How to stay safe riding on roads with your horse

January 2017
Stay safe riding roads

It’s likely that you’ll end up riding on a road at some point as part of hacking out. Over 3.5 million of us ride out regularly. So safety is greatly important. There are many ways of how to stay safe riding on roads and we’ll cover a few in this article.


While 116 horse rider casualties were recorded by the police in 2015, an even higher number of equestrian incidents go unrecorded. It is estimated that there are over 3000 accidents involving horses happen each year.


Most of these involve the road in some way. Here are a few ways on how to stay safe when riding on roads.



The highway code

The British Horse Society (BHS) has a great guide on how the highway code relates to riding on the road. The guide covers a lot of common sense ideas like avoiding roundabouts and ensuring tack is secure before setting off. And what the law defines as the ‘road’. It’s well worth a read.




Always use fluorescent or reflective clothing on both horse and rider whatever the weather or light conditions. Fluorescent and reflective ankle bands and stirrup lights are particularly effective in attracting the attention of motorists. Other accessories, such as body protectors, can also offer useful protection.



Don’t hack out solo

While you shouldn’t hack in a group larger than 8, going alone can also be a bad idea. If there’s a few of you, then you’ll be able to help each other out should something go wrong.


Plus, if your riding a horse that is not used to roads, being part of a group of more experienced horses can help to calm your horse down.



Training for horse and rider

The BHS provides road safety training for horse riders and operates a Riding & Road Safety Test, which is completed by 4,000+ riders each year. This training will enable you to ride out with confidence and ensure you so in a way which has you and your horses safety in mind.




Always cross major crossings in a group, rather than trickling across one by one. If you choose to ride two abreast, stick on the left of the road. Move into single file as soon as it is safe for the motorist to overtake.




If at all avoidable, don’t ride in failing light, fog or darkness. Avoid icy or snowy roads. And do leave details of your intended route and estimated time of return with a responsible person.




The Horses (Protective Headgear for Young Riders) Act 1990 requires children under 14 years old to wear protective helmets when riding a horse on the road. Children of the Sikh religion are exempted while they are wearing a turban. And while the law is clear on wearing helmets if you’re a child, it’s good practice to wear one regardless of age.



Hand signals

By using hand signals, you can communicate effectively with motorist. From showing that you are experiencing a problem with a horse, to thanking them for passing slowly.


Holding out your right arm and slowly waving it up and down indicates to an approaching driver to slow down. While holding the arm out with fingers pointing up showing the palm of the hand to the car driver indicates that the rider requires the driver to stop.




Always look behind regularly to be aware of traffic behind and continually look and listen for hazards which may alarm the horse. Unnecessary hazards should be avoided, taking a detour if possible so as not to alarm the horse.




As Horses are large, powerful animals and a collision with one poses considerable risk to the motor vehicle and its occupants, as well as to the horse and rider. Drivers should be aware that riders are often children, and therefore, less experienced.


Horses can also be inexperienced and nervous of traffic, and this should be borne in mind too.


Always be on the looking when driving for horses on the road, especially when approaching bends and on narrow rural roads. On seeing a horse, it’s best to slow down.


If your planning on overtaking, do so slowly, and allow plenty of room when passing. Always been ready to stop if necessary. Drivers should never sound their horn or rev their engine near horses.



That’s how to stay safe riding on roads

You now have a few tips on how to stay safe riding on roads. Some of these are common sense, others will take you a some time to understand and apply. Don’t worry, we’re all on a journey to learn how to ride more confidently.