Sharing The Road With Horses

by admin on April 25, 2013

The following is a Public Service Announcement video educating drivers on the proper etiquette to safely navigate driving and sharing the road with riders on horseback.

I have ridden horses for decades and have owned my own horses for the past 15 years or so. Part of riding has involved getting from point A to point B using public roads and every horse owner I know has a story to tell of encountering not just clueless drivers but evil, aggressive drivers who intentionally behave in a way that is designed to spook the horses. My own story was when I was in my late teen riding a friend’s horse down a 2 lane country road. A motorcyclist passed us and then we watched in increasing dismay and concern as he turned around and came back only this time coming closer to the horses. He repeated this two more times, getting so close on the last pass that I could have stuck my leg out and touched him. Fortunately our horses were unfazed but the motorcyclist’s intentions were clear. He was trying to spook the horses into freaking out.

I now own driving ponies and when I have time I hitch up Twinkle for a drive down one of the two lane country roads near me. My equines are extensively trained to be road worthy but they are still flesh and blood creatures who can react unpredictably if the right circumstances occurred. I haven’t encountered any dangerous creeps yet while driving but that may be due to knowing nearly all my neighbors who are the likeliest to be driving the same roads I am.

{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

EchoGirl April 25, 2013 at 2:16 am

Oh, God, do I have a story about that! This one was an accident, I admit, but one that shouldn’t have been allowed to happen. I was in a beginning jumper class and two girls who boarded horses at the stable were sitting on a spare box next to a jump (first mistake, and a big one). As I was approaching the jump (from the opposite side as the girls were sitting on) at a full canter, a wasp flew near one of the girls, who promptly shrieked and jumped up — right in front of the jump. (That’s all basically hearsay by the way, it happened so fast I never actually saw her, but that what she and the half-dozen or so other people in the ring at the time said.) My horse startled and darted off to one side, partly out of fear and partly to avoid taking the jump and thus hitting her, and I tumbled off, bruising my left hip and, though I wouldn’t learn this until later, hyperextending a muscle in my right leg, probably from my leg being dragged over the saddle as I fell off to the left. (Again, in my mind, one moment I was approaching the jump and the next I was hitting the ground. Whatever happened in between is a complete blank.)

The kicker? The girl who jumped up ran over to me, apologizing frantically, and I forgave her (I’m petrified of wasps, so I could sympathize), and she and her friend who had also been sitting in a place they probably should not have been went to help me get remounted. As the first girl apologized again, the second looked right at me and said “I have nothing to be sorry for, I didn’t do anything.” Which was true, but she still could have said she was sorry it happened, or even said nothing at all.

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Skittle April 25, 2013 at 5:39 am

I own 3 horses, and unfortunately the only places I have to ride involve either being along the road the entire time or riding along the road to get elsewhere off-road. My horses are all traffic safe, thankfully, but I could go on for days about the stupid stuff people have done around my girls. I had a guy on a sport motorcycle (crotch rocket as we call them) deliberately run up and down the road at a fairly dangerous intersection we were trying to cross, spooking my poor pony and scaring my friend that was riding her pretty badly. I had another guy on a loud Harley ride right up beside my horse and gun the throttle. I’ve had people not see the horses but slam on their brakes and slide to a stop to avoid hitting my dog who goes along on rides, and then yell at me for being along the road with my animals.

The scariest encounter though was when a friend and I were out a bit later then planned and were still a half mile or so from my house when it started getting dark. I own a palomino mare that stands out like a spotlight when its dusk out, so I was in front, and I was also wearing a fluorescent orange t-shirt. A guy in a car came speeding down the dirt road at us and swerved toward my horse at high speed and the ditch was too deep where we were to be able to avoid him. Thankfully he got back on his own side of the road before he hit us, but not before my friend that was a little ways behind had her phone out ready to make an emergency call.

I can’t understand why it is so difficult to share the road with pedestrians, bicyclists, or horseback riders. Or how people can miss a 900lb horse with a rider, but see the 75lb dog. I tell my friends when they come to ride, my horses are traffic safe, but they are not stupid proof.

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Ruby April 25, 2013 at 6:19 am

I drive frequently into Lancaster County, PA, and the surrounding areas. Amish country! Car drivers really have to be on their toes there. One sees all sorts of horse-drawn vehicles: buggies, wagons, carts, some even driven by children. Some are difficult to see due to winding roads an hills (the vehicles seem to appear out of nowhere as one rounds a turn or descends a hill). Most have the reflective triangles and some even have battery-operated turn signals, which are ADORABLE!

At intersections, the horses balk at having to wait at red lights, sometimes pushing their buggies backwards. I’ve learned to stop about 15 feet back if I’m behind a buggy at a light.

Anyway, I drive slowly knowing these vehicles will be in front of me at 2-3 mph. Traffic is allowed to pass the buggies wherever they can safely do so. It’s harder than passing a car because you have to maneuver past 2-6 unpredictable horses without spooking them. Patience is the name of the game.

