Horse sense: How to navigate horse riders on the road

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Horse riders and car drivers both use the road, but what's the safest way for drivers to approach a scenario with a horse rider?

With roughly 3 million horse riders in the UK, it’s not uncommon to see the occasional horse rider on the road.

Both horse riders and car drivers have the right to use the road, but sometimes when both are present there can be some misunderstanding as to the proper way to approach the other.

The numbers behind horse rider accidents

This has always been a cause for concern within the horse community, as tragic injuries and even deaths have occurred in the past due to car collisions. Unfortunately, as the majority of incidents go unreported and undocumented, it’s hard to determine just how many are happening each year.

However, according to the British Horse Society, in 2014 alone there were 104 horse rider injuries – including one horse rider who was killed and 23 seriously injured. Even more alarming, the THINK! Campaign (run by the Department of Transport) found that in 2012 five horses were killed, with 26 seriously injured, due to car-related incidents.

What can motorists do to help?

The THINK! campaign strongly recommends that car drivers follow these simple steps in the event of encountering a horse rider on the road:

  • Always slow down, and prepare to stop if necessary
  • As horses can be easily frightened and unpredictable, be alert for sudden movements
  • Avoid revving your engine or using your horn
  • Watch out for riders’ signals or communications
  • While passing, stay wide and slow giving the horse and rider ample room. Remember to not accelerate rapidly after passing

What can horse riders do?

If you yourself are a horse rider and will be venturing out on the roads, THINK! also advises that you keep in mind the following as well:

  • If you can help it, avoid riding in darkness, fog or failing light. It’s also important to try to avoid icy or snowy roads
  • Make sure to put reflective/fluorescent clothing on yourself as well as your horse – regardless of what the weather or light conditions are
  • Should you be on a horse who is not used to roads, it’s recommended that you ask a rider with a more experienced horse to accompany you
  • Move into a single file line when a motorist wants to overtake, and remember to cross a road as a whole group for better visibility

Lastly, it's important to remember that both motorists and horse riders need to consider each other's needs to help avoid tragic accidents on the roads.

If you’re looking for more information on horse rider and motorist safety, the British Horse Society and THINK! both offer helpful and useful guides.

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