Hold Your Horses!
Horse enthusiasts urge motorists to please slow down!
Wearing a helmet and a reflective vest for safety, Jill Ackerman astride ‘Monte, along with Luke the dog, enjoy a safe ride along a road in Courtenay. Photo courtesy of Jill Ackerman.
With summer almost here – and the days now longer and warmer – you can expect to see more and more horses on local roads, as well as in and around parks and farmland throughout British Columbia. Whether the horses you see on or near the road are tied up, being ridden, driven in harness, lead or loading in and out of trailers, the Back Country Horsemen Society of BC (BCHBC) urges all motorists to please, slow down, share the road and think safety first.
“Drivers, motorcycle riders, cyclists and joggers should all be aware that horses and riders have a legal right to be on the road,” explains BCHBC president Ybo Plante. “Traffic laws dictate that horses should travel in the same direction as the traffic because they are considered no different than a vehicle or bicycle. In some cases, however, this may not be possible. Steep ditches, narrow shoulders, slippery footing or an object or activity on one side of the road – such as a barking dog or construction work – may require the rider to temporarily guide his or her mount to the opposite side of the road to ensure their safety.”
Jill Ackerman, Courtenay, BC, spends many hours in the saddle each week … riding on the roadside on a quarter horse stallion named Monte.
“Most drivers I encounter are generally respectful and courteous and I am ever grateful for that!” says Ackerman. “But it only takes one driver to pass too closely or too fast and that could cause any horse to become frightened. A horse can ‘spook’ in an instant and might jump out onto the roadway. If drivers are too close or going too fast, it could be disastrous. Passing a cyclist, dog, horse or child on the roadway is best at speeds 50 kph – or even slower – and by going wide around them.’’
Plante adds that some responsibility for safe road access also falls upon equestrians and reminds all riders that the ‘Three C’s of Trail Riding Etiquette – Common Sense, Courtesy and Communication – should also be practiced on roadways. Riders are urged to be aware of their surroundings, control their speed and look ahead, especially on corners and hills.
Cyclists and joggers who use roads and trails shared with horses should also be aware that, because you move quickly and relatively silently, a horse may perceive you as a predator. If you are approaching a horse and rider from any direction, slow down and call out a greeting so that the horse recognizes you as a human being. If the horse starts to act up, stop, dismount from your bike, and move aside … but be sure to stay within sight of the horse. (If you slink off into the bushes you are perceived as a threat.) Avoid sudden movements or making loud noises and wait until the horse has moved on or the rider has gotten it back under control before you proceed.
And, for goodness sake, when you do encounter horses on the road or highway, know that riders appreciate a friendly wave when you pass slow and wide… but please don’t honk your horn in greeting!
Local horse owners interested in learning more about riding etiquette and connecting with other trail riding enthusiasts are welcome to contact one of the 16 chapters of the province-wide Back Country Horsemen Society of BC.
To find a BCHBC Chapter near you, click here.
Riders interested in purchasing safety vests should contact Horse Council of BC, www.hcbc.org