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Lo April 25, 2013 at 6:55 am

Thanks for posting this! I grew up down south in a town that was not small, but where it was not uncommon to see horses sharing the road. Lots of ranches out there. Where I live now I rarely get to interact with them but I adore them. They’re beautiful, gentle, helpful, and brilliant animals.

The idea that a driver would intentionally try to spook a horse is mind-blowing. I genuinely hope that stupid motorcyclist acted purely out of ignorance and not with malicious intent, as a spooked horse can do some serious damage to itself and it’s rider, as well as anyone else who happens to be in the way.

As a driver I would not hestitant to keep a wide berth of a horse, no matter how much of a hurry I was in or how much of the road they were blocking. All animals, especially large working animals, deserve to be treated respectfully and given their space. They’re our helpers and we’re supposed to look out for their well being– even if they don’t belong to us.

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Sarah April 25, 2013 at 7:19 am

Thank you for this!

A horse was killed and it’s young rider was badly injured last year when the car driver “didn’t realize” you should pull over a bit to pass horses. You pull over a bit to pass a bike or walker, why wouldn’t you do the same?

My horse was exceptionally road broke, but we had more than one incident of drivers swerving close–either trying to scare us or to let the kids see the horses. The nice part about having a cell phone is that I can pull it out and show the driver I’m making a call. They usually back right off in case I’m calling the police.

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Roslyn April 25, 2013 at 7:35 am

I lived in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania for 5 years, and horse and buggies were obviously commonplace. I also was witness to some unbelievably stupid actions from tourists towards the horses and their drivers. The Amish/Mennonites are not monkeys in a zoo.

I think the worst was when I was behind two buggies trotting at speed on a common tourist road. They were single file and I was behind them watching. A mini van was on the wrong side of the road with it’s sliding rear door open and a person was hanging out the door with a camera or a movie camera taking photos/video. The driver was matching the buggies speed and watching the buggies/horses and not the road because they kept swerving close to the horses and then hard swerving back to the wrong side of the road. The horses wear blinders, but you could see them getting agitated and toss their heads about.

Traffic was coming the opposite direction, and the other drivers had to pull over, off the large berm and into the grass beside the road, but this driver kept this up for a good mile. I was shocked that the person didn’t fall out of the open door. And what angers me the most is the fact that these buggies more often then not have small children in them, and sometimes they are being driven by very young teens.

Some people just don’t get it. Slow and down and always use caution around any kind of pedestrian and animal, large and small.

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Lisa Mare April 25, 2013 at 7:42 am

Personally, I don’t think horses belong on the road or next to the road because they are unpredictable animals. I am not saying horses are bad. People are unpredictable too. A horse is not a bike to ride by the road. I have and had horses. I love horses. I think horses should be ridden on trails, on your own property, in an arena, or if you want to go from point A to B have them trailered there.

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Ripple April 25, 2013 at 7:45 am

Although I totally agree with what was told to the driver, I also find the riders extremely rude. Once they saw the car come up, they should have gotten into a single file so the driver could have gone around. This is as bad as two or three people walking side by side down a sidewalk, forcing anyone coming toward them to either go into the road or the grass on the side to get around.

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Ergala April 25, 2013 at 7:48 am

We just had a horse related tragedy here a few weeks ago. A guy came speeding up behind two horseback riders and he slammed into them. One of the horses had to be put down at the scene and the riders were sent to the hospital. The area they were in is clearly posted as having horseback riders and it was on a small bridge. They were riding properly and the truck simply didn’t bother slowing down or stopping and instead plowed right into them.

http://www.wptz.com/news/vermont-new-york/upper-valley-wnne/Vt-police-Driver-cited-in-crash-with-horses/-/9277648/19576796/-/wtbvbvz/-/index.html
The comments have more info on the story.

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Mae April 25, 2013 at 8:44 am

There are 2 horse farms just a couple miles from my home. One of the farms is owned by the family of a woman (Jacque) I went to school and was quite friendly with. In nice weather, we frequently encounter horses on the road and the “locals” are patient and try to be as safe as possible and share the road. We get the occasional teenager or out of towner with NO patience, who acts stupid and dangerous.

A couple of years ago, Jacque, her daughter, her son and a niece went for a ride on the 2 lane road that went by the property. Jacque says everything was fine, everyone was having a good time, riding down a straight stretch of road and then chaos. A large SUV had come speeding down the road, hit/sideswiped the horse ridden by her niece and sent child and horse flying across the ditch. The horse ended up landing on top of the child, breaking several bones and understandably causing other severe injuries. The horse was severely injured as well, also with several broken bones and had to be put down. The force of the crash damaged the woman car and the airbag deployed.

The driver of the SUV was a woman who was late for a birthday party and had been texting, trying to find the place. Even though she had caused the accident that nearly killed a child and caused the death of the horse, she had the audacity to try to sue the horse farm, wanting them to replace her expensive SUV, pay her hospital bills and pay for her “pain and suffering”. And she was mad about missing a birthday party! The judge dismissed that suit real quick.

