For many equestrians, going for a hack out is a welcome change of scenery from riding in an arena. Unfortunately, many riders need to ride on the road, due to their location or a lack of local bridleways. A horse and rider are also some of the most vulnerable road users. So, when was the last time you looked at the highway code and the laws that apply to you when riding on the road? If it was back when you were in The Pony Club, it's probably time for a little reminder...
Here are the laws, as listed on gov.uk.
Safety equipment. Children under the age of 14 MUST wear a helmet which complies with the Regulations. It MUST be fastened securely. Other riders should also follow these requirements. These requirements do not apply to a child who is a follower of the Sikh religion while wearing a turban.
- you should wear boots or shoes with hard soles and heels
- light-coloured or fluorescent clothing in daylight
- reflective clothing if you have to ride at night or in poor visibility.
At night. It is safer not to ride on the road at night or in poor visibility, but if you do, make sure you wear reflective clothing and your horse has reflective bands above the fetlock joints. A light which shows white to the front and red to the rear should be fitted, with a band, to the rider’s right arm and/or leg/riding boot. If you are leading a horse at night, carry a light in your right hand, showing white to the front and red to the rear, and wear reflective clothing on both you and your horse. It is strongly recommended that a fluorescent/reflective tail guard is also worn by your horse.
Before you take a horse on to a road, you should:
- ensure all tack fits well and is in good condition
- make sure you can control the horse.
Always ride with other, less nervous horses if you think that your horse will be nervous of traffic. Never ride a horse without both a saddle and bridle.
Before riding off or turning, look behind you to make sure it is safe, then give a clear arm signal.
When riding on the road you should:
- keep to the left
- keep both hands on the reins unless you are signalling
- keep both feet in the stirrups
- not carry another person
- not carry anything which might affect your balance or get tangled up with the reins
- keep a horse you are leading to your left
- move in the direction of the traffic flow in a one-way street
- never ride more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends.
You MUST NOT take a horse onto a footpath or pavement, and you should not take a horse onto a cycle track. Use a bridleway where possible. Equestrian crossings may be provided for horse riders to cross the road and you should use these where available. You should dismount at level crossings where a ‘horse rider dismount’ sign is displayed.
Avoid roundabouts wherever possible. If you use them you should:
- keep to the left and watch out for vehicles crossing your path to leave or join the roundabout
- signal right when riding across exits to show you are not leaving
- signal left just before you leave the roundabout.
- always carry your mobile with you.
- tell someone where you are going and roughly how long you will be.
- practise opening gates at home so you can do this without having to dismount whilst out.
- make sure your horse is happy to stand still - in case a situation occurs where you need him to oblige while you deal with something.
- carry a folding hoof pick with you so you can remove any stones should they become stuck in your horse’s foot.
- if going on a long ride or somewhere new, carry a headcollar and leadrope with you to make leading your horse easier should the need arise. This could be worn under the bridle.
- always wear high viz clothing and accessories and a high viz exercise sheet. Even in summer this can improve your visibility to other road users.
- carry a whip with you - if your horse is OK with it.
Advice for motorists
One of the most important things to remember is that horses are a flight animal with much keener hearing than humans. So the sound of a car engine revving, or a horn blowing can be unnerving to them and cause them to spook if it startles them.
If you are approaching a horse on the road, you can help by doing the following:
- slow down to a max of 15mph.
- be patient, don't rev the engine or blow the horn
- pass the horse wide and slow, leaving at least a cars width between you and the horse.
- drive off slowly.
- take notice of the rider's hand signals. If they ask you to slow down or stop it will be for a good reason.
- many riders will try to get out of your way and wait in gateway or on the grass verge for you to pass if safe and possible to do so. Please give them chance to do this.
Bicycles can appear suddenly and silently and due to a horse’s field of vision they might not see you until you are already very near. Shouting ‘hello’ or ‘bike approaching’ is a great way to let both horse and rider know you are there, especially when approaching from behind.