Advice for Motorists

In your vehicle, you’re a threat

Motorist passing horse and rider
 Pass the horse wide and slow

Please pass horses wide and slow.

Most horse riders would prefer not to ride on the roads. However, a lack of off-road access means using roads is a necessity for many riders. Riders have the same right to be on the road as motorists, cyclists or any other user group. With a bit of understanding and consideration on both sides, there’s room for everyone to use the roads in harmony and safety.

It’s important to understand that horses are flight animals. This means that however well-trained and calm a horse normally is, they can still be unpredictable and frightened by something they perceive as a threat. This is their natural instinct and means a horse’s reaction to a threat is to try to escape the situation.

A bird flying out from behind a hedgerow or a plastic bag blowing in the wind may cause a horse to unexpectedly spook into the road – and into your oncoming car. There is little a rider can do about this as such natural behavioural instincts are strong.

This is why it’s vital to always pass horses slowly and with plenty of room.

In some instances, the rider may be busy keeping control of their horse and not able to acknowledge your consideration, but they will be very grateful to you.

How can you help?


  • Give horses a wide berth, at least a car's width
  • Pass slowly, maximum of 15mph
  • Be prepared to stop if necessary
  • Drive slowly away
  • Heed riders hand signals

Take a look at the Department for Transport’s horse sense for motorists, or check out our leaflet, produced with GEM Motoring Assist for more helpful advice and tips to keep handy. 

The BHS is acutely aware that safe use of the roads is everyone’s responsibility. We advise all riders to make sure they’re familiar with the Highway Code and to stick to it. Our Ride Safe Award gives riders the confidence to ride in the environments they are most often faced with, including on the road, keeping themselves and their horse safe.

Large Vehicles

Horses are normally nervous of large vehicles, particularly when they do not often meet them. They can run away in panic if they are really frightened.

In such a situation, the main factors causing the fear are:

  • Being approached by something which is unfamiliar and intimidating
  • A large moving object, especially if it is noisy
  • Lack of space between the horse and the vehicle
  • The sound of the vehicle’s air brakes
  • Rider anxiety

What can you do?

  • On seeing a rider (or a group of riders), please slow down and be prepared to stop if necessary
  • Be aware that the sound of your air brakes may spook the horse. If the horse, or horses, show signs of nervousness as you get closer, please turn the engine off and allow them to pass
  • Please don’t move off again until the riders are well clear of the rear end of the vehicle
  • If you are approaching riders and would like to overtake them, please approach slowly, or even stop to give the riders time to find a gateway or other place off the road where there will be enough space between the horse and vehicle to allow you to pass safely. Horses are very aware of things coming from behind due to the position of their eyes
  • Please be patient. Most riders will do their best to reassure their horses
  • The safest place for the rider’s hands is on the reins, so if they are anxious, they may only be able to nod their thanks to you – but please do be assured that they will be very, very grateful for your consideration of their situation

On behalf of all riders and carriage drivers – thank you for helping to keep everyone safe.

THINK! Road Safety Around Horses

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