Jacque’s family ended up having to sue the insurance company because they did not want to pay for the accident. They paid the hospital bills for the child, but did not want to pay for the death horse and therapy the little girl had to have. They said, quote “Horses have no business walking along the road, popping up out of nowhere on unsuspecting drivers.” They lost and had to pay for everything.

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penguintummy April 25, 2013 at 9:01 am

This is more about etiquette for safety reasons! It’s no coincidence that safety and etiquette overlap. Horse riders usually frequent well signposted areas for riding and are not often on the road for long distances. We all need to share the road and think of others, no one owns the road.

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Cat April 25, 2013 at 9:17 am

My horses are miniatures and, since I am somewhat over 40 lbs, I cannot ride them. However, knowing the power and speed of a full-sized horse, I am extremely careful on the road. I slow down to about 15 mph (it’s all rural roads with no traffic) and pass while giving the horse a wide berth.
People think it’s funny to blow horns, squeal tires, or throw things at the horse because it’s so much fun to watch the rider being thrown off or trying to control a terrified animal.They are shocked when the person is killed and the horse has to be put down.
It reminds me of the bridesmaid who decided it was fun to push the bride into a swimming pool and was shocked when the bride was paralyzed as result of her actions. You don’t horse-play around a pool and you don’t people-play around a horse.

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Stella April 25, 2013 at 9:25 am

Someone one a neighbouring yard from mine posted a column about how she and her friend were riding on a nearby country road when someone in a tractor started *chasing them*. They had to gallop away on slipper asphalt to get away from this nutter. They did get away uninjured, but I never heard if they caught the guy, I got the impression they knew who he was. People are absolutely nuts.

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BMS April 25, 2013 at 9:25 am

I have only had a few occasions where I had to ride a horse along a road, but sometimes it is unavoidable. Farm is at point A, state park with horse trails is at point B, the only way to connect the two points is to walk down the road. Most horse farms I have ever ridden at are in rural areas where lots of traffic is not expected. I don’t think it is too much to ask for drivers to slow down and move over a bit. Assuming that your horse is trained, and the driver isn’t being an idiot, there should be no issues.

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Lynn April 25, 2013 at 9:36 am

In the first video, the riders were side by side on a very narrow road and maintained their position when the car approached from behind, instead of moving into single file. Is there something I’m missing here on riders’ responsibility for being reasonable about sharing the road? (I also dislike it when bicyclist-groups sprawl over a full lane, making it difficult and more dangerous for a car to pass.)

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Gloria Shiner April 25, 2013 at 9:48 am

I have to agree with Ripple. Riders should be single-file with the calmer and/or more dominant horse in the front. We no longer ride on the road, but we do spend a lot of time on multi-use trails which we share with joggers, bikers, walkers, dogs, other horses, strollers, etc. We always move single-file when being passed from either direction. Our only problems are loose dogs and not hearing someone coming up fast behind us.

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Daisy April 25, 2013 at 10:56 am

I truly do not understand people who have trouble sharing the road, whether it’s with walkers, bicyclists, or riders of horses. Unless the road is posted, they have every bit as much right to use it as someone driving a car. If I have to slow down and wait until I can pull around someone and it delays me a minute or two, does that really represent an unforgiveable inconvenience? If I live to be 75 (and the closer I get to it, the younger it seems!) I will have 39,420,000 minutes on this earth. I can spend a few of them being polite to others using the road. If nothing else, enlightened self-interest ought to apply. Hitting a 900 pound horse will probably total your car, and the ensuing lawsuits will eat up a whole lot more of your time than wating until you can safely drive past it.

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Cashie April 25, 2013 at 11:05 am

I’m fairly lucky that I grew up in an area with an extensive canal system running parallel to the road. We on horseback usually rode on the canal embankment 5 feet off the road. However, one day, a few years back, I was a teen riding the horse on which I usually barrel raced (so this horse was used to loud noises and people, and used to being carted around in a trailer), and a semi truck behind us accelerated then laid on his horn. He kept going so he never saw what happened next, my horse spooking, taking off running headlong for a busy intersection. My only hope of stopping before the intersection was to jump off the horse (she was trained to stop immediately if her rider fell off). I jumped, somehow landed under the horse, watched as her hoof cleared my head, and prayed she would stop. She did. Lucky for both of us, I ended up with a broken ankle, but nothing worse. I still cringe, thinking about the head injury I managed to avoid when my horse’s flying hooves barely missed my head. She was just as grateful about that as me, I’m sure.

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Spuck April 25, 2013 at 11:08 am

I have to agree with Lynn. The first video would only be sending a good video if it was about bad travel on both the part of the riders and the driver.

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WillyNilly April 25, 2013 at 11:12 am

In the first video, the riders were definitely the rude and dangerous ones.

