Sunday, 4 July 2010

Advice for horse riders, horse owners and tractor drivers - keeping safe on the roads

Being blessed with such a beautiful summer this year, it's encouraged all of us to make the most of the sunshine. At some stage, it's inevitable that horses and tractors are going to meet each other out on the Devon lanes. For many horses, the only time they will ever encounter tractors and large vehicles will be when they are out on the roads and country lanes. Some of these machines can seem very scary the first time they are encountered.

If drivers of large vehicles and horse owners take a few simple steps, everyone can stay safe, and horses can learn that big machines aren't a problem.

Horse owners:
  • Whether you are leading, riding or driving your horse or pony, make sure you are wearing flourescent gear to make yourself visible to all road users.
  • Make sensible decisions on how it is best to pass a vehicle. It is better to face vehicles to pass them. Decide whether:
  1. There is plenty of room (at least a car's width) to pass the vehicle where it is in the lane.
  2. You need to go back along the lane to a layby or wider section.
  3. You need to use hand signals to ask drivers to stop or slow down.
  4. Getting off and leading your horse might be the best way to help your horse pass a vehicle.
  • Have a positive attitude - being confident that you can deal with a situation will really help your horse. Horses should not be beaten or hit for refusing to pass a scary vehicle - this will lead to an association of fear with the situation.
  • Always thank drivers for their considerate driving.
  • After you have passed a tractor or large vehicle, turn to face it, and as it starts to move away from you, let your horse follow it for a few strides. This will help to create a more positive association for your horse.

Drivers of tractors and large vehicles:
  1. Approach horses slowly and with care, and always stop to allow horses to pass you. Stopping will always be the safest option.
  2. If you are following a horse which is moving towards the nearest layby or wider part of lane, keep well back to avoid the horse feeling it is being chased. If you can see the horse's head bending to the left or right to keep an eye on your vehicle, or that it is starting to rush and panic, this means that you are too close. Just back off a bit. This will prevent a situation from escalating.
  3. Give a horse, or pony, at least the same amount of room you would allow for a car to pass alongside your vehicle in a lane.
  4. Be aware that any load with flapping plastic on the back will be a challenge for any horse to pass. Again, stopping will help to minimise the movement of the plastic.
  5. Heed the hand signals of horse handlers and riders.

It's often forgotten that under UK law, horses have right of way over traffic on the roads. Whilst this shouldn't be abused, the highway code clearly states "When passing animals, drive slowly. Give them plenty of room and be ready to stop. Do not scare animals by sounding your horn, revving your engine or accelerating rapidly once you have passed them. Look out for animals being led, driven or ridden on the road and take extra care... Look out for horse riders’ and horse drivers’ signals and heed a request to slow down or stop."

If you need help to get your horse more confident around traffic, please consider one of our Understanding Horses courses

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