Following what could have been a very nasty road accident involving a horse and rider which collided with a car last Saturday on the Stromfirth road, I just want to bring people’s attention to this very serious matter.
Car drivers and horse riders both have a right to use the road, but drivers must bear the following points in mind when encountering horses. Horses are flight animals by nature and can easily be spooked or panicked by fast-moving vehicles.
Trust me, you do not want half a ton of horse ending up on your car bonnet. It is not just the riders’ lives you are putting at stake but your’s and your passengers too.
We riders have no bridle ways or forest trails in Shetland to ride on. We have no indoor schooling facilities and very few outdoor ones available, so have little option but to use public roads to exercise our horses on.
As a rider myself it is very unnerving when a car whizzes past in very close proximity without slowing down and your horse spins out into the middle of the road. We almost ended up on top of a motorbike once.
If drivers just take a moment to slow down and pass in a careful manner, then the vast majority of horses cope just fine, but time and time again I am shocked by the speed by which drivers assume it is okay to pass a horse and rider.
The consequences could be fatal, and the guilt of contributing to the death of someone’s child or family member would be very hard to live with. Slow down please!
Section 215 of The Highway Code has the following set of rules for motorists encountering horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles:
“Be particularly careful of horse riders and horse drawn vehicles especially when overtaking. Always pass wide and slowly. Horse riders are often children, so take extra care and remember riders may ride in double file when escorting a young or inexperienced horse or rider;
“Look out for horse riders’ and horse drivers’ signals and heed a request to slow down or stop. Take great care and treat all horses as a potential hazard; they can be unpredictable, despite the efforts of their rider/driver.”
While the code itself does not have the force of law, The Highway Code may be used in evidence in any court proceeding under The Traffic Acts to establish liability.
Can I also take this opportunity to remind all fellow riders to be mindful of The Highway Code‘s guidelines for riders when out with a horse on the road, and remember that to give motorists the best chance to see you, light coloured or fluorescent clothing should be worn in daylight, and reflective clothing in poor visibility or at night.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and please remember to pass wide and slow when you see a horse and rider on the road.