Riding and Road Safety Points to Consider
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 a responsibility to keep the 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, the rider’s ability and the riding and road safety test available to all riders throughout the UK.
Feature image: Riding and Road Safety Image courtesy Equisafety Ltd.
Assessing the horse’s ability
Age, training and experience are three factors to consider before taking a horse out onto the road. No matter how experienced the rider is, the horse’s overall mentality toward subjective situations needs to be taken into account. An experienced combination (horse and rider) are an asset to any less than an 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 with a positive experience.
If the horse lacks 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 a healthy 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 the rider’s ability
No matter how experienced riders may be, a large proportion have ‘hang-ups’ about venturing out onto the road. This may be due to a previous accident, lack of confidence in their own ability or that of their horses, or lack of overall experience. Each one of these factors may well attribute to the horse’s behaviour while on the road.
It’s OK to accept and acknowledge one’s own hesitations, in fact, it’s better to be able to do so, that way we can start unravelling 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 of the saddle, will affect overall fitness. Without knowing it, how we feel about ourselves will impact our mental and physical ability to ride as well as we once did. Consider 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
Other helpful advice
The Riding Safe Award available via the BHS will help you develop the knowledge and skills to ride out safely in all environments.
The award helps you learn how to ride safely on the road, along rights of way, across agricultural land, at the beach and when warming up at competitions.