First man walked everywhere. Then someone spotted a horse and had an idea about transport but couldn’t catch the bloody thing. Then someone decided to ‘corral’ a bunch of horses up a ‘blind canyon’ or whatever horse people do, train and domesticate it and use it for transport. This made a lot of sense. Horses can carry, work and pull and little ponies delight children. They were the original horsepower and you can put their emissions on your roses. Then someone invented the motor car.
The Demise Of The Horse
I don’t care for horses personally; weird, skittish things as I see it and I don’t like the way they roll their eyes but, well, a lot of people get some sort of pleasure riding them so who am I to argue? They are powerful animals and have extremely heightened senses, I’m told. They are ‘flight’ animals, so they can revert to their natural instincts at any time. In short, if they are scared by something they run away in any random direction.
By and large the horse’s role as beast of burden or as a mode of transport has been reduced to the extent that most steeds are now seen as rideable pets or for other recreational activities. Because of the way this country has been built up and small villages have gradually merged through development into larger conurbations, horse riders sometimes have to use our increasingly busy and dangerous roads.
If a skittish animal on the road can panic at the sound of a sudden shout, they can certainly be alarmed by passing traffic. On the whole, although I am no fan of the beasts, I think that horse riders generally obey the rules of the road to the letter, unlike, say, some cyclists. You can pretty much rely on horse people to do the right thing because their lives literally depend on it. On balance, increasingly aggressive car drivers need to be reminded how to drive near horses on the road. They go too fast, too near and are too ready to apportion blame on a dumb animal.
According to IAM RoadSmart’s head of driving and riding standards, Richard Gladman, the outcome of this can be extremely challenging for the rider and other road users. We learn that there have been 2,570 road incidents reported to the British Horse Society in the last six years. Some 38 riders have been killed and 222 horses have died as a result of their injuries. Of these incidents 80% are because vehicle passed too fast or too close to the horse.
Good Horse Advice Never Hurts
So here’s some sound advice from Mr G: If you are approaching a horse from behind, hold back whilst getting enough information to pass safely. Do not get any closer than three car lengths and be careful not to creep into this space. Be prepared to slow down further or even stop to protect this space. Avoid sudden movements as horses may react. They can move incredibly quickly.
Don’t spook them. Actions such as sounding your horn, revving your engine and playing loud music can spook the horse. Always drive gently and predictably. Remember there are three brains working, the driver’s, the rider’s and the horse’s. Make sure you give the rider enough space when passing them. We recommend at least a car’s width and make sure this is done slowly – remember always pass “slow and wide,” good advice is no more than 15mph.
Often when riding two abreast it is for safety reasons, an inexperienced rider or a nervous animal being coached along by a more experienced companion. Give them some consideration. The rider will give you signals asking you to stop or slow down. Riders will often acknowledge a safe pass but remember their top priority is to keep their hands on the reins and maintain control of the horse. Always accelerate gently once you have passed the horse. A rider and the horse may both be inexperienced and nervous in traffic.
These are the rules that have basically always existed since the days of having a man with a red flag walk in front of a car. There are drivers out there who would probably benefit from a ‘red flag’ man today.
It’s about good driving and just plain horse sense. As simple as that. How to conduct ourselves on the highways. When it comes to the whole panoply of things that can wrong on the roads some motorists need to be educated over and over again. Geoff Maxted
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