‘Something bad happened today’: tiny rider calls for drivers to slow down to keep people and horses safe

  • A seven-year-old rider who wants to keep horses, ponies and people safer on the road has appeared in a video to try to convince drivers to pass more carefully.

    Sarah Maslen filmed her daughter Eliana, at Eliana’s request, after changes to the Highway Code aimed at improving equestrians’ safety on the roads, including guidance to pass horses at no more than 10mph and at two metres’ distance, came into force on 29 January.

    Sarah told H&H Eliana’s ponies Noodle and Phoenix, her daughter’s “best friends”, are stabled in South Wales, and that she has to ride a short distance on a busy road to access the off-road hacking Eliana enjoys most.

    On Sunday (30 January) Eliana rode out on both ponies, with Sarah walking, and both were dismayed by drivers’ behaviour.

    “There have been two bad accidents on that road; a pedestrian was killed and a few weeks later some horses got out on it — their fence had been cut — and one had to be put to sleep,” Sarah said. “I’m always cautious on it; we’re both lit up like Christmas trees in high-vis, and so are the ponies, and we try to pick quiet times of day.

    “This was a Sunday afternoon and relatively quiet but the cars were just whizzing past Eliana, and really close. It was Ellie who said ‘Mummy, you should film this’. We’d been talking about the Highway Code changes and how everyone knows how far two meters is because of social distancing. I did, but when we got home, she wanted to make another video because there were things we hadn’t said.”

    In the second video, Eliana says that “something bad happened today” and that it is important people watch. She explains she has to ride on the roads to access bridleways, and that cars “zoom” past her when she does this, which scares her.

    She adds that drivers should pass more slowly under the new rules, and that she always wears high-vis so they can see her.

    “I thought I’d put the video out and it might just make people think, especially on the road where there’s been those accidents,” Sarah said. “A friend of mine said they’d seen so much about pedestrians and cyclists in the changes and not much about horses. But the video went a bit nuts.”

    Sarah said she had some “really nasty” comments and messages.

    “I even had some nasty comments from riders, saying why was I in front of Eliana and the pony rather than at the side, but I was only in front because we were on a bend and I wanted cars to see me. I’d have been on all four sides of them if I could,” she said. “Other comments said I’d set it up, or that it must be great to have money for horses, but I’m a single mum who works two jobs and makes sacrifices to have the horses because it’s Eliana’s passion.

    “But I’ve also had some lovely feedback, saying what an amazing little rider, and ‘thank you so much for raising it’. Eliana even gave a little talk at Rainbows about the Highway Code. The whole thing is that she wanted to tell people about how it should be.”

    Eliana told H&H she loves her ponies and wants to keep them safe, and Sarah added that she feels education is a big part of this.

    “One lady, who I was waving to, to ask her to slow down, waved and grinned back; people don’t know what they should be doing,” she said.

    “Eliana was talking about her friends who ride, and other people at the yard, and keeping them and their horses safe; she’s so keen to protect others.

    “This was all her and I didn’t want to silence her; a huge part of my working life is empowering young people to find their voices so I didn’t want to silence my own daughter.”

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