Horse riders: Be road savvy, be seen, be protected

Beware sign horse riders

With the nights now getting lighter and the promise of spring just around the corner, many of us will be looking forward to being able to hack out in the evenings again. Often this will mean riding our horses on the road.

The British Horse Society Road Safety Campaign Dead? Or Dead Slow?’ is a road safety campaign to encourage drivers to slow down when they encounter horses on the roads.

However, as a rider there are things you can do to help make sure you and your horse are not involved in an accident.

At Digby Brown, we have solicitors that specialise in horse riding accident claims and have put together some guidelines to help you stay safe when riding on the road.

Be road savvy…

  • Know The Highway Code rules about riding horses on the road

We recommend that you are aware of the Highway Code, especially rules 49 to 58 which provide advice on riding horses on the road.

You should be aware of Rule 54 which that states that riders MUST NOT take a horse onto a footpath or pavement, and you must not ride on a cycle track.

  • Do not ride on the road with a loose rein

No matter how much you think you know your horse, when you are on the road you should always keep rein contact.

A startled horse is an unpredictable horse and it is your responsibility to always remain in control of your horse.

  • Road positioning when out with your horse

Always ride your horse on the left hand side of the road and NEVER more than 2 abreast.

If you are riding with rider on a young or inexperienced horse or the rider is young or inexperienced, it is actually recommended that you ride 2 abreast with the experienced horse on the outside nearest the middle of the road.

If you encounter oncoming traffic then the experienced horse should move in front of the other horse and both should ride in single file. Keep one horse length between the horses.

  • Be aware of what is behind you

You should always check behind you on a regular basis, looking and listening for anything that might suddenly come up behind you and startle your horse.

Always be prepared to take a detour if necessary to avoid an incident.

  • Keep left when turning your horse on the road

Even if you are turning right on your horse, when coming to a junction always keep to the left.

Give the correct, clear hand signals for 3 seconds to indicate your intention, if you are riding with a whip, keep it in the hand that is on the reins.

ALWAYS check for traffic from all directions and listen!

  • If your horse becomes unsettled

Sometimes your horse may become unsettled whilst waiting to move on. You should, if at all possible, indicate for the traffic to slow down. Hold out your right arm and move it up or down, to advise traffic to slow down, or hold your right arm outstretched with your palm showing to ask the traffic to stop.

We would strongly recommend that you always acknowledge drivers who take extra care either with a wave or a nod and a smile.

  • Passing parked cars/road works

You will often come across situations where you need to move over toward the centre of the road to pass parked cars or road works.

Check behind and in front before you move over, if there is traffic behind indicate your intention to move over. Your horse may need reassurance from you and if necessary get the other horse to go in front.

Be alert to the fact you may have to take a detour.

Be seen riding on the road…

High visibility clothing should be worn EVERY time you ride your horse on the road whatever the time of day or month of the year.

No doubt you will have seen the photos that are on social media showing what a difference this makes, but take a look at the photo here:

Two examples of horse riding on the road - and the difference high visibility clothing can make

But is your high visibility clothing up to the standard…?

Certified high visibility clothing for riders the safest option

Hi visibility garments were re-classified in 2009 to category II personal protective equipment (PPE). These garments are tested to meet stringent standards and display certification marks.

If the garment is not certified, you could be buying a garment that is not clearly visible to traffic.

High Visibility garments work by reflecting light back towards a light source – the reflective bands usually appear as a dull silver/grey colour. But you cannot tell whether the garment has good reflectively just by looking at it. The only way to be certain is to buy certified clothing.

The standards for high visibility clothing

EN ISO 20471:2013

This standard is for professional use and is the standard your garment should be if it is provided by your employer.

EN 1150

This is the standard to use if you are a leisure rider.

EN 13356

This is applicable to accessories such as belts, arm and hat bands, gloves and half chaps.

Hi Viz items for your horse are not covered by the EU directive and will not necessarily carry the certification.

Be protected riding on the road

Horse riding hats

It is compulsory for children under 14 years old to wear protective helmets when riding a horse on the road as outlined in the Horses (Protective Headgear for Young Riders) Act 1990.

It is the responsibility of the parent, guardian, horse owner or person who has custody of the horse to ensure that the child is wearing an approved helmet.

However, it is highly recommended that anyone riding a horse should wear an approved helmet.

Avoid riding hats with BS EN 1383, BS3686:1984 & BS4472:1998

The British Standards Institute (BSI) test the standard that riding hats should conform to. In October 2014 they withdrew BS EN 1383 due to health and safety short comings.

If you have a riding hat marked with this standard then contact the helmet manufacturer or retailer to ask whether or not it is safe to use.

Other standards to avoid are BS3686:1984 & BS4472:1998

Current standards for riding hats

EN1384 1996 / BSEN 1384 1997 / BSEN 1384 2012 with the kite mark – this is the basic standard for all forms of riding.

There is a full list of all the current standards of riding hats and the relative applicable standard for competing on The British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) website if you would like more information.

We would recommend that you check your riding hat to make sure that it is to the current standard.

Also if you have a fall and hit your head whilst wearing your riding hat you should ALWAYS replace your helmet.

Body protectors

We would always recommend wearing a body protector when out on the road. They are designed to absorb impact from a kick or a fall and again there are standards that these should meet.

Fit is essential and it is recommended that you get your protector fitted correctly by a trained person from your tack shop.

There is very helpful information on the BETA website about body protectors.

….and finally

We would always recommend that if you have to ride on the road you take the time to obtain the British Horse Society – Riding and Road Safety Test.

This covers everything you need to know about being safe on the road. Additionally, in the unfortunate event of a horse riding accident on the road, this certificate can go a long way to show that you are a competent and responsible rider and not at fault for the accident.