Horse owners in Scotland are being warned to take extra care while riding on canal towpaths.

The British Horse Society (BHS) Scotland has issued a new leaflet containing advice on riding and carriage driving on towpaths for the increasing number of riders using the 137 miles of inland waterways across the country.

“Scottish riders are lucky in that we have excellent facilities, including many canals in the Borders,” said the Scottish Equestrian Association’s (SEA) executive director, Muriel Colquhoun.

“I’m all for anything that encourages riders to be responsible,” she added.

The leaflet, produced by BHS Scotland in conjunction with Scottish National Heritage and British Waterways Scotland, urges riders to consider their speed and the needs of other users. It also warns of the dangers of canal paths that are steep-sided and can change suddenly in height and width.

Helene Mauchlen, BHS Scottish development officer, said: “Towpaths are narrow, and when members of the public encounter horses, we don’t want them to feel intimidated or for accidents to happen.

“Fast or irresponsible riding makes what could be a dangerous situation even more so, so we are encouraging people to ride with courtesy.”

BHS Scottish access officer Pat Somerville added: “We all need to do a risk assessment before we get on our horses.

“If your horse is likely to misbehave, you ought to avoid towpaths. The safety of yourself, other users and your horse is paramount.”

Former British Trec champion David Hay Thorpe rides on the towpaths of the Crinan Canal on a weekly basis.

“The towpaths are beautiful and have a relaxed atmosphere. I’ve been using them for many years now. But we make sure we clean up after ourselves.”

To download the leaflet, visit www.bhsscotland.org.uk

This news story was first published in H&H (24 September, 09)