Riding on the road - the horse edition

Blog post posted on 27/08/19 |

Riding on the road- the horse edition

Whenever I tell people I’m a horse rider I always get a look of shock and: “Are you really?” like it’s a foreign hobby.

I’m so used to growing up around animals that I’m used to their size and power and forget many people haven’t had the same experiences as I have.

For over 21 years I’ve competed in show jumping and dressage, meaning my parents had to find somewhere to showcase my array of ribbons (safe to say I was very competitive) and they’re now all in the loft gathering dust!


Recently here at IAM RoadSmart we’ve produced some tips about how to pass horses safely on the road, particularly in the summer months where more riders and their horses are on the road.

At a young age I had no fear, however, taking my horse out on the road was not my favourite thing to do for several reasons:

  • The horse could bolt at any stage, in any direction
  • It could spook at absolutely anything – including vehicles, people, stepping on a branch
  • You could see or be involved in a fatality
  • A car may get too close
  • I might fall off (to be honest this was the real reason)

Each week or fortnight I’d turn up to my riding school in hopes we were doing a lesson and not going out on the road - I wanted to learn as much as possible in a safe environment rather than walking along a road. However, the other people in my group loved taking their horse out so I was always the odd one out.

On the rare occasions this would happen I’d be dragged out along the road or in one of our back fields. All the horses at my riding school were sound in traffic, and luckily, we never had any incidents while out on the road. But, out in field we did.

I was made to jump over a tree that had fallen down, going over was fine but the horse landed his foot on a twig and freaked out. So, he decided to gallop away with me clinging on and 500 metres into the field resulted in me eventually falling off. I’m just lucky this didn’t happen on the road or this could have been a lot worse.

If you’re new to horse riding and decide to take your horse out on the road, take a look at some of my tips to help keep you safe:

  • Horses are herd animals. If your horse is not used to being alone make sure you ask a friend to go with you. The horse may try and turn back to safety if they feel anxious being alone, which could be dangerous for others, not just you
  • Wear hi-visibility or reflective clothing on both you and your horse regardless of the weather. Vehicles are more likely to see you sooner when you’re wearing reflective gear, giving them time to slow down and pass you
  • Remember that you are sharing the road, so if you’re able to move onto a grass verge to allow drivers to pass safely, please do
  • Not all drivers will abide by the Highway Code, but make sure you thank the polite drivers that pass wide and slow, for more info have a look at the British Horse Society’s Dead or Slow video.
  • Use clear hand signals when turning so other road users know your next move
  • Stay on the left-hand side of the road when you’re going to turn, do not move into the middle of the road

For more information, visit the British Horse Society.

By Jaimi McIlravey, IAM RoadSmart digital content executive