Riders’ right to roam being blocked

Joyce Bruce of Pathhead Equestrian on Merlin.
Joyce Bruce of Pathhead Equestrian on Merlin.

An AGRICULTURAL worker was in Forfar Sheriff Court recently charged with dangerous driving.

The charges related to a failure to slow his combine harvester down while passing a horse rider on a single track road. The horse reared up and the rider fell off. The reason the rider was on the road was because access to the usual bridle paths had been blocked by a landowner.

Angus County Press have already run articles focusing on responsible behaviour for both drivers and riders on our local roads. However this case highlights the other, very serious part of the problem.

Riders don’t usually ride on the road by choice; they much prefer riding on tracks, fields and woodland off road. Unfortunately often they can’t because their way is blocked.

Joyce Bruce of Pathhead Equestrian said: “We are very lucky to live in a country which passed the The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 which allows us all right to roam and enjoy our beautiful countryside. And horse riders are specifically mentioned as potential off road land users who cannot be barred (unless for commonsense reasons such as there are growing crops, roaming stock etc).

“The problem is some landowners are flaunting the law and those who should enforce the law are sometimes slow to act.

“It makes sense for everybody, drivers and horse riders, to avoid dangerous situations on the road. It would make sense therefore if everybody worked together to help riders to get off our roads and into safe places to hack.”

Constable Alan Bell of Tayside Police in Kirriemuir commented: “If you know of a place where land access has been blocked you should contact your local council. The more places horse riders have to ride off busy roads the better it is for everybody.”

Other organisations such as the British Horse Society are keen to help if they can. Helene Mauchlen is the BHS Development Officer for Scotland and can be contacted through the BHS website. Helene has helped to set up several local riders’ access groups in Scotland and is always ready to offer advice on how to go about sorting out problems.

Joyce is currently looking into the possibility of setting up a group consisting of local people to look at land access problems in the area. She can be contacted on 01575 572173, emailed at info@pathhead.com or through the Pathhead Equestrian Centre facebook page