Sadly, for most riders, the reality of going on a hack now involves having to ride on the road, so what can you do as a rider to help prevent you ending up as an accident statistic? To co-inside with #roadsafetyweek, our Equine PR Team asked our clients, Golly Galoshes, the versatile fluorescent equine gaiter for their tips and advice for horse road safety and staying safe on the roads this autumn…
The British Horse Society offers road safety training for horse riders and operates a Ride Safe Award. This training is a brilliant opportunity for riders to educate themselves with practical tips and guidance. The test not only covers riding safely on the road but also riding at the beach, warming up at competitions and negotiating obstacles.
Be Seen, Stay Safe
Use your head! Ensure that you wear a well-fitting helmet. Your helmet could save your life in the event of you hitting the tarmac. If your hat is old or has been dropped or generally knocked about, then it’s time to replace it.
Wearing a body protector isn’t essential, but some riders do get added reassurance by wearing one in the saddle. Wearing highly reflective and bright clothing is essential to make you visible both on the roads and out hacking in shady woodland or bright sunlight.
A fluorescent tabard is generally a good starting point with numerous more options available from fluorescent hat covers and bands, gloves through to exercise sheets and bridle and martingale strips. Wearing fluorescent clothing allows you to be seen clearly by other road users and more quickly. Wearing High-Viz can give drivers a valuable three seconds extra reaction time.
Golly Galoshes are an award-winning design that features a generous reflective strip, which highlights the horse’s legs and as well as being available in both Navy and Black they also come a variety of bright fluorescent colours – giving you and your horse even more visibility on the roads.
They also keep your boots clean, even when its muddy and because they are designed to cover the full length of the lower leg, they are still very visible even after a muddy ride through the woods mid hack!
Step This Way
Always ride in footwear designed for use in the saddle. In the event of a fall you want to ensure that your chances of being caught up in a stirrup are reduced. Choose footwear that has been designed for riding and check that your stirrups are wide enough to allow your foot to sit in them without being wedged.
Remember tall leather riding boot may be narrower than a big chunky yard boot, so check before riding out. Some riders also opt for safety stirrups.
Don’t Take Risks
It goes without saying but before you even think about riding on the roads, you should have total control over your horse. Should the horse be young or inexperienced, then an experienced rider and in the company of a sensible horse are advisable.
Riding two abreast can be useful when there is a younger or more inexperienced horse, however for obvious reasons, return to single file such as when riding through narrow roads or bends. If you can also avoid riding at peak traffic times then do so. Never take risks.
Always review the road conditions before riding out. With autumn comes leaves and mud on the road and of course puddles, then coming into the winter, icy patches and black ice. Be extra cautious when riding out and if you are unsure that the road conditions are not safe, then don’t risk you or your horse.
Remember, it’s not just you that could be skidding and slipping, lorries and other traffic could have the same issue.
Be aware of light conditions: Don’t get caught out by fading light. Remember on a dull and overcast day, light can fade much quicker than anticipated, so leave yourself plenty of time to get home if your route involves road work.
As a driver, have you ever slowed down for horses and the rider or riders completely ignore you?!
We find it irritating too, but for non-horsey folk, this lack of manners could mean that next time the drivers spot horses on the road, they don’t bother to be courteous and slow down.
Make sure you always thank drivers for slowing down and passing wide, even if it is just a nod of the head and a smile if you feel you cannot take your hand off the reins: A big grin and thank-you goes a long way!
Finally, The ROSPA (The Royal Society For The Prevention Of Accidents) both have some fantastic tips and advice for riders on the road to help you stay safe this season.
Image courtesy of Golly Galoshes sponsored rider, Victoria Bax and riders photographed campaigning for road safety improvements for horses following the tragic road death of a horse in their local area.
Image by kind permission of Equuis Photography