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YOUR SAY: ROAD SAFETY

As Director of Safety at The British Horse Society, I am passionate about the safety of horses on the road. It’s been a key motivation for me since I was a mounted police officer and saw the tragic consequences of what can happen on the roads if drivers are not aware of how a horse may react to a close and fast pass by a vehicle.   

It’s important to understand that horses are flight animals, and their instinctive response to danger is to react and move quickly away. Even the most experienced and well-trained horse, even a police horse, can be startled by unexpected movements or any loud noise. 

Due to the shrinking bridleway network, most equestrians will have no choice but to take their horse on the road at some point. It could be to reach an off-road route or even to connect one bridleway to another.

Either way, it is important for all road users to work collaboratively together to ensure horses, equestrians and drivers remain safe.

With the number of equine-related incidents continuing to rise, this has never been more critical. Last year, 3,383 incidents on the roads were recorded across the UK via our Horse i app. Sadly, this includes 66 horse fatalities and three rider fatalities.

Losing a horse can be like losing a close companion and friend, and seeing your horse badly injured as a result of a road incident is something you can never forget. It’s my job, morally and professionally, to support all equestrians by informing and guiding road users, so we can reduce these tragic incidents.

As part of our Dead Slow awareness campaign, we launched our own Horse i App, an accessible and easy to use App that allows equestrians to record incidents on the roads, no matter how minor. The App collates incident statistics every year to truly understand the rate of incidents involving horses on our roads. This data supports our campaign work to improve equine road safety, together with reporting incidents to the police, this will help to influence driver behaviour when meeting horses on the road.  

Without this data, we wouldn’t be able to identify hotspots, advise stakeholders and MPs, and work towards a permanent change in some drivers’ behaviour.

Our Horse i data helps our work immensely, allowing us to identify key areas across the UK where a higher number of incidents have taken place. These hotspot areas are a core target for us to address, working with our road safety partners to support all the equestrians riding at these locations.

The BHS Safety Team was part of the Highway Code Review Group and our guidance was successfully incorporated into the Highway Code in 2022, meaning the advisory speed at which to pass ridden horses or horse-drawn vehicles was set at a maximum of 10mph, and drivers should now allow at least 2 metres of space.

This was an incredible achievement that has made a real impact on the safety of equestrians. But unfortunately, we have found that many drivers are still unaware of these changes.

The BHS Safety Team continue to inform and involve road users on how to pass horses safely as well as how impactful passing horses too quickly and closely can be.

Part of my regular routine is meeting road users face-to-face in any way I can. I find that talking directly to people, explaining our guidance and the importance of following it, is the best way to connect with them and make a real difference.

Over the past year, we have visited Car Fest, The Camping and Caravan Show and over 40 Safer Driver, Safer Rider, Safer Horses events. We want to instigate real change when talking to the public at these events. We’ve also ticked off some real milestones as we get to speak at the Road Safety GB Conference and UKROEd National Conference, where we address key influencers in the road safety world.

Being pro-active in our safety work is very satisfying. By talking to motorists plainly about our advice, there have had some truly insightful conversations and the BHS Safety team feel we are making a real difference.

Our aim is to make sure all roads are safer for horses and equestrians. Essentially, all the work we do towards this, via our Dead Slow campaign, comes down to collating figures and engaging with road users and road safety professionals. We’re grateful to all those who continue to support us by recording their incidents, spreading our message, and following our guidance; it does make a difference.




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