Taking horses and animals on the road
Road safety advice if you are taking horses and animals on the road or encounter them on the road.
Today, riding on the road may be part of a horse’s training programme or just for leisure. For riders, it's an enjoyable change of environment, but there are safety risks. These include:
- traffic speeds
- road surfaces
- motorists’ knowledge of dealing with horses.
Road safety knowledge and training will help you reduce these risks.
Rules of the road and advice for horse riders
Horses and riders have every right to be on our roads. However, when you take a horse on the road you must have a clear understanding of and follow the Rules of the Road that apply to you.
- If you’re riding a horse, you must stay on the left-hand side of the road, and follow the Rules of the Road such as obeying road signs and giving clear hand signals.
- When you are leading a horse, you should walk on the left-hand side of the road and position yourself between your horse and passing vehicles. This helps prevent the horse from interfering with traffic.
- When riding one horse and leading another, you must stay on the left-hand side of the road. You should ensure that the led horse is to the left of the ridden horse. That way, you’re positioned between the horse being led and the traffic.
- You should wear a high visibility vest and an approved riding helmet.
- Before riding on the road, you should always tell someone where you intend to go and when you will be back.
- If you are in charge of a horse on a roadway, you must make sure the horse does not block other traffic or pedestrians.
- It is best not to bring a horse and cart on the road at night. If you do, you should carry a lamp on the cart showing a white light to the front and a red light to the back. You should also wear reflective clothing and put suitable reflective equipment on the horse.
- If the weather is bad, you should not ride on the road unless it is absolutely necessary. Motorists will already be experiencing difficult driving conditions and meeting an anxious horse may present a dangerous situation.
Advice for motorists and other road users
Most collisions on the road involving horses happen when the horse is struck from behind. Horses and their riders are extremely vulnerable in a collision and can be seriously, sometimes fatally, injured.
The video below explains how to approach and overtake a horse on the road.
It's important to:
- always be careful when passing horses and riders on the road. A horse may startle. The rider may be a child or an adult in training. Never pass unless it is safe to do so.
- be alert when approaching riding schools or places where horses are likely to appear.
- take special care when overtaking horses, especially loose horses or horse-drawn vehicles. This is particularly relevant at junctions where motorists are advised to keep a safe distance from horses and riders.
- slow down when approaching a horse and rider. Be prepared to stop and let them pass.
- obey a signal to slow down or stop from someone in charge of a horse. They may know about a potential hazard which you cannot see or hear.
- pass by slowly, driving wide of the horse and rider.
- never use your horn or lights in a way that might startle or blind a horse. This could cause the rider to lose control of the animal.
- take special care when passing horses if you are carrying a roof load or towing a trailer
- know the dimensions of your load If you drive a heavy goods vehicle. Be aware that the sound of airbrakes might startle a horse. Show courtesy to riders and their horses and take steps to minimize engine and other noise when passing safely.
Always drive at a speed that allows you to stop:
- safely in a controlled way;
- on the correct side of the road;
- within a clear distance; and
- without risk to you, your passengers or other road users.
Horse road safety
Download and read our Horse Road Safety booklet for more information and advice about taking horses onto roads.
RSA Horse Road Safety booklet pdf | 1706 KB
If you are in charge of animals on the road at night, you should carry a lamp showing a white light to the front and a red light to the back. You should also wear a reflective vest.
- Always slow down and be prepared to stop when approaching or overtaking animals.
- If a person in charge of animals gives a signal to slow down or stop, you must obey it.
- Avoid using your horn if animals are in front of you, as it might frighten them.
- If you are travelling on a road where animals are common, you will see a warning sign like these: