Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Horse Riders and the Road... Are We Allowed to be Here?

To begin I'd like to strongly point out I am a horse rider with numerous years of experience behind me, I'm not saying I'm perfect or the best rider that ever lived (personally thats either Mary King, Pippa Funnel or any of the Whitakers) but I have riden on the roads and know my rights to be there. Also I am a car driver so do see why horses out on the road can be an anoyance, but this doesnt excuse dangerous or just simply disrespectful driving behavior.

Now some of you may have never even thought about thsi topic and many of you will have been in some very heated debates regarding this topic, I oersonally have been told over social networking sites that they'd very happily run over, kill and drive away from a horse and ride. As you will gather from this post (as a subject I will argue over and over) the writter of the disgusting comment recieved many comments regarding what damage could happent o his precious car if he continued to broadcast such horrific comments, and that if he did ever "happlily run over, kill and drive away from a horse and rider" I would get a copy of the comments and present to the police to help the person get locked away for as long as the law sees fit for a murderer not to mention the additional charges for fleeing the scene of a crime. Now me and my boyfriend have been involved in many heated debates regarding horses being on the road (including cyclists) and I do believe he has some very valid points. His main arguement is the danger towards motorcyclist (will to come to later.)

The Law

Now many people will argue the law needs 'modernising' and updating for use in the 21st century, with more and more cars on the road each and everyday you could argue that the roads are no longer safe for horses and their riders but as we are still covered by law and still in the highway code we have as much right to be on the road as any car does. Horses and their riders are amongst the most vunerable road users about, but saying that who amongst us is safe? Every morning on my drive to work and also on my way home the radio tells us of accidents here there and everywhere (these are just the ones that get reported!) so are any of us safe?
The British Horse Society (BHS) will advise every horse rider to be familiarised with the Highway Code and particularly any sections relating to horses. Now obviously this is for your own safety but its always helpful especuially when you get stopped by some cocky bastard telling you "horses arnt allowed on the roads, go play in a field out the way and stop holding up traffic" its the best feeling ever stopping infront of them and saying "actually if you read your Highway Code you'd know I have as much right to hold up this traffic as you will if you continue to drive up my horses arse and cause me to have an accident, where it would be your fault for dangerous driving." I tend to find people dont take a responce like this very well but turning your crop to have the hard handle end towards there car window is a great deterant to driving overly close but yes sometimes they need an extra nudge so a quick slap on there car makes them back off. Well if an average crop being between 1ft and 2ft is managing to touch your car then your clearly far too close! Now I'm not trying to promote using your crop as a weapon and the little nudge should be exactly that, little! So as mentioned we arein the Highway Code and so yes we are protected by law.
PLEASE NOTE: It is important to note that the references to 'road' generally includes footpaths, bridleways and cycle tracks and many roadways and driveways on private land (including many car parks.) In most cases, the law will apply to them but there many be additional rules for particular paths or rights of way.
  • Rule 27: Equestrian crossings- Equestrain crossings are for horse riders. They have pavement barriers, wider crossing spaces, horse and rider figures in the light panel and either two sets of controls (one higher) or just one higher control panel for use by equestrains.
  • Rule 47: Horse-drawn Vehicles- Horse-drawn vehicles used on the highway should be operated and maintained in accordance with standards set out in the Department for Transports Code of Practise for Horse-Drawn Vehicles. This code lays down the requirments for a road driving assessment and includes a comprehensive list of safety check to ensure that a carriage and its fittings are safe and in good working order. The standards set out in the road driving assessment may be required to be met by a local authority if an operator wishes to obtain Local Authority Licence to operate a passenger carrying service.
  • Rule 48: Safety equipment and clothing- All horse-drawn vehicles should have two red reflectors. It is NOT safer to drive at night but if you do a light showing white to the front and red to the rear must be fitted.
  • Rule 49: Horse Riders- Safety Equipment: Children under the age of 14 must wear a helmet that complies with the regulations (PAS 015 or EN 1384, the BHS recomends BS PAS 015 1998 and BS EN 1384.) It must fasten securely. Other riders should also follow these requirements. These requirements do not apply to a child who is a follower of the Sikh religion while wearing a turban.
I'd just like to note, in no offence to the religious beliefs of the Sikhs but I would never ride a horse without a hat it is extreamly dangerous, as proven by many dressage riders while practising at home.
  • Rule 50: Other clothing- You should wear boots or shoes with hard soles and heels, light coloured or flourescent clothing in daylight, and reflective clothing if you have to ride at night or in poor visiblity.
Again I'd just like to add a High-Vis vest or jacket should be worn at ALL times not just in poor visibility.
  • Rule 51: At night- It is NOT safer to ride on the road at night or in poor visibility, but if you do, make sure you wear reflective clothing and your horse has reflective bands above the fetlock joints. A light, which shows white to the front and red to the rear, should be fitted with a band to the riders right arm and/or leg/riding boot. If you are leading a horse at night, carry a light in your right hand, showing white to the front and red to the rear and wear reflective clothing on both you and your horse. It is stongly recommended that your horse also wears a fluorescent/reflective tail guard.
  • Rule 52: Riding- Before you take a horse on the road, you should: ensure all tack fits well and is in good condition, make sure you can control the horse. Always ride with other horses who are less nervous if you think that your horse will be worried in traffic. Never ride a horse without both saddle and bridle.
At this point I'd like to interject and argue slightly regarding the "make sure you can control the horse" now this is very obvious and clearly a valid point, however if the horse is young, recovering from injury, may be a new horse to the rideror just if the horse has never been on the road/with constant traffic it can be difficult at times to appear in full control and as a horse is many times heavier that their rider they can overpower even the most competent rider if they feel they need to. Horses are living animals they have their own brain and even the most bombproof horse can act out of character and spook. At no point would the rider know unless they are exceptionally talented or are increadibly used to the horse. So I believe this rule is a problem particularly how it is worded and the assumption a driver could make with this in mind.
  • Rule 53- Before riding off or turning, look behind you to make sure it is safe, then give a clear arm signal. When riding on the road, you should: Keep to the left, Keep both hands on the reins unless you are signalling, Keep both feet in the stirrups, Not carry another person, Not carry anything which might affect your balence or get tangled up with reins, Keep a horse you are leading to your left, Move in the direction of the traffic flow in a one way street, Never ride more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends.
  • Rule 54- Your must not take a horse onto a footpath or pavement and you should not take a horse onto a cycle path/track. Use a bridleway where possible. Equestrian crossings may be provided for horse and riders to cross the road and you should use these where avaliable. You should dismount at level crossings and where a 'Horse Rider Dismount' sign is displayed.
  • Rule 55- Avoid roundabouts where possible. If you use them you should: Keep to the left and watch out for vehicles crossing your path to leave or join the roundabout, Signal right when crossing exits to show you are not leaving, Signal left just before you leave the roundabout.
  • Rule 253: Motorways- Prohibited vehicles: Motorways must not be used bu horse riders, pedestrians, holders of provisional motorcycle or car licences, riders of motorcycles under 50cc, cyclists, certain slow moving vehicles and those carrying oversized loads (except by special permission) agricultural vehicles and powered wheel chairs/ powered mobility scooters.
Now obviously every horse rider should be aware of these rules and follow them to ensure not only there safety but that they remain safe with other road users. The key point is that other road users also need to be aware of these rules, unfortunatly if you are not a horse rider you may not feel the need to know and understand the rules that apply to them and feel you excempt from following them, but ha! you aint!

