I'm sure there are many people who agree with that statement. After all roads are for cars not horses. Horse riders do not pay tax to be on the road. What possible right do they have to be there?

I've just read an article on Horse and Country about this issue and it absolutely enraged me. So much so that I have taken to my long neglected blog to write about it. The article is about the results of a poll on road users who feel that Horse Riders should have to take a test in order to ride on the road. Apparently 94% of them believe this to be the case rather then thinking about their own training they undertook to drive on the road.

The highway code states: "Horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles. Be particularly careful of horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles especially when overtaking. Always pass wide and slowly. Horse riders are often children, so take extra care and remember riders may ride in double file when escorting a young or inexperienced horse or rider. Look out for horse riders’ and horse drivers’ signals and heed a request to slow down or stop. Take great care and treat all horses as a potential hazard."

How many people heed that information? Very few from my experience. The article from H&C contains a quote from a lorry driver stating: "Why should these toffs and their snooty offspring have right of way?” he said. “Roads are for cars, make them stick to the fields."
While this may seem like an ignorant view of one person, in my experience it is shared by many people so lets clear up some misconceptions.

1. Everyone who owns a horse is posh.

Before you roll your eyes and think 'what a silly middle class girl, believes she isn't posh just because her family don't own a Bentley' this really isn't true.
People who like horses come from all sorts of backgrounds. Do we assume everyone who likes F1 racing is rich or posh? Because you need to be pretty well off to do that but we don't make the same kind of outdated assumptions.
Horse riding is a hobby and many people go without things in order to fund it. Actually owning a horse is not as expensive as some people believe. If you are prepared to drive a slightly shabbier car and not jet off somewhere hot every year then it can be afforded by more people then you might think. You don't have to rich and you don't have to be posh, you just have to be dedicated and prepared to go without.

2. Horse riders are up themselves.

Yes I'm sure it may seem that way when we look down at you from our horse. But generally a horse is much taller than a car or a person. Just because a person PHYSICALLY looks down on you does not mean they think they are better than you. I am 5 foot 3 and if I went around making this assumption I would find it hard to function as almost everyone is taller than me!
Yes there are some horsey people who are stuck up, maybe you encountered one and it gave you a bad impression. Please remember there are rude people from all walks of life. They can be found within every hobby and past time. Please do not tar all of us with the same brush.

3. Horse riders choose to ride on the road instead of bridlepaths. Just to annoy you.

I think I speak for virtually every horse rider when I say we would happily never ride out on the road again. The point is we have no choice. Maybe while you are stuck behind us looking at all the green fields next to the road you furiously think to yourself "Why don't they ride their horse there". The world is not that simple. Those fields belong to someone and it obviously isn't us else we would be riding there instead of risking our lives. Bridle paths are not interconnected and you need to be able to get to them in the first place. Hence why we are on the road. Just like you we are traveling to our destination.
Try putting yourself in our shoes. Riding a horse on the road can be terrifying. Every time you leave the yard you do not know what will happen to you. Imagine being the person on the horse hearing the car speeding up behind you. You know there is another car coming towards you and you know the other vehicle has probably not seen it. All you can do is hope and pray nothing happens. Still think we want to be there for fun? Trust me when I say it is most definetely something we try to avoid.

4. Horses have no right to be on the road.

Just as a quick reminder that the road you are driving on exists because of horses. The technology that created the car you are driving has its roots in horses. We call it 'horsepower' and a 'carriageway'. Look at some old vintage cars and they look surprisingly similar to carriages. It was not so long ago that horses were our primary mode of transport.
You can argue that they shouldn't be allowed on the road but in that case should we allow cyclists? We all have to share the road together and pointing the finger doesn't help anyone.

So are horse riders perfect?

Certainly not. There is fault on both sides. Horse riders who are inconsiderate give all of us a bad reputation. Wear your hard hat, wear your hi-viz, pull over to let people past regularly and thank as many car drivers as you safely can.

Some points for you to remember next time you are stuck behind a horse:

-By passing cautiously you are safe guarding your own life. Treat a horse as a hazard on the road. You wouldn't overtake a tractor where you can't see so don't do the same with a horse. Country roads often have blind bends and other drivers can come round them at high speed. Better to be safe then sorry.

-Pass wide and slow. Horses are flight animals and you can never predict what will happen. The more room you give us the safer it is for everybody.

-A little patience. Yes its annoying. Yes you are in a hurry. But in the grand scheme of things its only a few moments. Not worth the risk when you think about it.

-Chances are you know less about horses then the person riding it so pay attention to their hand signals. If they ask you to slow down then do so. The hand signals are the exact same for a person on a horse as they are on a bicycle. You wouldn't ignore a cyclists indicating they are turning right so don't do the same with a horse rider.

-We know how frustrated you are. Remember most horse riders also drive a car. How do you think we got to the yard in order to ride our horse? We get stuck behind horse riders too. Its annoying but if you are in the countryside it is a fact of life. Same as it is getting stuck behind lorry drivers on single track roads when you are late. It happens.

-Regardless of whether you still believe that everyone who owns a horse is a 'toff' they are still a person. A rash decision on your behalf could cost someones life. Maybe even yours. You would treat a fellow car driver with respect, please do the same for someone on a horse. The excuse of "They're a toff" will not hold up in court.

-Remember horse riders are allowed to ride two abreast. It is in the highway code (see above). It is how we train younger horses to be calm in traffic by using a more experienced one as a guide. If you see horseriders doing this it is not because we are obnoxious and taking up the whole road. We do it for a reason.

-If you happen to encounter a horse drawn vehicle additional caution is needed. We are as wide as a car and nearly twice as long (or triple if driving a team or tandem). Wait for a safe place with a good gap. Don't risk a rapid overtake with an oncoming car. There may not be as much room as you think. Again our hand signals are the same as a cyclists.

-Most of all please remember as much as you don't want us there, we REALLY do not want to be there either. Riding a horse on the road is no fun at all. If you feel particularly passionate about helping us create better bridleway paths so we can be out of your way completely then by all means feel free to help us fight for better access rights. You can find out more here.