Basic road safety for the equestrian community
Before you venture out onto any road with your horse, you need to be suitably equipped to deal with situations that might arise. That means understanding how to keep you, your horse and other road users, safe and protected.
Whether you’re riding on a country lane or major highway, you need to understand your responsibilities when it comes to road safety.
The Highway Code
The Highway Code contains all you need to know about riding on highways and byways, the rules to follow, protective clothing and headgear, hand signals, road signs, crossings, advice for drivers, main roads, country roads, codes of practice and traffic laws.
It’s important that you understand your responsibilities under the Code and act accordingly.
Some key elements of the Code include:
The wearing of reflective clothing and bands at night or when visbility is limited.
Children under 14 have to wear appropriate headwear.
Bridleways should be used whenever possible – do not take horses onto cycle tracks, pavements or footpaths.
Avoid roundabouts (if possible).
Horses are not allowed on any motorways.
Learn the hand signals given in the Code and ensure you always use them clearly.
Use equestrian crossings whenever possible as these are purpose-designed for riders.
The Code also covers horse-drawn vehicles.
Before you take a horse on a road
Before you and your horse get onto the road, The Code requires you to ensure that all tack fits well and is in a good condition; that you can control your horse and, quite obviously, that you always ride with a saddle and bridle.
Nervous riders or those with limited experience, are encouraged to ride with others that have more insight into road riding.
Riding and road safety test
If you are a regular road rider, you might consider taking a riding and road safety test. Whilst it’s not essential for a horse rider to take a test (many riding schools, etc do give some great advice about road riding and other risky situations), it is a good way of reinforcing your knowledge and helping to prepare you for specific situations that you might encounter.
The BHS Riding and Road Safety Test helps educate riders in road safety, in order to minimise the risk involved when riding on roads. You can take the test if you are 12+ years and it’s recognised by the Department for Transport. It’s worth enrolling given it could potentially save your life as well as protecting other road users.
Knowledge and experience count
To summarise, knowledge and experience do count in equestrian sport and will help you to maintain good road safety habits when riding.
Do not attempt to ride on a road (by yourself) if you have little experience. You need both experience and knowledge of The Highway Code before you do this. And you must have complete control over your horse. When you feel confident of all of this, you’re there…
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