Heading out on a hack with your equine friend is a wonderful way of getting out in nature and staying connected. But while the vast majority of times you’ll both have great fun, there are still risks to watch out for.
Unfortunately, a common hacking hazard occurs when you leave the comparative safety of bridleways and fields and take to the road. Every year road traffic accidents involving horses end tragically in serious injury or even death.
We’ve looked at some of the latest available data which paints a worrying picture of life on the UK’s roads. And to help calm any concerns we also offer timely advice on what you can do to prevent your horse from becoming a victim of such an awful accident.
There are many precautions you can take to make sure you’re prepared for any eventuality, allowing you to look forward to many stress-free rides together. The first is to make sure you never leave home without the correct insurance for a horse rider to protect you as well as other road users from harm.
Road traffic accidents – a worrying trend
While Britain has some beautiful rural areas to explore on horseback, many horses and their owners don’t live within easy reach of wide-open spaces or forest trails. This means they inevitably have to sometimes take to the road for exercise and a decent hack.
Unfortunately, recent figures released by the British Horse Society show a worrying trend in road traffic incidents involving horses in the past year. In 2019-2020, 1,037 incidents were reported to the equine charity, an increase of 23% compared to the previous year.
As a result of those incidents, a total of 80 horses were killed, which is close to two horses each week. A further 136 horses were injured.
Tragically, one person lost their life in an incident while riding on the road, while a further 135 people were injured.
Of the reported incidents, 40% occurred because a vehicle passed by too quickly while 81% happened because cars passed too closely to horses. A shocking 43% of riders also reported road rage or abuse from other road users – a source of deep concern for all.
The latest figures feed into the shocking numbers of deaths and injuries suffered by equestrians over the past 10 years. Since 2010, 44 riders have been killed and 1,220 injured. Meanwhile, 395 horses have been killed and 1,080 injured.
What is being done to reduce these numbers?
On the back of these incidents, the BHS is calling on drivers to take more care when passing horses and asking them to consider the four simple messages of its Dead Slow campaign.
- When approaching a horse slow down to a maximum of 15mph.
- Don’t beep your car horn or rev your engine.
- Pass the horse slow and wide. Try to keep at least a car's width between you if it’s safe to do so.
- Drive slowly away.
Four simple actions that could save a horse or its rider’s life. The BHS has lots of further advice for motorists on its website. Including advice for large vehicles, agricultural vehicles and the particular dangers of gritting lorries.
Horse riders can also play their part in reducing the number of incidents. After all, doing all you can to keep your horse safe on the road is part of being a responsible owner.
- Ensure horses are used to traffic before taking to the road.
- Wear fluorescent and reflective clothing, whatever the conditions. Use high-vis equipment on your horse.
- Always wear a riding hat to current approved standards.
- Avoid riding in failing light, fog or darkness or when it’s snowing or icy.
- Be polite to drivers. A smile and a nod of acknowledgment go a long way to encouraging courtesy.
- Be alert to all forms of traffic. From cyclists to gritting lorries, there are a range of unusual vehicles your horse may not be used to.
- Be aware of your surroundings especially on narrow country lanes.
- Give clear and decisive signals.
- Obtain the BHS Ride Safe Award.
- Follow the Highway Code for horse riders.
- Tell a friend or relative where you’re planning to ride and when you’re due back.
- Carry a mobile phone in case of an emergency. Although remember it’s not safe to use your phone while riding on the roads.
- Download a safety app such as Horse Rider SOS. Apps like this are simple and easy to use. They aren’t just a useful way to track the progress of your ride. If you fall off and stop moving, the app will be alerted and send messages to your emergency contacts with details of your precise location.
What to do if you’ve been involved in a road accident with your horse
Whether you’re riding on familiar country lanes or you’re exploring new ground, road accidents can occur at any time.
As a horse lover your natural reaction will probably be to make sure your horse is okay, but you also need to take care of yourself, too!
After ensuring that you and your horse are safe, you should then:
- Attend your GP or hospital to obtain treatment for any injuries.
- Contact your horse rider insurance provider.
- Report your accident to the police.
- Regardless of the severity of the accident, report the incident to the BHS via their website.
- Take the names and contact details of any witnesses to the accident.
- Photograph your injuries and the area where the accident happened.
- Keep a diary of any care or help you needed following the accident.
- Keep receipts of any financial expenses resulting from the accident.
Let Equesure protect you and your horse
From veteran horse riders to novices, whatever your level of experience, a horse rider insurance policy arranged through Equesure will protect you from the financial cost of an accident.
With over 60 years of experience in the insurance market, our specialist team can offer you a bespoke insurance policy suited to your particular needs and budget.
We can offer personal accident cover up to £20,000, public liability up to £1 million, saddlery and tack cover up to £2,500, personal dental treatment up to £1,750 and death of horse cover up to £3,250.
Get a quick quote for horse rider insurance today.
Policy benefits and features offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.