Riding, leading or driving horses on the road

Horses have been using the roads for many years both to carry people and to transport goods.

Today, riding on the road may be part of a horse’s training programme or just for leisure. For riders, it is an enjoyable change of environment, but there are safety risks. These include, but are not restricted to, traffic speeds, road surfaces and motorists’ knowledge of dealing with horses. You can reduce these risks with road safety knowledge and training.

Horses and riders have every right to be on our roads. However, they must follow the Rules of the Road. It is vital that every rider has a clear understanding of the Rules of the Road before taking a horse onto a public road.

If you are riding or leading a horse, you must stay on the left-hand side of the road and obey all Rules of the Road.

When leading a horse, you should walk so that the handler is between the horse and the traffic, so as to prevent the horse from interfering with the traffic.

When riding one horse and leading another horse, you must remain on the lefthand side of the road. You should ensure that the led horse is on the left-hand side of the ridden horse, to ensure the rider is positioned between the horse being led and the traffic. This is in order to control the led horse, in the interest of safety of all road users.

Before riding on the road you should always tell someone where you intend to go and when you will be back.

If you are in charge of a horse on a roadway, you must make sure the horse does not block other traffic or pedestrians.

It is best not to bring a horse on the road at night. If you do, you should carry a lamp showing a white light to the front and a red light to the back. You should also wear reflective clothing and put suitable reflective equipment on the horse.

If the weather is bad, you should not ride on the road unless it is absolutely necessary. Motorists will already be experiencing difficult driving conditions and meeting an anxious horse may present a dangerous situation.

Advice for motorists and other road users

Most collisions on the road involving horses happen when the horse is struck from behind. Horses and their riders are extremely vulnerable in a collision and can be seriously – sometimes fatally – injured.

You must always be careful when passing horses and riders on the road. A horse may startle. The rider may be a child or an adult in training. Never pass unless it is safe to do so.

  • be alert when approaching riding schools or places where horses are likely to appear;
  • take special care when overtaking horses, especially loose horses or horsedrawn vehicles. This is particularly relevant at junctions where motorists are advised to keep a safe distance from horses and riders;
  • slow down when approaching a horse and rider. Be prepared to stop and let them pass;
  • obey a signal to slow down or stop from someone in charge of a horse. They may know about a potential hazard which you cannot see or hear.
  • pass by slowly, driving wide of the horse and rider;
  • don’t use your horn or lights in a way that might startle or blind a horse. This could cause the rider to lose control of the animal;
  • if you are carrying a roof load or towing a trailer, take special care when passing horses;
  • if you drive a heavy goods vehicle, know the dimensions of your load. Be aware that the sound of airbrakes might startle a horse; and
  • show courtesy to riders and their horses, and take steps to minimize engine and other noise when passing safely.

Always drive at a speed that allows you to stop:

  • safely in a controlled way;
  • on the correct side of the road;
  • within the distance you can see to be clear; and
  • without risk to you, your passengers or other road users.