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Director of Safety The British Horse Society (BHS), Alan Hiscox, talks about the importance of driving safely around horses on our roads, and the impact that dangerous driving has on them.

According to a recent British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) survey, there are currently three million horse riders in the UK and 1.8 million of these rides regularly. The public rights of way network in England and Wales is continually shrinking resulting in more and more riders having to ride on busy roads in order to travel between bridleways.

With the increasing number of vehicles on our roads and the speed at which they travel – roads are becoming increasingly challenging, especially for vulnerable road users such as horse riders and carriage drivers. A key part of my role as Director of Safety at The British Horse Society (BHS) is to help raise awareness on and better promote equestrian safety, to ensure all riders feel as safe as possible when riding out.

Between November 2010 and March 2019, 3,737 road incidents involving horses have been reported to our horseaccidents.org.uk incident reporting site. Tragically, these incidents have resulted in the deaths of 315 horses and 43 people. The majority of these incidents occur because cars have passed by the horse too closely or too quickly. These figures are far too high, and we can all help to bring these statistics right down.

To help tackle the rising number of road incidents being reported to us, the BHS developed its Dead? Or Dead Slow? campaign which calls on drivers to follow four simple steps:

If I see a horse on the road; then I will …

  1. Slow down to a maximum of 15mph
  2. Be patient, I won’t sound my horn or rev my engine
  3. Pass the horse wide and slow, (if safe to do so) at least a car’s width if possible
  4. Drive slowly away

We encourage all road users to be courteous and patient with one another whilst sharing the roads. It is vital to remember that horses are flight animals and may move quickly away from what they perceive as a threat - this sudden action can have serious consequences for the rider, horse, vehicle and its occupants.

Responsibilities don’t just sit with drivers as there are steps riders can also take to help stay safe when out riding on the roads, including:

If a rider is involved in a near miss or an incident, please report it to horseaccidents.org.uk as this allows us to have a greater understanding of the issue and strengthens our lobbying efforts.