Advice for Motorists
Pass the horse 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 all sides, there’s room for everyone to use the roads in harmony and safety.
It’s important to understand that horses are prey animals and their usual response to danger is flight. 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 horse’s range of hearing is greater than a human to higher frequencies (over 33kHz in the horse compared with under 20kHz in humans) although a horse may not be able to hear the lowest frequencies audible to humans.
They use their hearing for three primary functions: to detect sounds, to determine the location of the sound, and to provide sensory information that allows the horse to recognise the identity of these sources. Horses will react to unexpected or loud noises.
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?
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 (at least a car's width)
- Drive slowly away
The BHS is acutely aware that safe use of the roads is everyone’s responsibility. We advise all equestrians 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.
What can you do?
- On seeing a horse on the road (whether ridden, driven or led), please slow down to a maximum of 15mph and be prepared to stop if necessary.
- Heed a riders or carriage drivers signal if they ask you to stop or slow down.
- Look out for a rider or carriage driver's signal to turn and wait for them to do so safely before continuing your journey. Wait until they are fully off the road before continuing.
- If the horse(s) show signs of nervousness as you get closer, please stop and/or turn the engine off and allow them to pass.
- Please don’t start your engine, or move off again until the horse(s) are well clear of the rear end of the vehicle.
- If you are approaching horses on the road and would like to overtake them, please approach slowly, or even stop to give them 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.
- Please be patient. Most equestrians will do their best to reassure their horses and will allow you to pass as soon as safe to do so.
- The safest place for the rider’s hands is on the reins, so they may only be able to nod their thanks to you – but please do be assured that they will be very grateful for your consideration.
Large Vehicles and Agricultural Vehicles
Horses can be 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
In order to keep everyone safe, ensure you heed a riders or carriage drivers signals should they ask you to slow down or stop. If stopped, please do not start to move away again until they are suitably clear of the rear end of your vehicle. If the horse(s) show signs of nervousness as you get closer, please turn the engine off and allow them to pass. Please don’t start your engine, or move off again until the horse(s) are well clear of the rear end of the vehicle.
Horses and Gritting Lorries
Find out more information and read our advice to drivers and equestrians.