Riding and Road Safety Advice
Riding and Road Safety Advice

Riding and Road Safety Advice

Riding on the roads can be difficult to avoid and often forms a regular part of our riding routines. Petplan Equine are partnering with Department for Transport’s THINK! to help improve the safety of those more at risk on the roads by highlighting the changes to the Highway Code. Take a look at our advice below to make sure you are doing all you can to stay safe on the roads. Plus don’t forget to share our social assets on your own pages, to help educate your non-horsey friends about how to pass a horse and rider.

When you look at recent statistics from the British Horse Society (BHS), it’s easy to see why horse owners aren’t always keen to ride on the road. In the 12 months leading up to February 2021, 46 horses died in road incidents, while 45% of riders experienced road rage or abuse. That’s why it’s so important that we do everything we can as riders to keep ourselves and others safe on the road.

Here’s what you need to know...

Is it legal to ride a horse on the road in the UK?

Yes. Provided you follow the Highway Code, you can ride a horse on the road in the UK. Horses are not allowed on footpaths or pavements and there are specific rules and a Code of Practice for Horse-Drawn Vehicles.

What are the rules for passing horses on the road?

The Highway Code was updated in January 2022 aiming to make using the roads safer for people walking, cycling and riding horses. The Department for Transport encourage road users to “Travel Like you Know Them” giving priority to more vulnerable road users.

The Highway Code specifically states, when referring to passing horses:

Pass people riding horses or driving horse-drawn vehicles at speeds under 10 mph and allow at least 2 metres (6.5 feet) of space.

Is there a highway code for horse riders?

There are specific rules for horse riders in the Highway Code. Read them here under Horse riders (rules 49-55).

10 tips for riders

  1. Always follow the Highway Code. The link above will take you straight to the parts of the Highway Code you need to know. They give guidance on preparing to ride on the road, what to wear and how to signal to other road users.
  2. Wear horse and rider hi-vis. Regardless of the time of day, wearing a hi-vis jacket and hat band or cover, plus popping a hi-vis exercise sheet, boots or breastplate on your horse will allow other road users to spot you sooner and react accordingly. Every extra second you can buy yourself is valuable, so the more hi-vis you can wear, the better.
  3. Check your riding hat is up to standard. This is a simple step that could save your life. While different governing bodies (like British Riding Clubs, British Dressage or British Eventing) each have their own riding hat safety standards, there’s no one listed standard for riding on the road. But it’s best to make sure your hat adheres to one of the latest standards and you can check this useful BETA Guide to Riding Hat Standards if you’re not sure.
  4. Ride at the safest time of day. Avoid using the roads – even walking in-hand – in failing light, darkness, foggy, snowy or icy conditions, unless absolutely necessary. Avoid times of high traffic, too, whenever possible. If you’re long reining or leading your horse on the road, always have a helper with you and make sure all three of you are wearing hi-vis.
  5. Be courteous to other road users. We all want drivers and other road users to be on our side and every pleasant encounter helps! If you can’t let go of the reins to thank them, a nod and a smile will go a long way.
  6. Be aware of your environment. Equestrians know better than most how important it is not to take your eye off the ball. Avoid checking your phone when riding and don’t be tempted to wear headphones out hacking.
  7. Give clear and decisive signals. Give other road users plenty of warning with clear signals that tell them exactly what you’re doing. This avoids confusion and gives them a chance to decide which safe action to take. To make a turn, raise your arm at 90 degrees to your body, with your palm flat and your thumb at the top. See Rule 55 for more on correct hand signals.
  8. Educate other road users.Start by explaining to your friends and family how to pass a horse on the road safely. Advise that they need to leave at least 2 metres between themselves and the horse and to slow to under 10mph. You can also share some of our advice on your social media channels, click here to look at our downloadable assets.
  9. Make the most of technology. Always carry a mobile phone with you in case anything happens. Body cameras are useful for providing a record of any incidents and other road users tend to consider their behaviour more carefully if they see you wearing one. You should also let someone know where you’re going and how long you intend to be gone before setting off.
  10. Make sure you have your personal details and an emergency contact with you in case of an emergency. Riders often put these inside the lining of their hat or on an app in their phone. There are also a number of products available to buy such as wristbands and saddle tabs.

How prepared are you for riding on the road?

Take our Riding and Road Safety Quiz to make sure you know the facts about riding on the roads.

You can also boost your knowledge through the BHS Ride Safe Award, which is open to all riders aged 11 and over. The award aims to make riders more knowledgeable and confident in a range of circumstances, including negotiating hazards and obstacles, and dealing with conflict or difficult situations on the road.

What to do if you’re involved in an incident with your horse on the road

First and foremost, if you’re involved in an incident on the roads that requires medical assistance dial 999, making sure to tell them horses are involved. Having the phone number of someone who can help is essential, they may need to contact the vet, assist with taking horses back to the yard or support other riders in your group.

If you’re involved in an incident on the road while riding, which is classed as anything that makes you feel unsafe, you should report your experience on the BHS website or via their new app. This allows the BHS to compile the most accurate statistics and paint a clear picture of what is happening on our roads, which can be shared with other related organisations and helps influence changes to the Highway Code.

What’s it like riding on the road in your area? Have you seen any positive changes, like improved horse awareness or new signage? Share your experiences on the road with us on Facebook.