I love horses and would have one and ride daily if I could afford to, unfortunately living in NYC the price is astronomical. However we do have plenty of horses here in the city and they share the road (both riding horses and carriage horses). If I were on a country road it wouldn’t occur to me a horse would spook at a car’s horn! I would probably think to myself a light tap of the horn was a good way to communicate with a horse and rider. The horses in NYC hear horns, sirens and all sorts of road noise regularly. I think if a person is going to ride their horse on the road, there needs to be some responsibility to make sure the horse is road trained (accustomed to horns), and for the riders to share the road (ride single file).

Of course car driver’s should be respectful and patient, but much if not most of the responsibility of safely sharing the roads should be on the riders. After all some drivers have never even touched a horse, let alone ridden one, and are totally unfamiliar with what horses are like.

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Stacey Frith-Smith April 25, 2013 at 11:49 am

When it’s all said and done, etiquette and consideration may save a life. If someone drives a car or motorcycle close to your horse, however, what is to stop you from dismounting, taking the offending vehicle’s picture (along with collecting the license plate, photo of driver if possible etc) and calling the authorities or at least filing a report as soon as possible (provided that you can indeed get off the road safely)?

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MichelleP April 25, 2013 at 12:07 pm

As a horse owning/riding/loving family, I agree that horses do not belong on busy roads. My family lives on a farm dominated by our family members, it’s two lane, not much traffic, in a small town, and we still do not ride the horses in the road. My father owns the barn and farm prevalent on the road, and he always refuses customers who ask to ride the horses on the road. He has owned horses for more than 30 years and has never ridden them on a road. He has enough horror stories about the kids/dogs/cars/four wheelers just around the barn and farm.

The only horses that should be on the road are the Amish driven carriages.

@BMS, yes it is entirely avoidable. Put the horses in trailers.

@Mae, while I agree the driver was in the wrong for texting and speeding, the insurance company was correct in saying that horses do not belong in the road.

I’ve seen several cases of small claims court where people who let their pets in the road try to sue a driver for running them over. Judge Judy says it best: “Cars belong in the road. Animals do not.”

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admin April 25, 2013 at 4:56 pm

Only Amish driven carriages? What of the other Old Order religions who use horse and buggy for transportation such as Old Order Mennonites? And do I need to don a prayer cap and Amish garb in order to safely drive my own buggies on local roads?

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MichelleP April 25, 2013 at 12:11 pm

I am not in any way justifying the careless and insane actions of car drivers that have been described here. There is no justification for anyone driving a car to behave that way, under any circumstances. Just to clarify.

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nk April 25, 2013 at 1:40 pm

I must say, I think it’s rude of riders to take their horses on busy roads where they inconvenience literally everyone else on the road just so they can enjoy a ride that could be just as easily taken on a horseback riding trail. Cars have to slow down and pass the riders carefully, and on busy roads this can really back up traffic. I always thought it was selfish and inconsiderate of the riders. Roads are meant for cars. I wouldn’t drive a car or a motorcycle on a riding trail; why would people think it’s appropriate to ride horses where they don’t belong?

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admin April 25, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Since roads predate the modern automobile, it can be said that horses are the original users of the roads. Where do you suggest I drive my buggy if not on a road that it was designed to be used on?

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June First April 25, 2013 at 1:47 pm

When I was in 4H we drove ponies at different events and competitions. We stopped being part of a parade after spectators threw fireworks at the ponies. What a bunch of idiots.

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Elsie April 25, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Quite honestly, in that first video, the people riding the horses were being quite a bit rude for not even attempting to move to let the guy pass (I’m not dismissing the driver’s behaviour, however). Instead, they stood their ground which agitated the driver further. They were being passive aggressive. If someone starts getting very aggressive and dangerous like that? YOU remove YOURSELF from the situation, as it is the only way to guarantee your safety! You cannot and should not ever wait for the issue to resolve itself. It’s all of about 30 seconds out of your way, rather than risk unnecessary costs.
Perhaps it is just my area, but people here who use the public roads for bikes, motorcycles, and horses are unbelievably entitled (horses are much less common on public roads, given that we have MANY MANY of those special, scenic, paved, biking routes, with a designated horse trail next to it).
Quite simple, I go around if I can, as most roads here are more than one lane anyways. The “share the road” mantra is more like “you deal with my presence *$*$(#&” here. Share the road means you need to share it with the cars, too.

The correct response would have been for the car to slow down, the riders being competent enough to acknowledge him there and go single file (or even simply move off the road and stop for a few seconds if possibile), and the car slowly passing them. No one gets hurt, it only takes a few minutes, and if that spooks your horses you need to train them better. Most of my family owns horses and would never in their life act the way those two did.

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neversummer April 25, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Having ridden my horses down roads countless times for lack of anywhere else to ride I have found most drivers to be very considerate. Although I have had rear view mirrors hit my stirrup I have also had Harley guys pull over and shut off their bikes in an excesses of caution. One of the biggest problems I have run into is large groups of cyclists who think they own the road and slow down for nothing. My favorite thing ever was watching my mom cut one bike out of the herd of cyclists and hold him while demanding to know who they were and chew him out for putting her two, at that time, small children in danger.
Out here we have another road hazard to worry about, people moving large herds of cattle down the highway. Amazingly sometimes the idiots don’t notice a couple hundred head of cattle a hand full of horses maybe a four-wheeler or two and the following horse trailers and still manage to hit them.

