Motorists Urged to ‘Hold Their Horses!’

Equestrian groups explain their reasons for ‘road riding’ and how ensuring safety is everyone’s responsibility

By Terri Perrin, Back Country Horsemen of BC

As the weather warms up and signs of spring appear across beautiful British Columbia, you may notice more than wildflowers along our rural roadways. Horses and riders, eager to get out and enjoy some exercise, will become a more common sight. According to representatives from the Back Country Horsemen of BC Society (BCHBC) and Horse Council BC (HCBC), the arrival of spring for equestrians is both a cause for celebration and for concern because ‘road riding’ has to be done with safety as the number one priority.

“Consideration for the environment, increasing fuel costs, and lack of access to a truck and trailer have made road riding a favorable choice for many,” explains Sarah Allison, recreation director for HCBC. “Riders — and drivers of horse-drawn carriages — may need to be on the road to get from one farm to another, from a stable to a trailhead, or because the road itself forms one section of an established equestrian trail.”

With the urbanization of our society as a whole, many road users have had little exposure to horses and other livestock they may encounter in the country. While horseback riders do play a role in ensuring their own safety — by staying on the side of the road, moving slowly and wearing appropriate safety gear and hi-visibility clothing — other road users have responsibilities, too.

What Motorists Need to Know

The BC Motor Vehicle Act (Part 3, Section 119, paragraph 1) states that “traffic” includes pedestrians and ridden or herded animals, as well as vehicles. The next paragraph in the BCMVA states that “a person riding an animal or driving an animal driven vehicle on a highway has the rights and is subject to the duties of the driver of a vehicle.”

HCBC says that the most important thing for road users to be aware of when they encounter livestock or horses being ridden, driven, led, or loaded into trailers on or near the road is to please, SLOW DOWN! Pass slow, wide, and carefully; share the road; and think safety first.

Drivers should never speed past, honk their horns or shout at horseback riders. Cyclists and joggers should speak up , so the horse recognizes them as a person, not a predator. If the horse appears stressed and is giving the rider a hard time … STOP your vehicle (if safe to do so), put on your emergency flashers, and give the rider the chance to regain control of their horse and get themselves to a safe area.

“Whether you are driving a vehicle, riding a motorcycle or bicycle, or jogging, be aware that horses are big, powerful ‘flight’ animals,” adds Brian Marriott, president of BCHBC. “If startled by a fast-moving motor vehicle, or silently speeding cyclists or joggers coming up behind them, a horse or mule may ‘spook.’ They could then buck, rear, or go from a standstill to a full-speed gallop in a split second … forwards, backwards or sideways! Motorists who don’t respect horse owners’ rights to share the road put horses, riders, themselves and other motorists at risk of serious injury, even death.”

Riders’ Responsibilities

Responsibility for safe road access also falls upon equestrians. 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. In most cases, riders should travel in the same direction as the traffic because, according to traffic laws, they are considered to be no different than a vehicle or bicycle. Motorists, however, should recognize that in some cases this is not 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 guide their mount to the opposite side of the road to ensure their safety.

Let’s all work together this spring to share our roadways, to be safe, be seen and be aware.


Back Country Horsemen of BC provides its members with opportunities to learn about safe riding. Check them out online at:

Horse Council BC has produced a Road Safety Handbook for Equestrians and ‘Caution! Horses’ information rack cards. They contain important information about road riding and tips to help keep riders safe. Download the booklet from the HCBC website or order through the Horse Council BC office by emailing The cards are also available at ICBC insurance broker offices across the province.





Sarah Allison, Horse Council BC, Recreation Coordinator or 604-856-4304