According to a recent British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) survey, there are currently three million horse riders in the UK and 1.8 million of these rides regularly. The public rights of way network in England and Wales is continually shrinking resulting in more and more riders having to ride on busy roads in order to travel between bridleways.
With the increasing number of vehicles on our roads and the speed at which they travel – roads are becoming increasingly challenging, especially for vulnerable road users such as horse riders and carriage drivers. A key part of my role as Director of Safety at The British Horse Society (BHS) is to help raise awareness on and better promote equestrian safety, to ensure all riders feel as safe as possible when riding out.
Between November 2010 and March 2019, 3,737 road incidents involving horses have been reported to our horseaccidents.org.uk incident reporting site. Tragically, these incidents have resulted in the deaths of 315 horses and 43 people. The majority of these incidents occur because cars have passed by the horse too closely or too quickly. These figures are far too high, and we can all help to bring these statistics right down.
To help tackle the rising number of road incidents being reported to us, the BHS developed its Dead? Or Dead Slow? campaign which calls on drivers to follow four simple steps:
If I see a horse on the road; then I will …
- Slow down to a maximum of 15mph
- Be patient, I won’t sound my horn or rev my engine
- Pass the horse wide and slow, (if safe to do so) at least a car’s width if possible
- Drive slowly away
We encourage all road users to be courteous and patient with one another whilst sharing the roads. It is vital to remember that horses are flight animals and may move quickly away from what they perceive as a threat - this sudden action can have serious consequences for the rider, horse, vehicle and its occupants.
Responsibilities don’t just sit with drivers as there are steps riders can also take to help stay safe when out riding on the roads, including:
- Wearing hi-vis clothing and put hi-vis clothing on your horse, in all weathers and conditions
- Show courtesy to drivers (if safe to do so) – if you show drivers appreciation of their efforts, then they should repeat their behaviours in the future
- If you’re riding a horse that is not used to the roads, make sure you’re accompanied by an experienced rider and horse
- Be aware of your surroundings, and concentrate at all times
- Adhere to the Highway Code
- Make sure someone knows where you’re going and what time you’re due back
If a rider is involved in a near miss or an incident, please report it to horseaccidents.org.uk as this allows us to have a greater understanding of the issue and strengthens our lobbying efforts.
Director, British Horse Society