Horses are powerful animals and have extremely heightened senses. They are ‘flight’ animals, so many revert to their natural instincts at any time. The outcome of this can be extremely challenging for the rider and other road users.
In the UK, there have been 2,570 road incidents reported to the British Horse Society in the last six years. Some 38 riders have been killed and 222 horses have died as a result of their injuries.
Of these incidents 80 per cent are because vehicle passed too fast or too close to the horse. The tips below give good advice on riding and driving around horses from the UK’s Institute of Advanced Motorists, and their RoadSmart head of driving and riding standards, Richard Gladman.
Smart tips on driving around horses
If you are approaching a horse from behind, hold back whilst getting enough information to pass safely. Do not get any closer than three car lengths and be careful not to creep into this space. Be prepared to slow down further or even stop to protect this space. Avoid sudden movements as horses may react. They can move incredibly quickly
Don’t spook them. Actions such as sounding your horn, revving your engine and playing loud music can spook the horse. Always drive gently and predictably. Remember there are three brains working, the driver’s, the rider’s and the horse’s
Make sure you give the rider enough space when passing them. We recommend at least a car’s width and make sure this is done slowly – remember always pass “slow and wide,” good advice is no more than 15mph
Often when riding two abreast it is for safety reasons, an inexperienced rider or a nervous animal being coached along by a more experienced companion. Give them some consideration
Keep an eye out for the rider. They will often give you signals asking you to stop or slow down. Riders will often acknowledge a safe pass but remember their top priority is to keep their hands on the reins and maintain control of the horse.
Always accelerate gently once you have passed the horse. A rider and the horse may both be inexperienced and nervous in traffic
Richard said: “Dealing safely with horses is a classic example of where applying the rules of good driving helps us to share space safely. Use the information around you – road signs, horses in fields, horse muck on the road or signs to an equestrian centre are all clues to help you anticipate meeting riders on the road. Controlling your speed so that you can deal with the unexpected is very important in rural areas. After that be sensible, don’t get too close and ‘wide and slow’ is the mantra.