Horses are part of an ever growing industry, with over 600,000 horses in the UK, 1.4 million riders and 5 million people with an active interest in the equine industry*. Most people acquire a horse out of choice, so if you make this decision you should think carefully before going ahead. A horse needs lots of love and care, including regular worming, vaccinations and dental care. Owning a horse is time consuming and can be costly; not only will you will need to consider where you will keep your horse, you must also consider the ongoing costs of owning a horse which include accommodation, bedding, feed and healthcare.
In the unlikely event that your horse goes missing it is going to be very difficult for anyone to know who it belongs to, unless your horse carries some form of permanent identification. It is wise to get your horse microchipped or freezemarked, this will avoid heartache in the long run, should your horse go missing or is stolen.
Horses are herd animals, and thrive on being together with other horses. Don’t forget that your horse will need somewhere to graze, a stable for warmth in the winter time, a constant supply of water, feeding daily and regular exercise. It can cost hundreds of pounds a month to care for a horse, including accommodation, food, veterinary care and insurance; there will be other costs, including buying tack and rugs and extra livery charges when you go on holiday.
Horses can live into their thirties, over this time your horse will need lots of care and attention. Being able to provide all of this will ensure you and your horse make the most of your time together.
* Research conducted in 2004 by the Henley Centre for DEFRA and the British Horse Industry Confederation.
Riding and road safety (UK)
It is well known that our roads are getting busier and busier, making riding horses on the road more and more dangerous. Horse riders have as much right to use the roads as anyone else and should be able to enjoy riding without fear from other road users. According to British Horse Society figures, each year in the UK there are over 1000 accidents involving horses, resulting in a number of fatalities and injuries to horses and riders. If you ride your horse on the road, make sure you stay safe; don't be another statistic.
What are the legal requirements for riding on the road?
See below the Highway Codes laws and recommendations for riding on the road:
- Children under the age of 14 must wear a riding hat fastened securely that complies with current standards - [Laws H(PHYR) Act 1990, sect 1 & H(PHYR) Regulations 1992, reg 3] - The British Horse Society recommends PAS 015 (1998 or 2011), VG1 01.040 (2014-2012), ASTM F1163 (2004a or 04a onwards), SNELL E2001 or E2016, AS/NZS 3838 (2006 onwards).
- You must not take your horse onto a footpath, pavement or cycle track - [Laws HA 1835 sect 72, R(S)A 1984, sect 129(5)].
- All horse riders should wear a riding hat fastened securely that complies with current standards (see above)
- You should wear boots/shoes with hard soles and heels, light coloured or fluorescent clothing in daylight, and reflective clothing if you have to ride at night or in poor visibility.
- Do not ride at night time, but if you do you should wear reflective clothing and your horse should wear reflective bands above the fetlocks, and a light which shows white to the front and red to the rear should be worn on your arm and/or leg.
- Ensure all tack fits well and is in good condition and never ride without a saddle and bridle.
- Ensure you are able to control your horse.
- Before riding off or turning, look behind you to make sure it is safe, then give a clear arm signal.
- When riding on the road you should keep to the left, keep both hands on the reins unless you are signalling, and keep both feet in the stirrups.
- You should not carry another person or anything which might affect your balance or get tangled up with the reins.
- If riding on a one-way road, move in the direction of the traffic.
- Never ride more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends.
- Avoid roundabouts, but if you have to, keep left and signal right when riding across an exit to show you are not exiting, and signal left just before exiting a roundabout.
- When leading a horse on the road, keep the horse on your left.
For detailed information on all the laws and recommendations for horse riders in the Highway Code visit: www.direct.gov.uk/en/TravelAndTransport/Highwaycode/DG_069853.
What other safety measures can I take when riding on the road?
When riding on the road, even during the daytime, both you and your horse should wear as much fluorescent clothing as possible. It has been proven to give motorists a few more seconds to register you are there, those few seconds could just be enough to prevent an accident and even save your life.
As a minimum your fluorescent wardrobe should include a tabard/vest or jacket and a hat band, your horse should wear bands around its legs and if possible an exercise sheet or a tail guard. All of this ensures you are visible to vehicles both from the front, both sides, and from behind.
The range of fluorescent riding wear and horse wear available is extensive these days, so there is no excuse not to be seen. As well as those already mentioned, other fluorescent items include martingales, bridle attachments, tail bandages, boots and leg bandages, fly masks, numnahs, light attachments, and much more.
Don't ride on the road in bad weather or at night time - it's just too dangerous!
Always take the trouble to thank drivers who slow down and give you a wide berth the more courteous you are to your fellow road users, the more considerate they are likely to be to you and other horse riders.
What else should I consider?
You might want to consider going on a road safety course. The British Horse Society run a Riding and Road Safety Test; this educates riders about road safety in order to minimise the risks involved when riding on the roads. The test is available to all riders from 12 years of age and is supported by the Department for Transport. According to the BHS, it is the only test that any rider will undertake that has the potential to save not only their own life but that of their horse and other road users as well.
The test is designed to test the riders roadcraft and riding ability, and involves a theory test, a simulated road route and a road route. The theory test tests the rider's knowledge of the Highway Code, BHS Riding and Roadcraft Manual and generally accepted rules of riding on the road. The simulated road route takes place off road in an enclosed area to test the rider's ability to ride appropriately on the road, and includes observations, signalling, manoeuvring and negotiating a set of hazards. This part also involves a tack and turnout safety inspection. Assuming you pass these first two phases, you will then go on to the road route test which takes place on the road and tests your ability in dealing with vehicles and other hazards.
For further information about the Riding and Road Safety Test, visit the BHS website www.bhs.org.uk/safety-and-accidents.
Are there any other resources?
Reporting of equestrian incidents
The British Horse Society website is dedicated to the reporting of equestrian incidents, which also offers extensive advice on road safety and the prevention of accidents. There are no specific records of accidents relating to horses by road authorities and emergency services, so this website was set up to collate this type of data centrally.
The website was launched for the public to record everything from dog attacks and road traffic accidents, to incidents involving low-flying aircraft. The data will be used to lobby for better riding conditions. The BHS will be adding its own archived records to compare the number, location and type of incidents each year. You will be able to view incidents reported to the BHS and spot any problems in your area. If you or your horse has been involved in an equine related incident, then the BHS want to hear about it.
Alert ID and Rider Alert safety systems
These safety systems are a must if you ride on the road on a regular basis. The systems consist of ID Wristbands and ID Hat Badges for horse riders and ID Toggles for horses, all of which, in the event of an emergency, can prove invaluable. Those first on the scene of an incident will see the visible Wristband, Hat Badge or Toggle and call the 24/7 Emergency Response Team using the telephone number clearly displayed on them. The Emergency Response Team will request the member Emergency ID number, also displayed on them, to identify you or the horse; they will then relay the appropriate information to those at the scene. The Emergency Response Team records any relevant information and contacts the family and/or next-of-kin, to inform them of the situation.
The service allows you to provide as much or as little personal information as you like and your information is stored and managed securely online and only read out over the phone by the Emergency Response Team in the event of an emergency.
The wristbands are fully adjustable and removable and are made from soft PVC for durability and comfort. The Toggles are also made from soft PVC and come with an industrial strength fixing band so you can attach it to your horse's saddle, bridle or rug.