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Riding safely on our roads

Everyone on the road needs to think about horses and their riders.

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  • Unpredictability

  • The correct equipment is vital

  • Know the rules

  • New rules apply

When it comes to horse riding, we’re all responsible

Most people only come into contact with a horse and rider now and again, usually, in rural areas. Many drivers may not be aware that riding a horse takes a great deal of skill and concentration.

It’s important that everyone understands the risks and takes responsibility. Whether you’re a rider, or another road user – safety must always come first.

What you need to know

  • Horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles may stay in the left-hand lane of a roundabout when they intend to continue across or around the roundabout
  • This means that people driving should take extra care at a roundabout, making sure they don’t cut across people riding a horse or driving a horse-drawn vehicle who are continuing around the roundabout in the left-hand lane
  • Horses can move unexpectedly on the road and must be approached carefully
  • Drivers and motorcyclists must leave at least 2 metres space and drive at a speed of under 10 mph, when overtaking horse riders or horse-drawn vehicles
  • Riders must always think about horse’s wellbeing and their riding equipment
  • Other things to think about are insurance and specialist courses for riders
  • Horse-drawn carriages do still occasionally travel on our roads

The right equipment is vital

It’s important to keep all horse riding equipment in good condition. It’s also an idea to take a fully charged phone with you – make sure you have the contact details of your vet and anyone else you may have to summon in the event of an emergency. It may also be an idea to have an ‘in case of emergency’ (ICE) number to contact if you are seriously injured and unable to provide the stable contact details.

Here are some simple checks you should carry out regularly.

Riding hat

This should be of current approved standards, in good condition and always securely fastened when you’re riding. If you fall on your hat, make sure you have it replaced, even if it shows no obvious signs of damage.

Footwear

You should always wear sensible footwear with a solid heel – never trainers or welly boots.

Tack

Make sure nothing’s broken and the stitching is good – especially on stirrup leathers and girths. The stirrup iron also needs to be big enough for your boot.

Clothing

You and your horse should always wear reflective and fluorescent clothing, at any time of day – regardless of the season, or weather.

Be as safe as possible on our roads

There are various assessments and training courses, which can help to increase your horse riding skills.

Here’s some information that might come in useful:

  • Riding and road safety tests are available for all riders over 12
  • The British Horse Society offers information on the different training courses available
  • You can also read the British Horse Society Riding and Roadcraft manual for safe riding techniques and advice
  • Find out more about the British Horse Society

Have you thought about insurance?


From time to time, collisions do unfortunately happen. So, it’s important that you’re properly covered with insurance. You’ll need to have valid third party public liability insurance, which you can get through a broker or specialist insurance provider.

Appreciate other road users

Being courteous to other people on the road is always important. It also helps to acknowledge any courtesy that other people show to you.

There are a few simple things worth keeping in mind:

  • A smile or nod of the head in thanks means you don’t need to take your hands off the reins
  • Pass others at walking pace and slow down before you reach them
  • Remember, other road users might be frightened of horses, or just not too sure how to behave
  • Cyclists may call out to the horse riders as they approach as they may be unsure what to do. The horse riders can then give them advice on how best to overtake

Going for a hack

Before you head off, you should always be up to speed with all the information that matters.

More specifically:

  • Make sure you’re up to date on changes to the Highway Code
  • Your clothes and boots should be comfortable and suitable for the riding conditions, plus for walking too if necessary
  • Wear hi-viz (ideally on you and the horse) which can be seen from above and also all around you
  • Tell somebody where you’re going and roughly how long you’ll be out
  • Remember that electric and hybrid vehicles are harder to hear

Horse-drawn vehicles

These vehicles are not something you see on the road very often. In general, the carriage driver and other road users need to work together to make sure everyone stays safe. Here are some simple tips:

  • The average horse drawn vehicle is the same width as a car, but can be longer
  • Different variations of horses could be pulling the vehicle i.e. one, two, or a team of horses
  • A horse drawn vehicle can’t pull over onto grass verges like a single horse can
  • Reflectors and lights should be used on a carriage when the visibility is poor
  • Hi-viz clothes and riding helmets should be worn by drivers and assistants
  • Respect the carriage driver’s signals when turning or stopping
  • Horse drawn vehicles follow the Highway Code
  • A carriage driver signalling for you to stop will only do so for good reason
  • Only overtake a horse drawn vehicle when you know it’s safe and there’s time to pass slowly

Lose the blinkers

Operation #LoseTheBlinkers focuses on educating horse riders and drivers on sharing the road safely.

More on #LoseTheBlinkers.

Remember Horses are flight animals – no matter how well trained they are a horse can very quickly become frightened.

Always pass wide and slow.

Disabled riders

A lot of people with disabilities enjoy riding a horse, or driving a carriage. It’s a fun activity that also offers therapy, fitness and skills development.

There are a few centres offering disabled people opportunities to go horse riding.

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