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Weaver April 25, 2013 at 4:54 pm

In the first video, the horses and riders weren’t given a chance to get into single file, due to the aggressiveness of the driver/s.

I drive a car and I don’t ride horses, but it seems perfectly plain to me that driving a car is a privilege, not a right. Obviously the same applies to riding a horse or riding a bike, but many of the roads we drive on were there as pathways long before they were widened and tarmac-ed for the convenience of car drivers.

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MAGGIE April 25, 2013 at 5:25 pm

I currently live in NW Ohio, Amish country. We are constantly on the lookout for buggies, & horses, many of which are ridden in and by children. For anyone going on vacation this year, please watch for these! Also, please drive carefully in parking lots. Here, there are places to tie up horses in every parking lot, including Walmart. So relax, slow down, roll down your window and listen to the lovely clomping of the hooves. When it’s safe…pass.

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Jo Bleakley April 25, 2013 at 5:37 pm

I don’t ride on the road anymore, due to a horrific accident when I was younger. My horse is fine in traffic, I just get extreme flash backs if a car comes up behind us.

I just wanted to address the people who are saying horses shouldn’t be ridden on the road. I don’t know how it is in other countries, but in Australia horses still have right of way over all other traffic. It’s not a well known law (I’ve had a cop argue with me about it), but it is law. I’m just lucky I live in an area when I don’t HAVE to ride on the road. Other people are not so lucky. The majority of horse riders I know are very considerate of drivers. As soon as it is humanly possible they move aside, or onto the verge to allow the car past.

Years ago (before the accident) I had trouble with a young man in a hotted up ute, trying to spook my horse every time he saw us. One day I saw him down the street and confronted him. The only thing that got through to him was saying, “You obviously don’t care about my safety, or my horse’s safety. But just think for a minute. My horse weighs close to seven hundred kilograms. If you hit me with your pretty car, your car WILL be a write off. I know you’re under 25, so you either don’t have insurance, or your excess is phenomenal. Either way, you’re injured, I’m injured or dead and YOU DON”T HAVE A CAR! Okay?” He gave us a wide berth and slowed right down from that time on.

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FerrisW April 25, 2013 at 6:17 pm

I don’t know if this is different between countries, but I used to live in a part of the UK where it wasn’t unusual to see riders out on the roads, and when I learned to drive it was even part of the theory test.

I’ve always found riders to be the nicest group of people to share the roads with- they move into single file happily, do not move out into the path of traffic and always wave to say thank you when I slow down to pass them (the same cannot be said for cyclists and pedestrians I have encountered). It takes me no great effort to slow down and give the riders a wide berth.

I’ve witnessed an accident where the car in front of me sideswiped a horse, causing the rider to be thrown. The driver sped on, even though they surely knew what happened. The riders in question were in single file along the side of the road, and the road was empty and wide enough for two cars to pass at once, yet this driver purposely swiped the horse. If I hadn’t slowed down in preparation, I would have hit the thrown rider. Thankfully both rider and horse were not seriously injured, although none of us got the license plate number as we were all too shocked at the rider being thrown.

The argument that horses do not belong on roads is a strange one to me, possibly because the areas in the world I have lived have resulted in me seeing lots of riders (and also the occasional livestock that is either being driven by the farmer, or has somehow escaped from its field). Roads weren’t invented for cars, cars were invented for roads. I can’t watch the videos as I am in work, but regardless of what the riders are doing in them, there is no excuse for bad behaviour on the roads. If you find yourself so worked up about a delay of a few seconds to a few minutes by having to slowly pass other road users, then I don’t think you should be handling a dangerous weapon like a vehicle.

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MichelleP April 25, 2013 at 6:37 pm

To clarify, I should have said the Amish, Mennonites, or anyone who uses a horse drawn buggy for transportation.

Sorry admin, but I respectfully stand by that roads were meant for cars, at least modern roads. Yes roads predate automobiles, but at that time, obviously, horses and carriages were the means of transportation. It isn’t safe to ride horses on roads anymore. A horse drawn buggy is somewhat safer, however.

Lots of things predate modern technology; that doesn’t mean they should still be used. Children predate car seats; should we stop using those? They predate vaccines, too; should we stop those? Vikings predated civilized humans; should we start behaving like them again?

All I’m saying is safety first.

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Cat April 26, 2013 at 9:25 am

About Stacey Frith-Smith’s question as to what is to stop a rider from dismounting and taking a photo of the offending car/motorcycle, well, the answer is this. A spooked horse is going to run about a quarter mile. Your job is to stay on the horse and to regain control. Getting off a running horse is great for stunt riders, but not a good idea for most of us. Your horse may well be long gone, running into traffic, injuring pedestrians, etc. You will probably have broken something.
Once you have the horse back under control, and you have dismounted, located your camera phone, and are ready to take your photo, the car is at least over a mile down the road. Since people who want to try to frighten your horse are probably coming up behind you, they are going to pass you very quickly. That’s why.

