roads. Think whether you could stop in time if there was a horse around the corner.
- KNOW THE HIGHWAY CODE
Watch out for horse riders’ signals and heed requests to slow down or stop. There are many rules riders follow and signals they use to indicate their actions or to communicate with drivers so it is important to be aware of these. For example:
When turning right horse riders keep to the left of the road as it is unsafe for them to position a horse between lines of traffic.
On a roundabout horse riders will normally signal right only when approaching exits they are not taking. Horse riders will keep to the left within the roundabout until reaching their exit, when they signal left.
For safety, riders may ride in double file when escorting a young or inexperienced horse rider.