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Horse Riding in Scotland During the Corona Virus Pandemic

Legally, rights of responsible access to most land in Scotland, including paths and tracks, continue to apply during COVID-19 as they would at any other time. As always, access rights in Scotland depend on responsible behaviour, both by the public and land managers. The ministerial statement endorsed the importance of complying with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. It stressed that “exercising access rights responsibly means respecting the needs of other people, and you will need to adapt your behaviour accordingly in the national effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. Land managers should respect access rights, which are particularly important at this difficult time. (

Many people chose to stop riding and carriage driving during lockdown to reduce risk of accidents which might put pressure on the NHS, but the situation has now eased slightly. BHS is now recommending that horse riding and carriage driving can resume.

You have a right to ride if you want to during lockdown, but it’s your choice whether you ride or not.

Checklist to help you decide whether to ride your horse during corona virus in Scotland

  • Can I control my horse and do I consider it safe? If it’s been out of work for a while, think about lunging or walking your horse in hand before you get on.
  • What are the risks to myself and others if I ride or drive my horse?
  • How can I minimise risk of any accident or injury?
  • Assess the risk of whatever activity you have in mind and limit your riding or driving to your own capabilities.

Key points to bear in mind if you do want to ride or drive during Corona Virus

  • Legal rights and responsibilities relating to off-road access during the corona virus outbreak are exactly the same as at any other time.
  • Horse riding is included within the government’s definition of permissible outdoor exercise. As from 10.5.20 you are allowed unlimited outdoor exercise locally from home as many times a day in Scotland as you want.
  • In every other way, Scotland is still in lockdown, so riding should be restricted to your home or livery yard or local to it i.e. riding directly from it.
  • At present in Scotland you can only ride alone or with people from your own household (i.e. who you live with). Unlike England, as yet in Scotland you are not allowed to ride with friends or others, even if you keep your distance from them, although hopefully this restriction will soon be relaxed.
  • If you or any other member of your household has any Covid 19 symptoms you should self-isolate for a minimum of 14 days. Make sure you are fully recovered before you think about resuming riding or carriage driving.
  • Travel in Scotland is currently legally restricted to essential travel only. Until lockdown lifts, transporting your horse in a box or trailer is permissible for welfare and veterinary reasons but not to go for a hack, for lessons or schooling.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water before you set off.
  • Keep at least 2 metres away from all other people and if possible, try to avoid busy times on popular paths or places.
  • Take extra care to respect the health and safety of farmers and others working the land. Respect signs pointing out areas where access does not legally apply (such as through farmyards and steadings, unless there is an agreed waymarked route or established right of way). Follow all reasonable requests to avoid sensitive areas.
  • Think carefully about your route. Can you avoid gates to minimise risk to you and others when touching surfaces?
  • Leave gates as you find them. Some farmers and landowners have chosen to leave gates open to avoid contact.
  • If you do need to open and close gates, wear gloves to minimise risk of you transmitting or picking up CV. Wash your gloves between rides.
  • Wash your hands on return, regardless of whether you’ve worn gloves. Wash your gloves between each ride off your own property.
  • Welcome people on your land just as you expect to be welcomed on the land of others
  • You represent the whole of the horse world when you ride so be aware of the impression you give. Be cheerful and welcoming and thank people if they move out of your way – we are all in this together and our off-road riding is precious so being courteous has never been so important.
  • Think carefully about how every aspect of being out with your horse may affect others, particularly dung. People using buggies, wheelchairs and bikes often have to touch the wheels with their hands. On busy paths and tracks, dismount and kick dung off the path. Better still, if you feel your horse is about to poo, move it off the path.

Riding on roads during the coronavirus outbreak

  • Although there’s less traffic on most roads, on some traffic is going faster, and drivers don’t necessarily expect to meet horses, particularly at present.
  • Wear hi-viz, use clear hand signals
  • Keep your wits about you: listen for traffic, don’t use your mobile phone wile riding,
  • Respect everyone else on the road, including vehicles, cyclists and walkers.
  • Keep your distance from others. You may need to wait to one side to let others pass safely.
  • Acknowledge careful driving with a smile or a wave.

This guidance sets out the situation relating to riding and carriage driving on and off road in Scotland as of 15th May 2020. Guidance is likely to change to reflect any modifications to public lockdown in Scotland. Please check the BHS website for updated advice relating to Scotland.

For more general guidance about recreational outdoor access during the CV outbreak click here


Please read our information and advice for horse owners and business owners during the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak



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