After seeing yet another post regarding poor bridleway access I decided to share some thoughts on our access! I have been at a few different livery yards with various access, some good and some not so good. What I find annoying is that compared to walkers and cyclist us horse riders get such a raw deal! I know some say that horses ruin the ground, to be honest, that’s rubbish. I’ve attended lots of horse events and the paths where people walk have been trashed compared to the routes that the horses have been on. Some people complain about the horse poo but again this not a danger to people, unlike dog poo which can cause blindness.
Since November 2016 315 horses and 43 riders have died on the roads, with over 3,700 road incidents being reported. To
break this down a bit further, from March 2018 to 2019, there were 845 road incidents, which resulted in 87 horse deaths and 4 people, this was an increase of 109% from the year before.
I’ve seen many posts about near misses and people trying to raise awareness and some of the comments are appalling and mainly written by men! These are a few of the
stupid inappropriate comments I have read:
“Go and ride in a field”
“Roads are for cars”
“Do you have tax and insurance for that to be on the roads”
According to a sport England survey, horse riding has increased by nearly 50,000 in the last year, with 88% being women. Horse riding is great for emotional well-being and hacking is one of my favourite things to do. We are signed up to the Your Horse #Hack1000miles challenge, along with several thousand others, who enjoy riding around the countryside. However, like most to gain access to some of our bridleways, we also have to access roads from time to time.
Am I a fan of riding on the roads? No, not really but it is sometimes essential to get to another route.
What people should know, is that none of us want to get in anyone’s way, we are not out to make your life hard or hold you up and all we ask for is a bit of patience and a few minutes of your time! Our horses mean a great deal to us just like your dog or cat does and we would be devastated if anything was to harm or even kill them! You also need to remember that horse riders themselves also have families who would be lost without their mum, dad, daughter, sister, etc.
Riding a horse can be unpredictable at times and even the most bombproof horse can spook at something and nothing when they are out.
People will say don’t ride on the roads if your horse isn’t trained, firstly they don’t learn if they aren’t exposed and secondly, riders can see far more than what you can in your car and we might have seen something the other side of a wall or hedge, which may cause the horse to spook. Therefore, passing appropriately and paying attention to the riders will keep everyone safe, again riders aren’t signalling to you for the fun of it! However, I do think that drivers are often unaware of the signals used by riders to help both them and you. Below are some common hand signals and what they mean!
How to get involved and help.
There are several campaigns around to help raise awareness for drivers on how to pass horses on the roads. The British Horse Society (BHS) has joined up with local Police in some areas to help educate drivers and target inappropriate drivers by using the plain-clothed mounted section to patrol problem areas. You may have seen a few adverts for some of the common campaigns on Facebook. The British horse society campaign Dead or dead slow, have made the following video to show how to pass horses safely on the road.
Any accidents or near misses can be reported to the BHS to help them identify any problem areas and it is important to do so, here is the link to report your horse incident with them.
I remember at our first yard we had to ride up a narrow private lane to access the bridleways and drivers would never wait and would pass us that close your foot could touch their wing mirror! That sort of driving is totally unacceptable but people had no patience and would drive right up behind you with no regard for safety for themselves, horse or rider.
There is a Pass wide and Slow Facebook open group, which are campaigning for better horse road safety. They have started a petition for horse riders to be able to use government-funded off-road tracks. Please if you can click the link above and help this petition to reach its target of 50,000 signatures. Each year they have also arranged meet-ups in several areas, to highlight the campaign and raise awareness for others, do take a look at their group for future events which may be running in your area or if you fancy setting one up.
So you may ask what else you as a horse rider can do to help, as the roads become increasingly dangerous to ride on?
You could get involved with the 2026 project from the BHS. On 1 January 2026, bridleways in England and Wales that aren’t formally recorded will be lost to the public. Our aim is to safeguard bridleways for public use so that equestrians today and in the future have safe off-road routes to ride on.
These unrecorded routes actually exist in law but have never been registered on the definitive map, the legal record of public rights of way.
Just because you currently ride on a route doesn’t mean it’s recorded and protected from being removed! In England, horse riders only have access to 22% of public rights of way; the more of the off-road network we lose, the more horses will have to be ridden on today’s ever-dangerous roads.
When you do hack out also make sure that you can be seen well by all and a lot of riders are also opting for a head or body cam to record not only their ride but any potential incidents on the roads. Wearing hi-viz can make a lot of difference as to if you are seen early on making drivers more likely to notice you. Lots of different colours are also beneficial rather than just the one colour. The photo below shows the importance of good hi-viz.
What is the hacking like in your area? We have just moved yards and currently haven’t explored any of the new routes due to the coronavirus lockdown. I do know that we have a small stretch of road to reach one of the bridleways but there are also a few grass verges, that we can possibly use if needed. I am looking forward to exploring when life returns to normal at some point, I just hope that we don’t lose the summer after having such a wet stormy winter.