Rural roads and horses

Spring is here – and now the weather’s better we’re getting out and about on our bikes, exploring the neighbourhood.

For many bikers, there’s nothing better than a cruise on a peaceful rural road. Little traffic, no queues, just a winding open road ahead.

But be warned; there are plenty of dangers awaiting the unexpected on those quiet, unassuming roads - and that’s why, sadly, our rural roads contribute the highest number of fatalities per mile travelled, with motorbike riders particularly vulnerable.

The fact is rural roads offer a host of challenges that you’ll rarely come across if you’re riding in a city.

In the next few blogs we’re looking at some of them, starting with – literally – the biggest: horses!

After all, unless you’ve ridden behind a police horse on patrol in a city, you might not have come across one of four-legged friends before while you’re on your motorbike, scooter or moped. How do you approach it, how do you pass it, how do you respond to its rider… after, it’s a big, ungainly animal with a mind of its own… and it looks like it weighs a bit, too. Want some tips on how to approach a horse on your powered bike? We asked the British Horse Society (BHS) for some advice…

If you come across a horse on the road, in either direction, the key thing is to slow down – to a maximum of 10mph. Allow at least two metres of space upon seeing a horse on the road if you are riding passed.

The BHS also asks all road users to:

  • Heed a rider or carriage driver’s signal if they ask you to stop or slow down.
  • If a rider or carriage driver is signalling to turn, wait patiently for them to complete their manoeuvre before continuing your journey. If the horse(s) show signs of nervousness as you get closer, please stop and/or turn the engine off and allow them to pass.
  • Please don’t start your engine or move off again until the horse(s) has moved away.
  • If a road is narrow and there is not enough room to pass safely, please approach slowly, or stop to give them time to find a gateway or other place off the road where there will be enough space between the horse and vehicle to allow you to pass safely.
  • Please be patient. Most equestrians will do their best to reassure their horses and will allow you to pass as soon as it’s safe to do so.
  • The safest place for the rider’s hands is on the reins, so they may only be able to nod their head to you – but please do be assured that they will be very grateful for your consideration.
  • Look out for equestrian road signs – these signs indicate you are likely to encounter a horse on your journey.
  • Finally, don’t hit the throttle and roar away when you are only just passed. Horses can be a little nervous around other road users so try to go past calmly, quietly and slowly. Give yourself several seconds once you are passed the horse before you open the throttle, and do so gently. The sudden noise of an engine accelerating could be enough to spook the horse.

Unfortunately, far too many lives have been lost over the last 10 years on our roads and we all have a responsibility to stop this from happening. In 2023, 66 horses and three equestrian riders were killed. Let’s all play our part in keeping everyone safe.

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