Road sense is essential for every rider. Staying safe is a mixture of common sense, courtesy and alertness. You need to anticipate the movements of motorists and to show clearly where you intend to go.
Safety on the road
Before setting out, check that your horse’s tack is safe. Make sure that his shoes are in good condition because badly worn shoes provide little or no grip. Never ride on the road without a saddle and bridle. If you do a lot of roadwork, you may want to invest in knee boots for your pony. They protect the horse’s legs if he falls on a hard surface. You could also ask your farrier to put some small road studs on the shoes to improve his grip. You should wear sensible clothes and take your riding whip with you if you have one. Always carry your whip in your right hand because this will be on the outside close to the traffic. You can then encourage your horse to move toward the edge of the road away from the traffic when necessary.
Be aware of other road-users and take extra care to control your horse. Even well-behaved horses are unpredictable in traffic. If you aren’t riding as part of a club and are instead using your own horse it is important that you have some form of insurance in place. As a responsible horse owner, alongside cover for your horse it’s also a great idea to have some third party liability cover at a minimum. This means that should your horse cause any damage to another person or their property (for example destroying a wall or chewing a parked car), you’ll be protected financially.
Always ride along the side of the road, as close to the kerb as possible. If you can, ride on grass verges, but keep a sharp lookout for dangerous hidden hazards such as drainage ditches and broken glass. Never ride on pavements or footways.
They’re intended for pedestrians and the sight of a horse blocking the route can be frightening and dangerous to small children and adults alike.
No matter how tempting an open road or a verge may look, keep to a steady walk or trot. If you canter and your horse suddenly shies you may lose control. Fast paces are also more damaging to the horse’s legs and feet on hard surfaces. In any case, you should never gallop on a horse wearing knee boots because it can hurt him. Whenever possible, avoid riding in the dark. Never ride in fog or mist because you can’t see – or be seen easily.
Riding in a group
When you go out riding with a group of friends, the riders at each end are responsible for giving all the hand signals. Position the most reliable horses at the front and back. Divide groups of more than six into two rides so that you don’t hold up the traffic. If the road is wide enough, riding two abreast encourages passing vehicles to move slowly and give you more room. If it narrows ahead, be prepared to move back into single file. Don’t become so absorbed in your conversation that you take no notice of your surroundings.
If you want to overtake riders in front of you, always check with them first so that you don’t startle their ponies.
To turn left, place the reins and whip in your right hand and hold your left am out to your side at shoulder height.
When turning right or passing a stationary vehicle, place the reins and whip in your left hand and hold your right arm out at shoulder height. Remember that when passing a vehicle on your side of the road you should give right of way to oncoming traffic.
Before altering your course indicate clearly to other road-users. Check in front and behind first, signal clearly and allow drivers time to react before you move. Always thank those who slow down this will encourage them to be more considerate to other riders.
Don’t signal with a whip in your hand. It can frighten the horse and confuse other road-users.
When a car is uncertain whether to overtake you or not, beckon it on with your right hand provided that the road ahead is clear.
To ask a driver to stop, hold your right hand up, palm facing toward him. Before doing this make sure that the road is clear. If you need to slow traffic down, hold out your arm nearest the traffic and wave it up and down.