If you’re keen on outdoor life then you’ll undoubtedly enjoy riding horses. However, this popular activity can come with its own set of risks. And while equestrians might be used to the more common causes of accidents, like poor equipment or speeding traffic, what about other dangers?

Before setting out on any ride you’ll have arranged suitable horse rider insurance but are you aware of the risks presented by other animals in the fields through which you might hack? Understanding how to ride safely near livestock will not only protect you and your equine companion but will also mean landowners are more likely to welcome you back!

Riders rights of way

With around 32,000km of bridleways and almost 10,000km of byways, horse riders in the UK are fortunate to have such an extensive network – enabling everyone to explore the countryside to their heart’s content. However, it’s important to appreciate how it’s only with the cooperation of landowners that such routes are kept open and enjoyable.

Landowners obviously need to use their land for a variety of purposes in order to make a living. One of the most common ways is the keeping of livestock, whether cattle, sheep, pigs or less common stock such as llamas and alpacas or even ostriches, emus and water buffaloes!

Unfortunately, despite everyone’s best intentions sometimes horse riders are prevented from using a right of way by the threatening or dangerous behaviour of livestock. If this happens, the highway authority has various legal means to remove the animals, but riders will have to provide good evidence of dangerous behaviour in order for this to happen.

Alternatively, dangers might arise if your horse meets livestock they are unfamiliar with. Even if the animals are not actually threatening it could provoke a dangerous reaction from your equine partner. According to the BHS, incidents with pigs, llamas, alpacas, emus, ostriches, deer, water buffalo, turkeys and geese have all been reported.

To help get your horse familiar with any new stock on your favourite hacking routes try asking the owner if you can introduce your horse to the animals in a safe environment. A bit of cooperation is a great way to reduce the stress on the stock as well you and your horse.

Your safety must always come first. Even with horse rider insurance it’s better to act early and avoid harm.

Tips for safe riding

Many worries about livestock happen where behaviour is seen as threatening through a rider’s lack of knowledge and experience. Or where the actions of the rider have inadvertently provoked a dangerous reaction from the livestock. The following points are worth being aware of.

  • Avoid entering the field if there is an alternative route that poses less danger.
  • Riding with another rider and horse who are more knowledgeable and experienced will teach you and your horse how to act around livestock.
  • Always have your horse walk quietly through the field – galloping across the field could make the livestock perceive you and other riders as a threat.
  • If you’re accompanied by your dog when riding then don’t enter a field with livestock.
  • Make sure livestock know you are there. Wait until they become aware of you and always approach slowly and calmly, giving them plenty of time to get out the way.
  • Be particularly cautious around young livestock and their mothers. Animals can easily perceive your mere presence as a threat and become more aggressive and highly protective of their young.
  • Never come between a mother and her young. If this looks like it will happen then stop and wait for them to get back together.
  • Males of many species can become more aggressive and protective of their females at certain times of year.
  • Animals can easily sense distress so it’s important to keep calm at all times. Even if you’re feeling fearful, try to be purposeful and quiet in your movements and make your voice strong and confident.
  • The more that livestock come into contact with horses, the more familiar they will become and the less likely they are to react adversely.
  • If you encounter groups of young cattle or horses, be aware that their behaviour can become boisterous – a situation can easily get out of hand.
  • Livestock such as cattle can be notoriously inquisitive. If they begin following you too closely then turn your horse and face them. If they don’t retreat then shout or move towards them. Keep calm and repeat as necessary until you are safely across the field.
  • Cattle that have only recently been turned out can be particularly boisterous. If you know this to be the case then perhaps avoid the route until they’ve settled down.
  • Sheep can be particularly nervous and can easily become panicked leading to injury, abortions and rejection of lambs that have been separated from their mothers.
  • Loose horses in fields can be a hazard to riders as there could be territorial issues that you wouldn’t encounter with animals of different species.

If you do run into a problem during your ride then mention it to the landowner and see if they have any advice. While they’re unlikely to be able to move livestock from the field, there might be other measures they could take. No landowner will want someone to come to harm on their land.

Rider protection through Equesure

From young riders taking their first steps into the equestrian world to experienced veterans, horse rider insurance arranged through Equesure is the best way to protect yourself and your equine.

With over six decades of experience in the insurance market, our specialist team can offer you a bespoke insurance policy suited to your needs. Whether you own your own horse or not, we can arrange cover for you.

Policies from our varied and trusted panel of insurers can offer personal accident cover up to £20,000, public liability up to £1 million, saddlery and tack cover, and emergency vet fees up to the value of £1,500.

Request a quote from our horse rider insurance team 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.

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