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Enna April 26, 2013 at 12:10 pm

I can’t believe that motorcylist in the OP’s post: he’s going to cause an accident one day and I hope he doesn’t hurt or kill anyone else. I also hope he gets caught doing what he does.

Eveyone who uses the road should take care and be respectful to eveyone else on the road.

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Kimstu April 26, 2013 at 4:01 pm

@nk: “Roads are meant for cars. I wouldn’t drive a car or a motorcycle on a riding trail; why would people think it’s appropriate to ride horses where they don’t belong?”

If the local traffic laws permit horses and other non-automotive traffic on a particular road, then yes, those horses and other vehicles DO belong on that road.

Anybody who thinks a particular road should be restricted exclusively to automotive traffic should take the issue up with their local traffic authorities. In the meantime, if it is legal for horse riders/cyclists/rollerbladers/whoever to use that road, then there is nothing rude or inappropriate about their being on that road, as long as they follow appropriate traffic safety procedures.

In general, roads belong to all traffic, not just to cars. Mind you, if your gripe is about horse riders illegally using a limited-access road where they’re not legally allowed to be, then I’m with you all the way. But on general-access roads I think drivers have a responsibility to expect and allow for different kinds of traffic, and not just peevishly demand that all those non-cars should go somewhere else.

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Michelle C Young April 26, 2013 at 4:15 pm

Shouldn’t the two riders in the first video switch to single-file when they hear the car coming up behind them? They left him no room to pass on that narrow road.

Of course, his reactions were all excellent bad examples. I’m just saying that the horse-riders share some responsibility on a narrow road, as well. I wish that PSA had shown the proper way to do things, instead of only the bad examples. If they had cut out a few seconds of that intro, with the driver driving, and the riders chatting, they could have shown the riders quickly getting single-file and the driver passing smoothly.

So, all in all, a good PSA, but not a great one.

The second PSA was half-the length, and twice as good, in my opinion. I never even knew about the hand-signals from the riders.

Thanks, admin, for sharing this!

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Michelle C Young April 26, 2013 at 4:24 pm

People do keep horses near where I live, but they must have some other route than I take, to get them where they need to go, or else our schedules don’t match, because I have not, to my recollection, passed a horse on the road here in this town. I have, however, passed a long-horn!

Yes, there was a man in a huge sun-hat riding a long-horn (cow, bull, or steer, I couldn’t tell. I didn’t stop to investigate) down the major road. Fortunately, at that point, there was a nice grassy and shallow bank, and he was riding on that, but just a bit further up the road, the bank disappeared, and he would have had to be right on the asphalt. I was past him by that point, but I surely hope he didn’t encounter any idiot drivers by then, because folk around here drive FAST!

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Michelle C Young April 26, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Lisa Mare – the horses were on the roads before cars were invented. They are “grandfathered in,” as it were, and do have the right to be on the road.

As for trailering the horses to get from point A to point B, please bear in mind that for some people, the horses ARE the means of transportation. Amish, Menonites (we have some around here, too), and the like are not the only people who rely on their horses for transportation. They are not simply for recreation.

However, for the sake of safety, I do agree that when you can trailer your horses, you should. There are far too many selfish and stupid drivers on the road.

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Damn Yankee April 26, 2013 at 6:39 pm

In my state, horses have the right of way over vehicles. Most states have similar laws on the books, meaning, so long as the roadway isn’t billed that animals on foot are prohibited, I am legally within my right to ride down the roadway if I so chose.

My horses are bombproof trail ponies (my gelding is trained for mounted search and rescue, including having a helicopter land nearby), and even still, they will sometimes spook. However, I still argue that my gelding and I are safer on the road than some hotshot kid in his brand new Mustang.

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NostalgicGal April 26, 2013 at 6:55 pm

The concept is “SHARE THE ROAD”… whether it is horses, horse drawn vehicles, motorcycles, bicycles, unicycles, runners, walkers, a tractor with or without something behind it, or ‘regular traffic’.

Horses are 1000-2000# of living breathing creature, and they can be unpredictable. So can everything else I named. Yes it is a pain, a pill, and a bother, when you meet whatever, but. The moment or several beats injury or death. On the Other Side Of The Coin… being responsible on how you use the road if you happen to be that rider, biker, jogger, motorcyclist, carriage driver, tractor driver, person with their dog out for a lope, whatever. If it doesn’t have a lane for you, and you’re not vehicle sized, stay over to the edge, especially in heavy traffic. If you’re the one in the vehicle sized whatever, then use the road properly.

