Along with the gradual relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions, the improving weather and lighter evenings will no doubt be inspiring many of us to get out and enjoy the picturesque rural scenery that Wales has to offer. As well as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, horse riders are vulnerable road users but they can sometimes be overlooked as they don’t feature as highly in road casualties statistics.
Horses and their riders can be vulnerable on the road; a collision involving a horse and a vehicle can have life threatening consequences for the horse, the rider as well as the vehicle user.
The British Horse Society estimates that in the 12 months up to 28th February 2021, there were over 1,000 incidents on UK roads involving horses. Unfortunately, this resulted in 130 people being injured, 46 horses being killed and a further 118 horses sustaining injuries.
Teresa Ciano, Chair of Road Safety Wales said: "As responsible road users, we all have a role to play in helping to reduce those incidents. Horses are large, powerful animals with flight instincts and even the most experienced horse can be spooked, especially near fast-moving traffic or when there are sudden loud noises.
"The BHS reports that 80% of incidents occurred because a vehicle passed by too closely to the horse – something which is completely unacceptable and easily avoided. With everything we've all had to deal with over the past year, we should be looking out for each other, not putting each other in danger."
If you are approaching a horse and rider, the first thing to do is reduce your speed and be prepared to stop.
Please make sure you keep well back and avoid revving your engine or sounding your horn – the rider will more than likely be aware of your presence but may always not have the opportunity to acknowledge the situation as that could involve turning around or removing their hands from the reins.
Please be patient and give the rider time to find a gateway or another place at the side of the road where there should be enough space between the horse and your vehicle to allow you to pass safely.
If the road is wide enough and it looks as if there will be an opportunity to overtake safely, please ensure you will be able to do so without rushing – if in doubt wait for a larger gap or somewhere with even better visibility.
It is essential that all road users pass slow and wide, at no more than 15 mph – whether you’re driving a car, heavy goods vehicle, motorbike or a bicycle. Only once you are well past will it be appropriate to gradually build up speed again and continue your journey.
Road Safety Wales and the British Horse Society are encouraging equestrian road users to report road incidents to help build a realistic picture of the situation, which is often underreported.
To assist, the BHS has developed an app allowing people to quickly and easily report any incidents that affect safety. The Horse i app can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play and incidents can also be reported via the BHS website.
Finally, please remember that the rider will always be very grateful for your consideration when passing. They may not always be able to acknowledge it if they’re busy assisting their horse, but rest assured that your patience and understanding is greatly appreciated.