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  • Writer's pictureFiona Tothill

Horses on roads

We prefer not to ride on roads however sometimes it is inevitable. The bridleway network is not seamlessly linked and contrary to popular belief we cannot just ride in fields.

We believe it is important that the horses taken out regularly on the roads so we know how they behave, by and large our horses are brilliant!

Riding on roads takes co-operation between the horse and rider and the rider and other road users. If we can establish this mutual trust and co-operation the roads will be happier and safer places to be.

We are trained to ride on roads and will do our best not to hold you up, we may trot on or pull in when safe to do so. It is both harmful for the horse and dangerous to canter or gallop on tarmac, so trotting is top speed.

We might invite you to pass or request you stop; sometimes we can feel our horses getting tense and need your help to best manage the situation. We don’t want to be on the roads longer than we have to and we don’t want to get in your way! We are not allowed on pavements except in an emergency.

When passing please go slowly and steadily, horses can react to movement and noise, and where possible give us at least 2m clearance. Once passing please try to continue steadily, generally speaking horses cope well once they understand, they will be taking commands from their rider.

We try to keep them straight although when anxious some horses swing their bottoms into the road or start jogging. A considerate driver will look for these signs and adjust their plans as necessary, cars or bikes are easier to control as they don’t have emotions although horses are less likely to crash as they do have brains (if they choose to use them!)

We are grateful when you pass us quietly, we can’t always thank you as our hands might be busy controlling the horse (and his emotional brain). Sometimes they will spook at something small, we can anticipate this however it takes all our focus. We will try to nod our thanks.

Our brakes are not as consistent as yours and asking horses to wait is a challenge especially if each passing car is raising their anxiety, sometimes we will ask you to stop ( not because we think we are more important but because we can sense what is happening with the horse). We are more vulnerable than most road users.

We may ride in pairs, this is usually done to protect a horse ( or rider) who is inexperienced or perhaps getting worried. Having a buddy alongside can ensure we get out of your way as safely as possible. On narrow roads and around bends we try to ride single file.

We place the horses in a careful order, with a confident horse in front. If in a larger group we would place the more anxious or inexperienced ones in the middle with a confident horse bringing up the rear. When we are in single file please don’t separate us by overtaking one horse, they are herd animals and if they think they have been picked off or separated even the most laid back horse can panic.

We need to avoid drains and other metal work or debris in the road, so whilst we like to tuck ourselves in we may need to come into the road to avoid hazards (things you probably can’t see). Drains are very slippery to shod horses and the noise and feel can spook them.

We will wear hi viz so you can see us, we know that this is important and helps you react in plenty of time.

We know our horses, so when passing horses please look to the rider, follow their instructions if needed and help us keep the roads safer.

Sorry about the 💩- the horses are healthy and won’t carry disease. It is good for your roses!

Any questions please ask!


About the author:

Fiona Tothill, BA Educational Studies, UKCC level 2 coach (equestrian). Equine Assisted Facilitator.

Fiona is an experienced speaker and trainer who is able to engage her audience and empowers them to explore challenging issues. Fiona is the co-owner vision behind Kingsmead Equestrian Centre in Surrey.

Fiona is available for public speaking engagements, workshops and events.

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