Road safety is something that is pressed on riders from a young age, and rightly so. From Hi-Vis to head cams, as riders (MOST of us) we do everything possible to prevent accidents. One of the most unfortunate things about being a British Equestrian is the lack of bridle paths. Most us have to go on at least some roads to get to any kind of off road hacking, which is becoming more dangerous as the years go by.
Riding on the roads isn’t ideal, but is a necessity in the equestrian world. Sadly, a lot of drivers nowadays don’t respect the space needed to pass horses safely, resulting in a lot more accidents and near misses than there should be in a modern world. Our farm is on a ‘country lane’ and the speed limit is national (60mph) which frankly, is ridiculous. Our arena is right on the bend and alongside the road – with no option to move it, not that we should have to – and the amount of boy racers we’ve had virtually flying round is scary. We’ve had cars on their roof in the middle of the arena, men on bikes flipping over the fence, a tractor with a 30ft trailer stacked with hay tip and fall in as well as others. All because, people go far too fast, can’t slow down for the bends and lose control. Imagine what would happen if someone came round the blind bend at that speed and one of the multiple riders on our road was out hacking? It doesn’t even bare thinking about.
Speaking from personal experience, I have had several incidents far too close for comfort simply because drivers are in such a hurry to get past, or are speeding on country lanes. One involved hacking Fred out on his own (which I wouldn’t do unless he was 110% safe on roads.) We were walking over the motorway-bridge that we have to cross to get off our lane, on our way home. A large van came out of nowhere, flying up behind us, slamming on at the last second. This caused Fred to spook, taking off over the bridge, unaided by the fact there was another van coming the other way that didn’t slow down. I was lucky he is more sensible & didn’t bolt completely, and that the van actually did manage to mostly stop and didn’t skid – which would’ve meant us being hit. The situation was worse, as the motorway bridge passes over the M56, which is incredibly loud so neither of us could hear the van until the last second.
KILL YOUR SPEED, NOT MY HORSE
From 2010 to April this year, 222 horses and 38 riders have been killed on Britain’s roads.
According to the British Horse Society, 80% of these accidents were caused by drivers travelling too fast or not giving enough space. Last year, the BHS launched the ‘Dead Slow’ campaign, in hopes to raise awareness of how dangerous incidents on the roads involving horses can be. Not only for the horse and rider but for the driver and all passengers in the car as well. Since the launch of the campaign, the BHS told of a 29% increase in road incidents reported to them. Whilst this is a start, it is terrifying that horses and riders are still being killed on the roads today.
Prior to this, a memorable facebook page (with over 40,000 followers today) was set up by Lauren De Grunchy. This page involves riders stripping off for the camera with the caption “Will you slow down for me now?”. The message behind the page was to raise awareness again for horses and riders on the road, as drivers would definitely slow down for an almost nude rider!
Most car drivers are not horsey, and perhaps don’t realise how quickly a situation can change. Horses can go from a sedate walk to sideways at 30mph+ in a split second. They weigh half a ton, a lot of them more. The damage a horse can do to your car is catastrophic. For those that say horses shouldn’t be on the roads and that roads are made for cars, that is not an argument. If you’re going to be that petty, technically roads were designed for horses to go down as guess what? Before the car was the horse and cart.
Horses have every right to share the roads. No matter how you feel about horses, remember there are people on board them. People with lives, families, everything to live for. They are just enjoying their hobby, as you might be driving your car to enjoy yours.
Be Safe, Be Seen
To remain safer and to allow drivers to spot them earlier & quicker, a lot of riders wear Hi-Visibility clothing. There are SO many products out there now to ensure you are as visible as possible, there is really no reason not to wear it. Riders that don’t wear hi-vis and are spotted are usually scolded by the community, for giving us all a bad name and risking their lives for no reason! It doesn’t have to be expensive, there are plenty of cheaper brands out there and it all does the same job.
There is no doubt about it, a lot of drivers drive irresponsibly. They aren’t all bad, but some perhaps don’t even realize how to overtake a horse. They aren’t bikes, they might not continue in a straight line at the same speed.
When you fly past us with inches to spare, you are risking your life.
My horse weighs over half a ton.
How do you think that would end, if he ended up lay on your windscreen?
That is why, when I ask you to slow down with a wave of my arm
I am not just doing it to hold you up, and get in your way.
I am trying to save our lives.
Up in the saddle, I can see and hear things you cannot.
I can see a car coming on the other side of the road, on the blind bend you insist on overtaking me on. Hear a tractor engine grumbling behind us, feel the tension in my horses back, as your speed frightens him.
Anything from a dog barking to a plastic bag flapping could create a small spook, which would result in my horse being in the middle of the road in a heartbeat. Do you forget, horses can go from a sedate walk to 30mph+ in seconds?
It isn’t just the horses life you’re at risk of ending. It is mine, as well as your own. Best case scenario, you injure my horse. Worst case, you kill us all.
Your car could be a lethal weapon. A simple knock could be a broken leg, or a fright enough to bolt. No matter how you feel about horses, remember that they did not ask to be in front of your car that day. Think of the life of the rider in the saddle, it is potentially in your hands.
Next time to try to squeeze past a horse and rider, or don’t slow down, just remember the person sat in the saddle. They have everything to live for, who are you to risk ending their life to be 30 seconds quicker?
If we didn’t have to share roads with cars, we wouldn’t. Our bridle paths are going extinct, we have no choice.
Please, pass wide and slow. Slow down to 15mph and give a cars width.
Don’t overtake on a bend, or come flying past revving your engine.
Respect horses. Respect riders. Save Lives.