Whether you are an expert or just a beginner at riding there is always the risk of accidents. According to the British horse society, every day there are approximately 8 accidents on the road involving horses and on average 16 riders are killed every year. Half of the road accidents involving horses happen on minor roads. Unfortunately and sadly these accidents happen, and although careless and irresponsible drivers exist, perhaps riders increasing safety awareness will help reduce these numbers. The British Horse Society hold Riding and Road Safety tests at various centres around the country throughout the year and are taken by over 7,000 candidates a year to help educate riders in road safety to minimize the risk involved when riding on the road. To find out more, click to visit the BHS safety page.
When out hacking its always a good idea to have company. Never get on a horse without a hard hat. In the UK it is against the law for a person under the age of 14 years old to ride on a public road without head protection. Always check your tack before you set off. It is a lot easier to be seen in any weather condition if you wear reflective & fluorescent clothing. Get in the habit of carrying some identification e.g. name, address, telephone number and next of kin. If it is not possible to go riding with someone else try and tell a responsible person where you are going and roughly what time you expect to be back. Invest in a mobile phone, these days you can get pay as you go mobile phones which means you don't get hefty bills or if that is not possible take some change with you for a pay phone in case you need to get some help. Take a hoof pick with you in case your horse gets a stone stuck in its foot.
There are a lot of places to go riding such as a fields, woodlands, commons, bridleways or if you live on the coast, what better than the open area of a beach. However, respect peoples private property, and if you ask permission first to ride on private land always close gates after yourself and do not deliberately cause any damage, you will find land owners much more willing to let you continue using their property. Riding in the country is fun, but beware, watch out for such things as low branches, ditches and open mineshafts.
When you are riding on the road you must obey the law of the road the same as other road users. If you do not know or are not sure of the road rules, take a look at the highway code and pay particular attention to hand signals. Before you make a maneuver just remember how much faster motor vehicles go than you. It is good to show your appreciation to drivers for slowing down for you by nodding your head or putting your hand up, that way they will continue to slow down for other horses. Do not ride more than two by two on the road and do not ride on the road in foggy conditions or after dark .
Do not take your horse on a public road, especially a busy one unless you know your horse is traffic proof, this is for the safety of yourself, your horse and other road users.
Whenever or wherever you are riding always have consideration for the safety of pedestrians.