Off-roading 4×4 vehicles and motorbikes are causing problems for riders across the country, a survey has indicated.

BHS-affiliated bridleway group Peak Horsepower is calling for a change in the law, after its questionnaire elicited 271 responses from 202 equestrian organisations.

The replies seem to show that riders are experiencing problems across the country, with the worst apparently in Berkshire, Kent, Devon, Lancashire, North Yorkshire, Somerset and Surrey.

“Riding on ordinary roads is increasingly dangerous for horses and riders,” said Peak Horsepower chairman Charlotte Gilbert. “Few local areas have a really good bridleway network and most riders depend on other kinds of tracks with no tarmac for safe off-road riding.

“These tracks are the 5,000km of unclassified county roads and the 4,000km of ‘byways open to all traffic’. Riders are now having to share these tracks with 4x4s and motorbikes. The result is that horse riding routes all over the country have become dangerous for horses and riders.”

Three-quarters of respondents said their off-road routes are also used by 4x4s and motorbikes, while 90% of these said these vehicles are creating problems, such as damaging the ground and frightening horses with their noise.

Other issues raised include the fact some routes are not wide enough for vehicles to pass horses safely, that visibility is a worry due to blind bends and that motorised vehicles are on routes not designated for their use.

“Surfaces are getting so damaged that horses can’t use them,” Ms Gilbert said. “Other tracks are too narrow to be shared safely by horses and motor vehicles, or they have dangerous blind bends. The law as it stands is failing to protect riders and riding routes. It needs to be changed.”

A comment from a hunt in Berkshire which responded to the survey read: “The ruts they groove into the tracks make it fetlock-breakingly difficult to get safely along the route without slipping, stumbling and tripping. Many of the vehicles realise they are not supposed to be on the byways and bridleways, which increases their speed to get away without being caught.”

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