Other Vehicles

Now we're all living in the 21st century (unless you've managed to build a time machine, if you have please comment below so I can cyber high-five you!) so this shouldnt be news to any of you that thwe road or stupidly busy with cats and other types of vehicles so should we in this day and age still be alowed on the road? Well yes! durhhh! Horse riding is a form of excersize, its eco-friendly and if you lived back in the good old days horses would have been everywhere. Now I'll agree with more traffic you could argue its no longer safe, but with good riding practise you can still be competant enough to ride, however, we all know of that driver who gets overly excited and goes too fast, that driver who get horrific road rage and of cource them drivers who just hate horses so yes you could easily argue its dangerous but as previously mentioned we're still covered by the high way code and by law.
My boyfriend comnstantly uses the same arguement: "What about motorcyclists? They ride along the road and if they hit a pipe of horse poo that it, your off the bike and in a bush or the windscreen of another car"
Well I appreciate the comment but horses ride (unless double a breast) one by one and so this means if a horse does take a poo it would be on the inside of the road as we are not alowed to ride down the middle of the road, so cant a cyclist (who should be doing the speed limit) be able to spot the poo ahead and make a manover accordingly, but that then depends on just how well the particluar rider is sticking to the speed limit and I would hope in an area known for horses they should do this with out question or fail not only for there own safety but for other road users and riders.

So in my oppinion, yes a horse rider has plenty of right to be on the road just as much as any other users does. It shouldnt matter whether your in a car on a trike, on a bike in a lorry, riding a horse, riding a push bike or walking!

Please feel free to argue your own oppinion below- the above is simply an account as to my own personal opinion on the matter.


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