Riders are being reassured that they will still be able to ride two abreast, despite imminent changes to the Highway Code.

The amended code, which is due to be published in the autumn, has worried many in the equestrian community, largely due to the fact that it seemingly forbids riding two abreast.

But a later rule in the new code refers to the need sometimes to ride two abreast, and government spokesmen have reiterated the fact that the Highway Code is advisory, rather than legally enforceable.

Earlier in the year, the British Horse Society (BHS) urged riders to lobby their MPs to protest at the changes (news, 31 May) and an online petition, calling on the Prime Minister to block the amendments, has been lodged with the government (http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/Horseriding) and has more than 16,000 signatories.

But despite these concerns, the amendments will form part of the redrafted Highway Code.

A key change is Rule 53 of the new code. It instructs riders to: “Never ride more than two abreast and ride in single file on narrow and busy roads and when riding round bends.”

But a Department for Transport (DfT) spokesman told H&H that, in actuality, this would not prevent riders from riding side by side.

He said: “The draft Highway Code has no intention of preventing horse riders from riding two abreast; it simply advises them on places where it may not be safe to do so.

“It is worth remembering that the Highway Code provides advice on the safest way of using a road; it is not a legal requirement.”

However, Rule 215 of the new code warns motorists: “Remember, horse riders may ride in double file when escorting a young or inexperienced horse or rider.”

British Horse Society (BHS) director of access Mark Weston said this was a clear contradiction with Rule 53. He said the BHS would continue to work with the DfT, but that it might be up to 10 years before the Highway Code comes up for amendment again.

Read this news story in full in the current issue of Horse & Hound (19 July, ’07)