Safely Passing Horses on the Road

1 June 2021

According to the British Horse Society, there are 3.5 million regular riders and nearly a million horses in the UK, so there's a good chance you'll see horses and riders on the road at some point. Responsible riders will avoid busy or fast roads and wear high-visibility clothing, but driving carefully, especially around bends on narrow roads, will allow you to spot horses and riders in time and react safely.

How to Safely Pass a Horse

  1. Slow down and be prepared to stop.
  2. Allow them a wide berth – at least the width of a car – and proceed slowly.
  3. Avoid doing anything that could frighten the horse, such as splashing them with puddles, sounding your horn, or revving your engine.
  4. Keep an eye out for the rider's signals to slow down or stop.
  5. When you drive considerately, don't expect all riders to raise their hands in thanks – if it's not possible to take a hand off the reins while maintaining control, most will simply smile or nod.
  6. Once you've passed the horse, gently accelerate.

Keep in Mind

  • Both the rider and the horse may be inexperienced and nervous in traffic.
  • A horse and rider intending to turn right will remain on the left until they reach the turn, as opposed to a cyclist or motorcyclist, who will pull across to the centre of the road well before passing.
  • Riders generally try to avoid difficult junctions such as roundabouts. If they do use them, riders should keep to the left and signal right across exits to indicate that they are not leaving. Slow down and give them plenty of space.

Horses are Nervous Animals

Horses are 'flight' animals, which means they are unpredictable and easily frightened. If a horse is startled by something, such as a speeding car or a barking dog, its natural reaction is to flee. This will be unexpected and may force them into the road and into the path of your vehicle. Even an experienced rider on a well-behaved horse will struggle to keep the horse under control in this situation. Horses are most commonly encountered on country lanes.

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