*** DRIVERS: PLEASE, PLEASE WASTE 30 SECONDS OF YOUR DAY and SLOW DOWN FOR HORSES ***
I hacked Alfred out this morning. He is only 5 years old, and he has taken a while to not panic when larger vans and lorries come past him. Every single vehicle today, big and small, bar ONE, was outstanding! This one driver was a local “horsey” family, well known for never slowing down for horses, who now seem to be into tarmac driveways. There’s zero point naming him/them as they won’t change until they kill a horse and/or rider, and probably not even then.
So, I thought I’d write a post for non-horsey people, on why it’s so important to slow down for horses on the road. About two weeks ago, a really lovely female driver stopped to ask me at what speed she should go past a horse and rider, so I’m hopeful that some drivers who don’t slow down, simply don’t know why, or at what speed they should go past a horse out on the roads.
Firstly, every horse is different. It’s really important to take advice from the rider on to how quickly to pass them, or whether to just stop for ten seconds. You can’t see what’s behind walls and hedges, and the rider may need you to stop if they are about to pass some sheep behind a hedge, or a lawn mower, for example. However well educated a horse is, they will always be a prey species, so should always retain their natural survival instinct to move very quickly away from what they perceive to be imminent danger. They are likely to only shoot sideways a step or two, but that could be straight in front of your car. The rider will likely have picked up on the horse’s fear, and by following his or her instructions to just stop your vehicle for two seconds, everyone stays safe.
Horse riders do not ask drivers to slow down or stop, because we are pompous a**eholes. We may indeed be pompous a**eholes, but that’s not why we are asking drivers to slow down or stop. We are doing it because we don’t want to cause a fatal accident.
Young horses need to get used to traffic. If vehicles constantly shoot past a young horse, they will be terrified of traffic for the rest of their lives. The ONLY way to get a horse safe on the roads, is to expose him/her to the roads. My aim with young horses, is to give them time to assess the vehicle they are about to pass. If that horse needs that big lorry to stop for a minute, whilst he assesses that the big lorry is safe to go past, then unfortunately that needs to happen. If the lorry continues to move past that horse, and the horse panics, whips round, and bolts in the opposite direction, then not only will the driver be held up for far longer, but that horse may either slip over in the road, or need five minutes to pass the next lorry. Yes, it’s extremely frustrating to be held up on the roads by a horse rider, but a minute or two really won’t change your life.
I thought I’d clear up some common misconceptions, too.
1. Yes, horse riders have as much right as cars to be on the road.
2. The Highway Code states to pass horses at 10mph. Therefore screaming out of your car window that you were “doing 30”, when asked to go slower, isn’t a valid argument.
3. We don’t want to ride on roads, and we don’t enjoy riding on roads. It’s unfortunately a necessity to get to quiet country lanes and bridleways.
4. We can’t just “ride in fields”. As much as we’d all like to chop off padlocks to all of the local fields, and use them, the farmers would get a tad unhappy.
5. We don’t clear up our horses’ poo, because it’s a very safe waste product. Human excrement is used as a fertiliser for many of the food that you eat. I know whose excrement I’d prefer on my tomatoes.
6. Horses have to be introduced to traffic in order to get used to traffic; they weren’t born knowing that cars weren’t going to kill them, or drive into them. In fact, they are right to be scared of fast moving vehicles, until they are older and experienced on the roads.
7. We pretty much all own cars, and many of us also own horse lorries, so yes, we do pay as much road tax as you.
8. If we ask you to slow down, please slow down. It is for your safety, as well as our own.
9. It is actually a lovely, brief, interaction when a vehicle is considerate to a horse, and stops if asked. The rider smiles and thanks the driver, and the driver smiles back. The horse is also happy, and has had a good experience.
Slowing for a horse may take as little as twenty seconds out of your day, but it may save that horse and rider’s life.
My final point is to also ask all RIDERS to always thank drivers, IF they slow down. There is nothing worse, even as a horsey person, to slow right down for a rider, and be given a blank stare. If you can’t take your hands off the reins, then a smile/nod/mouthed “thank you”, is fine!
Please share, especially with non horsey friends/groups!
Photo of wonderful Alfred today, after his hack. This was his first hack without a person on foot, since I injured my pelvis over 4 months ago!