I ride out quite often (at least when Basil is well), which always involves riding on the road. The amount of traffic on the roads mean that it is not always easy but there are definitely ways to make it safer!
- Get your horse used to traffic of all sizes and shapes before venturing out. You can do this on and around your yard. If you keep your horse at livery then it is likely they have tractors etcetera that move hay and other things around. Use these opportunities to get your horse close. Use an older more sensible horse as a calming influence!
- You can also use home to try to get your horse used to dogs, plastic bags, etcetera.
- Ride in single file unless you have a young or inexperienced horse and need to place a more sensible horse between them and the traffic. This does not work on really narrow lanes as you are filling the width of the road and traffic has no way to go around you.
- Be considerate to other users - even if they are inconsiderate to you. Improve the profile of horse riders don't ruin it!
- Wear a hard hat which is properly secured. Falling off on the road whilst not wearing a hat is very likely to leave you with a head injury (or dead).
- Ride the same way as the traffic, so in the UK ride on the left. Keep to the edge of the road to allow drivers to pass wide.
- If a car is approaching you from behind slow to a walk - if you stay in trot they will have to go faster to overtake!
- Grass verges are a useful way to get off the road if it is a narrow lane. BUT remember to look out for rubbish which is often lying there and can cause injuries.
- Always be alert, don't slop along with one hand on the rein - always concentrate and ensure you are in control and ready should your horse jump.
- NEVER listen to an MP3 player on the road - you absolutely MUST be able to hear traffic coming.
- Wear hi-viz clothing. One day last week, on the way home from work, I came across a group of 5 horses and riders on the road. They were on a section of the road which has trees on both sides and so is relatively dark - it was not particularly sunny that day although it was still daylight. I could hardly see them as they were wearing dark clothing, luckily the road is narrow so I was going fairly slowly and I caught a slight movement. As a horse rider my first thought was that it may be a horse so I slowed down even more - it was! In my opinion it is MAD to ride out without wearing something light or bright coloured, how do you expect a driver to see you in time to slow down.
- Tell someone where you are going and/or have a mobile phone with you. Remember to put it on silent so that if it rings it doesn't make your horse jump. Make sure you store it safely and securely so that it won't come out of your pocket. There are some great MP3 or phone holders available for runners and many will attach around your leg too if you prefer!
- Ensure you say thank you to drivers that do slow down and/or give you a wide berth. Ideally lift your hand, smile and nod. If you are not able to take your hand from the rein then a smile and exaggerated nod should do the job. By thanking the drivers you are helping to ensure they slow down for the next horse and rider they meet. Remember, most people don't know about horses so we must encourage them ALL to slow down.
- Make sure you know the correct hand signals to use. You will need to be able to indicate left, right and to ask drivers to slow down. These are all detailed in the Highway Code.
- If something does happen then report it. The British Horse Society are trying to get a picture of the type of incidents that occur involving horses, this may help contribute to law changes in the UK in the future - http://www.bhs.org.uk/safety-and-accidents/report-an-incident
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Until next time!