Riding and Road Safety Points to Consider
June, Riding and Road Safety – Everything Horse Magazine
Speculation surrounding motorists not taking enough caution, or time to think, while approaching and maneuvering around horse and rider on the road is, and has been for some time, a hot topic in the industry. However, it’s not only the driver of a vehicle that holds responsibility to keep horse and rider safe on the road, it’s also that of the rider.
So, what can we do to help make sure everyone is kept safe? Here we look at assessing the horse’s ability, rider’s ability and the riding and road safety test available to all riders throughout the UK.
Assessing the horse’s ability
Age, training and experience are three factors to consider before taking a horse out on to the road. No matter how experienced the rider, the horse’s overall mentality to subjective situations needs to be taken into account. An experienced combination (horse and rider) are an asset to any less than experienced hacking partnership.
If a horse hasn’t had much experience, then hacking on busy roads or past farms etc should be initially avoided. If you are unsure, use quieter routes initially to get an idea of how the horse reacts to particular situations or environments. This will also help build the horse’s confidence in the rider as he is able to associate going out as a positive experience.
If the horse lacks in confidence, having another more road worthy horse and rider combination come along will offer a form of reassurance. Avoid hacking in large groups until the horse is comfortable with a particular hacking route. Traffic may also have a negative impact as the horse may be unsure of larger, noisier vehicles. A friend on foot may be of help, especially when a less than confident rider is on board.
Following injury, the horse may not necessarily return to work with as healthier of an attitude, as he once had. This should be taken into account by easing back into hacking and re exposing him gradually to each situation.
Assessing rider ability
No matter how experienced riders may be, a large proportion have ‘hang-ups’ about venturing out on to the road. This maybe due to a previous accident, lack of confidence in their own ability or that of their horses, or lack in overall experience. Each one of these factors may well attribute to the horses behavior while on the road.
It’s OK to accept and acknowledge ones own hesitations, in fact it’s better to be able to do so, that way we can start unraveling what it is that makes us hesitate. By being honest with ourselves we can start working on improving our overall confidence and ability.
Rider injury, or time out the saddle, will affect overall fitness. Without knowing it, how we feel in ourselves will impact our mental and physical ability to ride as well as we once did. Give consideration to this when returning to the saddle, allowing time for the rider/horse relationship to build once again before asking too much. Work on core strength helps rider stability and balance in the saddle.
If you don’t feel confident, then don’t do it. Ask if another, more confident rider, can hack out your horse for you while you go ‘back to the drawing board’ and figure out exactly what it is that makes you feel unsure.
Wear hi-viz, and lots of it!
The majority of horse riders now wear at least one item of hi-viz, on either their beings or their horse. How you wear said garments can make the difference between being an effective or ineffective piece of on road equipment, helping keep horse, rider and motorists safe.
- Zip up gillets! Unzipped gillets offer little visibility from the front. Make sure the gillet is zipped up to improve overall visibility for oncoming road users, as well as those approaching from behind
- Wear as much as you and your horse can – With a selection of hi-viz garments available to horse and rider there’s no excuse not to have a full wardrobe of items available. From waterproof exercise sheets to tail guards, make sure you get stocked up
- Wear a mixture of reflective and fluorescent items. Both work well in different lights and weather conditions
Riding and Road Safety Test
The Riding and Road Safety Test is available to those over the age of 12 and is supported by the Department for Transport. The test, open to non BHS members, is taken by over 4,000 candidates each year.
Training for the test is available at various equestrian centres and colleges throughout the UK. You do not need a horse to take the test as horses stabled at test centres are used. Courses offer training on the correct signalling technique as well as right of way
The test comprises of three parts; the theory test, the simulated road and road route.
The Theory Test – As it suggests, a selection of questions that cover the highway code and other essential information you should know. Online literature and library books are available to help ‘swat up’
The Simulated Road – Often taking place in an arena, the simulated ‘off road’ route offers the rider the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to signal, maneuver and negotiate around a sequence of poles and cones in a safe environment.
The Road Route – The final phase of the test is the road route. Horse and rider are taken onto the road, where the rider is required to show how they are able to put their academic knowledge to the test. This part of the test offers the examiner the ability to determine the rider’s ability to hand ‘real time’ road experience.
For more information on the Riding and Road Safety Test visit the www.bhs.org.uk website.