A horse and a car, the horse and rider usually come out the worse on it, and your insurance isn’t going to like you at all. A motorcycle, can hit something, wipe out, and hit the asphalt and they’re under your wheels RIGHT NOW. Same for a bicycle. Tractors pulling something, usually they have ‘flaggers’ (someone behind them at least with flashers and a slow moving vehicle triangle, and often in front too) and if they can if there is a long line, will pull off/over to let the others go through…

Two others… on narrow and mountain roads… load has right of way over empty, and uphill has right of way over downhill. One more to sneak in that a lot of people ignore or don’t honestly know. FLASHING RED stoplight is ALWAYS treated as a stop sign. So is a stoplight that is OUT. It does NOT mean you can barrel on through!

All those that think it’s “fun” to try to spook a horse, or crowd one on purpose, I can’t think of a good enough bad thing to assign them for all eternity. Treat them like they tried to commit homicide perhaps and take away their license with like 36 points against it… that might work.

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Aspbite April 27, 2013 at 11:33 am

I just got my mother’s permission to relate our own story of horses and cars.

Many years ago, my mother was driving along a road with my baby brother in the front seat and me in the backseat. There were two teen girls on horses by the side of the road we were driving on, behind the horses was a large, wild hedge and on the other side of the road was an open field. My mother, aware that horses can get spooked by cars, decided to take her foot off the gas and just roll by, to avoid any accidents. Unfortunately, just as we passed the horses, a race track behind the hedge started the cars, which frightened the horses. The two riders managed to jump off the horses in time, but as the horses reared, one of them backed into passenger side of the car we were in, shattering both side windows and pushing us across the road. My mother saw oncoming traffick in the distance, and since she didn’t know how far or how fast the horse was going to push us, she decided to step on the gas, and drive the car into the open field. This of course caused the horse to fall onto the road, but averted any car crashes.

Fortunately, both me and my brother were fine (though sprayed with glass from the windows) and so were both the horses. My mother asked the two girls for a phone to call someone to pick us up and collect the car, as well as the name and phone number of the owner of said horse. The owner didn’t apologize or ask if we were okay, the only thing she said was “Is the kid dead?” When my mother informed her that no, both her kids were fine, the response was “I thought it was dead because of the howling.” (Yes, she said “it”). Needless to say, my mother was not feeling very charitable towards the young lady after that.

In the end, we managed to get home and the car was repaired. I just thought I would take this opportunity to tell a story that has become a family legend by now.

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Jaxsue April 27, 2013 at 8:42 pm

When I’m driving, I treat horses and motorcycles the same: as if they have cooties! Seriously, though, I do give them wide berth.
Several years ago a driver was killed when a horse got spooked and, in a freak accident, the windshield got smashed. I know it’s very rare, but that was fresh on my mind when I was driving to my lake house on a quiet 2-lane road. Seeing animals on/near the road was typical, so I always drove carefully. Unfortunately, in this vase a young girl was riding a horse. I was back pretty far when the horse reared and the girl couldn’t seem to get control of it. It was very scary, and I pulled over to the side of the road until the girl had finally gotten the horse off the road and out of sight.
The idea of people trying to get close to the horse astounds me!

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Madame Fifi April 28, 2013 at 6:46 pm

My husband and I accidentally acquired 2 horses when we bought our “farm” last summer–the previous owner left them when he moved out and, when we inquired as to what plans he had for picking them up, said, “oh, you can have them.” So! It has been quite the learning experience for us, but we have grown to deeply love and respect these beautiful, gentle creatures. Someone told me that horses are afraid of 2 things–things that move, and things that don’t. With that in mind we are always careful to speak gently to them if we are approaching them from an angle where they can’t see us–entering the paddock while they are in their stalls, for example–and to always have a hand on their bodies while we are moving around them, etc. I’ve seen them startle at loud noises or sudden movement and my biggest fear is that they will inadvertantly hurt themselves trying to get away from what they perceive as a threat. It shocks me to the bone that anyone would deliberately try to make a horse spook or bolt. There is a special circle in Hell for those people.

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Kay April 29, 2013 at 4:34 am

Here in Australia, horses are considered vehicles and are allowed on every road apart from freeways and highways. Horses have right of way, but if course there are always the odd hoon drivers who try spook a horse.
I have ridden my mare everywhere – beside busy roads, bush tracks, suburban streets (to the amazement of local kids) to the milkbar for an ice cream.
My horse is completely comfortable next to vehicles, very sensible and calm. But even so, there have been instances we have been scared witless by the stupidity of others. Surprisingly, not often on roads. Our problems usually arise on state forest tracks where horses are allowed, as are motorbikes. I’ve had people try upset my horse by “buzzing” us, roaring past us, tooting horns, spraying us with dirt.
One got so close I pushed him away with my foot to prevent him hitting us on a narrow track.
For the most part though, people are respectful and courteous, and I will continue to ride along roads. It’s my legal right to do so.

