Sound advice on horse safety

IN OUR second article regarding horse safety on the roads, we highlight a number of issues outlined by Tayside Police officers in Kirriemuir and Joyce Bruce of the Pathhead Equestrian Centre in the town.

Why should I slow down for horses?

Because if you don’t you risk your own life and your vehicle as well as the life of the rider and the horse.

Horses are unpredictable. They can suddenly be frightened by something and jump in front of your vehicle.

If you hit a horse your car will probably be a write off, you could suffer serious injuries or die and the horse and rider will certainly suffer grave injuries or death.

So why are they on the road?

The law recognises horses have a right to be on the road. They were there before cars and they are protected as ‘livestock’. It is the duty of the driver to slow down and prepare to stop in case they are frightened either by your vehicle or by something else which may cause them to go into the path of your vehicle. If you do not slow down and you are involved in an accident with a horse, you could be charged with dangerous driving or even manslaughter. Horses and riding are the chosen hobby of vast numbers of people; they are not going to go away. People who ride horses have to be disciplined, fit, brave and kind. Because riding a horse demands no less.

Joyce said: “Half the joy of owning and riding a horse is being able to take it out in the countryside, or even the town. So, yes, slowing down for a horse out and about means you lose a few minutes and that can be irritating if you are short of time or running late. But if you put the pleasure of the horse and the rider, plus the overall benefit to society of horse riding on one side of the scale and a bit of an inconvenience to motorists on the other side, it would seem to be an overall gain.”

Joyce highlighted some other points to consider.

She said: “Sometimes riders can be rude and unaccommodating. Ideally they should move out of the way and let traffic pass (slowly and carefully) if they can and they should also thank drivers for acts of consideration with a smile and a wave (if it is safe to let go of a rein). If they don’t, please don’t get angry at all of them and don’t stop being considerate. Most do say thank you.

“Sometimes a young horse needs a wee bit more time but if drivers are considerate they soon learn that vehicles are nothing to worry about. And that is a gain for everybody.

“The sheer size and power of modern commercial and agricultural vehicles present a tremendous challenge for riders. Most horses could cope happily with a 1950’s style Massey Fergusson tootling along at a maximum speed of 20 m.p.h. or the benign appearance of the familiar Meffan’s type bus of the same era. On the other hand a modern double decker bus, a clanging car transporter or a modern tractor the size of a small flat capable of cruising speeds of around 50 miles an hour are pretty much in the ‘monster - run for it’ category for your average horse.

“However if drivers of such vehicles just slow down, or stop if necessary, most horses will take a breath, respond to their rider and move forward sensibly and obediently. Some will learn to get over their fear of large vehicles completely. But very few of them will ever learn to cope with a modern giant sized tractor, complete with dangling implements, rushing past at full speed. A moment to let the horse take a breath and cope is priceless. The opposite, a blank refusal to slow down is actually life threatening.

“Tractor drivers can be wonderful and also appear to get far more considerate as they get older. But the odd few just don’t seem to care and almost appear to take pleasure from the rider’s troubles. Cyclists too need to be wary about coming up fast behind a horse. They present the opposite problem, they don’t make enough noise and when they suddenly appear behind a horse they can cause it to spook or possibly even to kick out.”

If you have any concerns contact Tayside Police on 0300 111 2222.