11:22am Wednesday 18th April 2012
Q/I ride out on my part bred New Forest pony all year round and always wear hi-viz in the winter or on gloomy days. But my friend says I should also wear it on sunny days. Why? And what else can I do to protect myself and my horse when I am on the road?
We have some very good bridleways but all of them require us to ride on a short stretch of fairly busy road.
A/There is no guarantee of safety as for any road users and horses, ponies and donkeys re a vulnerable group, whether we are driving them, riding them or simply have to lead them on the road perhaps to reach their field. But there are certain things that can help us to protect ourselves.
To be seen - Be seen and be safe is one of the British Horse Society's mottos. We know that it won't guarantee our safety but it will really help. If you can't be seen you won't be safe. A brown horse and green coated rider blends nicely into a hedge.
I am thinking of carrying cheap reflective tabards in my car, roaring to a halt and handing them to riders, cyclists and dog walkers (I have one of these I am sure that is going to get squashed down my road) together with a robust lecture! We owe it to our horse, ourselves and the motorist to stand out and there is a range of hi-viz clothing here today - it's smart, it's safer and it's also now quite fashionable.
Riders sometimes used to be say, “Hi Viz, I wouldn't be seen dead in it” to which the answer is, if you wear it you perhaps won't be seen dead in it because it may save your life.
In answer to your other question, there are still dark patches on a road in summer such as when you go under trees and you should wear hi-viz all year round - the rule of thumb is a couple of pieces on you (hat band and tabard perhaps) and a piece on your horse in case you get separated. It will also help if you fall off in the countryside for you to be found especially by an air ambulance.
To learn road craft - take the training at least for the riding and road safety test - you really will see the road in a different way and be prepared for all aspects on riding on the road. The riding and road safety test is now in two parts, the theory paper and the practical.
You can take the practical first as with the driving test.
It would be of great advantage to livery yards, riding and pony clubs or groups of friends to get training to take at least the theory and getting that will encourage you to go on to the practical.
To ensure your horse is well schooled and as safe as an animal can be on the road or to go out with other people whose horses are experienced on the road. To ride well enough to be able to take control of your horse in a difficult situation.
Never ever have anything plugged into your ears, they are of huge use to you on the road and carry identification at all times. Carry a mobile phone, ideally strapped to your arm. Don't use it whilst riding. Impress upon teenagers that they are responsible for their horses and also need to abide by these guidelines.
Wear the right clothes as well as hi-viz - long sleeves are essential for tarmac as any motor cyclist will tell you.
Always tell someone where you are or write it down in a book.
If you have an incident on the road, you can report it to the Police. You do not have to put up with other road users putting your life in danger. I've always found them to be very helpful if we have had to do this.
Spread the word, equines may be vulnerable road users but they don't have to wait for an accident to happen. There ARE steps we can take to try to prevent an accident happening to us and that's what we need to convince riders and those who lead horses, ponies or donkeys on the road to do.
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