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Shea April 29, 2013 at 12:24 pm

If local laws permit horses on roads, then the horses DO belong there. Riders should be polite and cautious, and drivers should safely and graciously share the road. Where I grew up, it was common to see horses being ridden along country roads. I did it myself. We rode along the side of the road, and we’d move off the road as much as possible when a car came by. I can recall very few instances of drivers being either intentionally or unintentionally rude and/or dangerous; most people actually slowed down and moved off to the other side as much as possible to avoid spooking the horses. We actually had more trouble with cyclists, especially groups of the lycra-wearing variety, who would often zoom close past us at high speed, not troubling to move to the side at all. Fortunately, no one I knew ever had a serious accident, just some spooking incidents and a few minor tumbles resulting in no worse than bruises.

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Calli Arcale April 29, 2013 at 12:36 pm

In my state, horses are treated as slow-moving vehicles for traffic purposes. They are barred from the freeways, and on other roads must keep as far to the right as practical, preferably on the shoulder. Fortunately, most of the highways around here have excellent wide shoulders; whenever I’ve encountered riders, it’s been no trouble at all to safely pass them. I still give them as much berth as I’d give a cyclist; there’s no sense inviting trouble. I’m seeing less and less of them, though, as the few remaining horse farms in my city sell their property to developers.

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The Elf April 29, 2013 at 2:59 pm

These bikers are nuts. I love to ride and when I’ve had to pass a horse, I give the animal and rider WIDE berth. A spooked horse can wreck me pretty easily and I have no desire to kiss the pavement again. Once was more than enough! If a deer can total a motorcycle and seriously injure or kill a biker, you know a horse can. Hell, that sharp ridge produced during repaving repairs can wreck a bike! I have to wonder what the bikers are thinking. I don’t ride to prove something to everybody else, I ride because I love to ride. A horse and rider is just an obstacle to pass and then forget about, like a car traveling well below the speed limit.

When a biker turns and makes another pass, or does something similar, it’s pretty obvious that the biker is trying to spook the horse. But if your complaint is merely about loud exhaust, then it’s likely that the motorcyclist isn’t doing anything special. That exhaust sound “spikes” immediately behind the biker because of the way the pipes are typically laid out. It may sound like the biker is gunning it to produce excess noise but it may not actually be the case. And if the pipes are just plain loud, what do you expect the biker to do? Turn the engine off?

FYI, having loud pipes on my Harley has likely prevented accidents. Before I upgraded my pipes – and especially on the quieter Japanese cruisers I used to ride – having someone attempt to merge into me was a monthly occurance. It doesn’t help that I ride during rush hour, in some of the worst traffic in the nation. But it would also be nice if the other drivers got off their cell phones and looked before they merged! One time, I was close enough to kick the minivan door, and that is how I got the driver’s attention. After getting loud pipes, incidents of this nature dropped to about 1-2 times a year. Nothing else changed, and the effect was immediately obvious after installation of the new pipes. I was one of those who had steadfastly avoided loud pipes, thinking them obnoxious, but when my new pipes (bought for increased efficiency and just so happened to be louder) produced the effect, I was a believer.

Jaxsue, thanks for giving us bikers a wide berth! We appreciate it.

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Alley Cat May 5, 2013 at 5:39 pm

I live in a small town that normall is pretty horse friendly, but is rapidly growing due to city people who want to live on some “land” and ride their motorcycles. This usually isn’t a problem, since many have horse owners as neighbors, and are aware to behave safely. However, there are those that don’t. As a child, I rode an ex-police horse, whose favorite thing to do was chase motorcycles and knock them over. I scared quite a few riders over the years by allowing her to when they would behave poorly. Though one thing I think many motorcyclists, bicyclists, and drivers don’t realize is this–if you are so unlucky as to hit a horse, you will likely die. Very few people survive accidents that involve horses, deer, or cows. And a spooked horse may not always flee away from a car, but sometimes TOWARDS a car.

And while horses are unpredictable, they also may fight instead of take flight. My mom’s horse growing up was sold to her dirt cheap because he was a “kicker” She thought it meant that he’d strike at people or horses. As it turned out, he kicked cars that got too close. In the 1960s San Fernando Valley, it was still rural enough to avoid this, but she still rejoices in telling the story of a classmate who decided to try his Ford Mustang against her mustang. She apparently won, and he sacrificed his car’s front grill.

It is worth noting that in my state, it is illegal to pass a horse, whether ridden, lead, or driven, at more than 15 mph. It may not be convenient, but it is for the safety of everyone involved, driver included.

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Dust Bunny May 16, 2013 at 9:34 am

Pull over and, for the love of all that is holy, do not honk! The horn isn’t that loud to you inside the car but it’s really, really, loud to us outside the car (especially if we’re walking or riding not insulated from the sound in a car of our own). Even if the horse can handle it the rider will think–know–that you’re a jerk. We see you, OK?

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Ali January 10, 2014 at 4:48 am

I live in Perth, Australia and do not get many horses on the roads. However, I have many cyclists and thought the rules were the same: Stay to the side, if travelling in groups go single file so it is safe if the car over takes, and make sure to indicate. And for cars: Slow down, do not aggravate, and over take if safe.

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