Knowing how to drive around horses is vital for keeping you and them safe.
Road accidents involving horses are a major concern for riders. Unfortunately, limited off-road riding forces most riders to spend some of their time exercising their horses on the roads, if only to access local bridleways. While many drivers are considerate to horses, slowing down and allowing plenty of room while passing, there are some who are not, which can lead to confrontations, injuries and even deaths of humans and equines.
There were 104 horse rider casualties recorded by the police in Great Britain in 2014. This includes one adult horse rider who was killed and 23 who were seriously injured. One child horse rider was also seriously injured. Unfortunately, every year a high number of equestrian incidents go unrecorded, but it is estimated that there are over 3000 accidents involving horses every year.
Motorists should understand the needs and vulnerability of riders and horses, and behave courteously towards them at all times. Horses are large, powerful animals and a collision with one poses considerable risk to the motor vehicle and its occupants, as well as to the horse and rider.
Drivers should be aware that riders are often children, and therefore, less experienced as both road users and horse riders. Horses themselves may be inexperienced and nervous of traffic.
All of the tips below also apply to horse drawn vehicles.
So here are our top 10 tips to staying safe when you encounter horses on the road.
1 – Please pass wide and slow
This should be one that everyone knows and puts into practice as it is actually in the highway code. The main reasons for passing a horse wide and slow are because driving slow significantly reduces the chances of an accident. If anything happens, if the horse spooks you have a lot more chance of stopping if you are going slowly. The wide is the same principle, if you go around a horse and you are close, the horse could kick out, step sideways and cause an accident. Leave a good few feet if possible and if there is any less than that, wait to overtake until you can pass wide and slow.
2 – Turning right & roundabouts
Motorists should be aware that when turning right, riders will not move to the centre of the road, but stay on the left until they reach the point where they intend to turn. Drivers should also be aware that horse riders behave differently from other traffic at roundabouts. Riders will not normally signal on approach, but will stay on the left within the roundabout until they reach their exit, and then signal left. They may signal right when approaching and passing exits they do not intend to take.
3 – Riders can’t always thank you with their hands
Don’t expect all riders to raise their hand in thanks when you drive considerately – sometimes it just isn’t safe to take a hand off the reins and maintain control most will smile or nod their thanks instead.
4 – Overtaking on solid white lines
The law says that you cannot overtake on solid white lines, however, Highway Code rule 129 allows you to “cross the line if necessary, provided the road is clear, to pass a stationary vehicle, or overtake a pedal cycle, horse or road maintenance vehicle, if they are travelling at 10mph (16km/h) or less.”
5 – If you are a cyclist overtaking horses
Cycles can spook horses and can cause an accident just as easily as a car. The best thing to do is to slow down and let the rider know that you are there, so they can be alert as you pass. The same applies to pass wide and slow, the main thing here is to not spook the horse. The risk to you as a cyclist is much higher than in a car because you don’t have a huge metal shell to protect you if anything happens.
The road is a public highway and no one has any more right of way than anyone else. Be courteous and think of everyone’s safety including your own. Whether you are a horse rider, leading a horse, walking a dog, driving a car, riding a bike, driving a tractor or anything else, 99% of accidents can be avoided by slowing down and being aware.
Feel free to share this article with your horsey and non horsey friends and hopefully the amount of horse related accidents will be reduced in the near future. No one wants an accident that could have been avoided on their conscience.