At some point during your horse ownership, you will probably have to ride your horse on the road – even if it’s just for a few minutes at a time.

With the British Horse Society reporting that 315 horses have died and 43 people have been killed on UK roads in the past 10 years, it is crucial to get your equine used to traffic so you can make your ride as safe as possible.

Before getting on your horse, protecting yourself and those around you with horse rider insurance is essential. Once you have done that, what else can you do to protect yourself before heading out onto the open road?

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to get your equine friend used to traffic.

 

Step 1: Early learning

Ideally a horse’s early education should include an introduction to road traffic in an unpressurised environment. There are many different ways to do this including:

  • Turning your horse out in a field next to a busy road will get him used to passing traffic. Particularly if other horses in the field are unconcerned when a delivery van races past.
  • Perhaps drive your own car into the field with the radio on, or maybe giving a blast on the horn, to desensitize your horse to traffic noise.
  • Use a car or tractor to take hay into the field – particularly as motor vehicles will then become associated with something positive like food.
  • Heavy machinery like tractors or combine harvesters can be upsetting even for the bravest of horses. So, ask a friendly farmer to let you walk the horse past machinery while switched off, then with the engine running.
  • Ask a friend to accompany you on a bike while you’re out hacking so the horse can get used to being around bikes.
  • In the field, recreate some typical riding scenarios, such as plastic bags or walking through narrow gaps, to get your horse used to common hazards they might encounter when they’re out on the road.

 

Step 2: Prepare yourselves with the right equipment

Before heading out, wear a well-fitted riding hat and fit both you and your horse with high-vis vests to ensure visibility whatever the time of day or season.

Wearing reflective strips or lights might also be appropriate. Horses might benefit from wearing knee boots for added protection. If you’re riding a young horse that’s easily spooked, then a body protector is also recommended for you.

However well prepared you are, make sure you have adequate horse rider insurance before setting out, too.

Step 3: Walk your horse

Walking beside your horse down a quiet road is a great introduction to road work. Begin with a short 15-minute walk allowing your horse to stop and sniff. Lengthening the walk each week can help it get used to roads without too many distractions.

 

Step 4: Walk the horse with tack, saddle and bridle

Your next step is getting your horse used to wearing its saddle, bridle and tack while walking on the road. Even the calmest horse can get frightened when the saddle is put on, so take it one step at a time.

Remember that badly-fitting tack or saddles can cause behavioural problems due to pain and discomfort. So, check your equipment regularly.

Did you know our horse rider insurance covers saddlery and tack up to £2,500, with a single article limit of £1,000?

 

Step 5: Communicate with your horse

Listening to your horse’s unique needs and taking its lead is vital to success. Even when your horse is used to traffic it can easily become scared by a new circumstance or an inconsiderate driver.

Spending time with your horse and becoming familiar with its needs means you are best able to calm it down if something unexpected happens.

A horse and rider on a country road on a sunny day

Step 6: Start riding

Once you and your horse are ready, it is time to start riding on the road. Try to mount your horse at the same location on your route and where he is most calm. Once your horse is comfortable riding on the road, introduce commands to develop your horse’s listening skills.

 

Step 7: Ride and repeat

Taking your time with each step is vital so it is important to repeat the exercise over and over again. By taking it slow you will be able to get even the most skittish horse used to different vehicles on the road, their particular noises and many other distractions. Spending time now will pay off in the long run.

The Highway Code gives detailed advice to riders on how to stay safe on the roads:

  • Wear boots or shoes with hard soles and heels
  • Wear light-coloured or fluorescent clothing in daylight and reflective clothing if riding at night or in poor visibility
  • Try not to ride on the road at night or in poor visibility
  • Ride with other, less nervous horses if you think that your horse will be nervous of traffic
  • Ensure all tack fits well and never ride a horse without both a saddle and a bridle
  • Keep to the left on the road
  • Never carry another person or anything that might affect your balance
  • Move in the direction of the traffic flow in a one-way street
  • Never ride more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends
  • Avoid roundabouts where possible
  • Never ride your horse on a motorway

 

Whether you ride regularly or more occasionally, horse rider insurance from Equesure is a great way to protect yourself. With over 60 years’ experience in the insurance market, our team can offer you a bespoke insurance policy with options tailored for your particular needs.

Offering personal accident cover up to £10,000 for juniors and £20,000 for adults our policies also cover emergency vet fees up to the value of £1,500.

Request a quote or give our horse rider insurance team a call today – they’ll be happy to talk you through the benefits.

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