Passing a horse safely

Blog post posted on 06/04/21 |

Now that lockdown restrictions are beginning to ease, the number of riders looking to take their horses out on the road is likely to increase. Horses are powerful animals and have extremely heightened senses, so passing them in a car or on a motorbike needs to be done safely to protect the horse, rider, and yourself.

Unfortunately, the British Horse Society has reported that nearly two horses are killed each week on UK roads. With that in mind, here are some tips from Richard Gladman, Head of Driving and Riding Standards at IAM RoadSmart, on how best to pass a horse safely.

If you’re approaching a horse from behind:

  1. Slow down and hold back. Make sure it’s safe to approach and overtake. Stay at least three car lengths behind and be careful to not move into this space. Be prepared to slow down further or even stop to protect yourself and the horse and rider. Avoid any sudden movements and loud noises such as revving the engine and playing your music loudly.

    Most riders, and occasionally their horses will be in hi-vis so you should see them and able to slow down in good time. Remember in the countryside they could be around any corner.

  2. When passing the horse and rider make sure you give plenty of space. We recommend at least a car’s width and ensure it’s done slowly. Remember to always pass “wide and slow” and to stick to 10mph or under. Take a look at this video explaining it from the British Horse Society:

  3. If you’re on a country road and there’s not much room to manoeuvre around the horse, the rider may decide to trot towards the nearest lay by or grass verge. Do not speed up to match their trot, stay back and allow the rider to get to safety before over taking.


  4. Often when you see two riders side by side it is for safety reasons. This could be an inexperienced rider or nervous animal being coached along by a more experienced companion. Be patient as you might have to give them extra time and space.


  5. Be gentle with acceleration to pass the horse and when moving away, consider a higher gear to reduce engine noise. Both rider and horse may both be inexperienced and nervous in traffic; do your bit to keep them safe.


  6. If there are grass verges, many riders will take the option to move themselves up onto them and allow you to pass. Please continue to pass slowly as the noise of your engine can still spook the horse.


If a horse is approaching on the other side of the road:

  1. Slow down safely and consider putting on your hazard warning lights for anyone that may be behind you.


  2. Be prepared to stop completely to allow the horse and rider to to pass you safely, if it is safe to do so.

Richard Says “Horses are intelligent animals that may have anxieties just as we do, driving in a manner that allows the horse to stay calm and the rider to remain in control is the safest thing for all of us. A few moments out of your day to make sure everyone is safe is worthwhile. Riders are encouraged to take the BHS safety course and make sure they are well prepared. As drivers we can do our part by making sure we share the road space safely.”

If you see any incidents involving a horse and rider please contact the police with any information you have.  You’re also able to report an incident through this website: