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 horse and rider, 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 use the road, 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.
RIDING/LEADING ON THE 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 left-hand 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.
WHAT TO WEAR
Riding hats and helmets are the most important items of personal protective equipment and they should meet safety standards. However, they only protect you when they fit properly, all straps are correctly adjusted and the chin strap is fastened. If your helmet hits something solid in a fall, replace it even if you cannot see any damage.
The safety standard that your hat or helmet meets is shown on the inside of the hat by one or more of the following marks: ?
When riding, both you and your horse should always wear fluorescent and reflective clothing so that other road users can see you. This includes high visibility vests, armbands, hat bands and reflective leg bands or boots. These safety accessories should meet European safety standards. It is also important to wear appropriate clothing to help protect your skin if you have a fall.
It is a good idea to wear gloves with extra grip to help protect your hands. Choose brightly coloured gloves that include reflective materials as this will make it easier for other road users to see your hand signals.
If you choose to carry a crop, carry it in your right hand (as this is the side next to the traffic). Never raise the crop when using your right hand to signal.
A body protector will give you some protection in a fall. It may not prevent serious injury but it can increase your chances of staying alive and reduce the severity of any injuries. You should only buy body protectors and riding hats and helmets from recognised retailers who know how to fit them correctly.
You should wear footwear with a hard sole and a small heel to prevent your feet slipping through the stirrups. Never wear fashion footwear or Wellingtons while riding. Also, make sure the tread of your footwear is not too thick or heavy as this might cause your feet to become wedged, or stuck, in the stirrups.
If you use stirrup lights or hand lights when leading a horse, these should have a white light to the front and a red light to the back.
Tack and equipment should fit the horse correctly and be in good repair, especially the stitching, the leather under buckles, the leather attached to the bit and the stirrup leathers.
Your horse should be shod according to the amount of road work it does. Thin, shiny shoes or loose shoes can cause a horse to slip or fall on the road.
SIGNS AND SIGNALLING
Learn the meanings of all road signs and markings.
You must signal your intentions on the road. ?
ASKING A DRIVER TO SLOW
Make eye contact with the driver. Put both reins in your left hand with your crop under your left thumb.
When it is safe to do so, extend your right arm at shoulder level, with your palm facing the ground. Move your arm up and down slowly and repeat as necessary. Place your hand back on the reins before the driver passes.
ASKING A DRIVER TO STOP
Make eye contact with the driver. Put both reins and crop in your left hand.
When it is safe to do so, extend your right arm at shoulder level with your elbow bent and your palm facing the driver.
Place your hand back on the reins before passing the vehicle.
INDICATING A LEFT TURN
Put the reins and the crop into your right hand. When it is safe to do so, extend your left arm at shoulder level, with the fingers together and your palm facing to the front, keep your hand out for about three seconds before placing your hand back on the reins. Check the traffic again, use the Life Saver Look and look over both shoulders. When it is safe to do so, make the turn - and in case of a lengthy delay consider a repeat hand signal.
INDICATING A RIGHT TURN
To indicate a turn right or to pass an obstacle or parked vehicle put both reins in your left hand and have your crop under your left thumb.
When it is safe to do so, extend your right arm at shoulder level, with your fingers together and your palm facing to the front.
Keep your arm out for about three seconds then place your hand back on the reins, check traffic again and proceed.
LIFE SAVER LOOK
This is your final check of traffic from all directions before moving off or changing route.
All the information in this article has been adapted from The RSA Horse Road safety Booklet.
The full booklet can be downloaded from the Road safety Authority website at rsa.ie or from the Horse Sport Ireland website at horsesportireland.ie.