As calls are made for more driver education following a spate of collisions, a police officer is encouraging riders to act responsibly including assessing whether their horses are ready to be ridden on the roads...
On 15 December and 4 January, two horses were put down in road incidents in Bramham, West Yorkshire and Ipswich, Suffolk, while a rider was hurt and a horse seriously injured in a collision in Hull, East Yorkshire on 31 December. In addition, a loose horse who parted company with her rider on the gallops was put down in Epsom, Surrey, following a collision with a car on 6 January.
A British Horse Society (BHS) spokesman said the society was saddened by the incidents.
“While the incident at Epsom appears to have been a tragic accident, the others demonstrate the importance and continued need for education and awareness on how to safely pass horses on the road,” he said.
“As the BHS continues to educate drivers on our Dead Slow messages, there are many precautions riders can take to increase their safety. During winter, visibility is often reduced and it is vitally important riders wear suitable high-vis, ideally both rider and horse.”
The spokesman added the BHS will continue its “crucial” work in 2020 through road awareness evenings, and plans more Henry the Horse project lessons, which aim to educate primary school children on how to walk and cycle past horses safely.
“We will continue to attend both equestrian and non-equestrian events to help deliver our messages to key audiences,” he said.
PC Hollie Iribar of Surrey Police, who worked with the BHS on a close-pass operation in which mounted plainclothes officers educated drivers who passed inappropriately, told H&H more education is still needed.
“I don’t think every driver speeds but it’s important drivers remember even if they are going 30mph they can still cause an accident – they are driving a machine that can cause damage, injury and, in some situations, death,” she said.
“We know what horses can be like, but for non-equestrians, it’s not second nature.”
PC Iribar added that rider education is also important.
“We all need to be aware of the Highway Code and use the road together,” she said. “I’ve seen riders riding in a way that causes danger to themselves such as wearing no high-vis, on mobile phones paying no attention to surroundings, using poor hand signals, and I’ve seen horses who may not yet be suitable for the road — I know and understand this is a difficult situation, but it is important to assess if your horse is safe for the road. ”
Pass Wide and Slow group founder Debbie Smith told H&H the group is hosting awareness rides on 10 May across the UK and said she plans to start a petition to make section 215 of the Highway Code, which advises drivers to pass horses wide and slow, become law.
“The problem is there is no comeuppance for drivers and they have nothing to be scared of. If a pedestrian is hit, something happens, but not if a horse is hit — it’s so sad,” she said.
“We need to show MPs that horses are being hit and ask why nothing is happening. Riders want to be protected by the law.”
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