By Florence West, an experienced North Canterbury horsewoman and tutor.
Sharing the roadways with other road users has become quite a challenge for horse riders.
People who drive motorised vehicles have less patience and stock sense nowadays in their haste to get to their destination.
Horses are creatures of flight and fright. If startled they can move first and think later.
It is often the approach of a speeding vehicle, its size, the high pitch of the motor especially motorcycles, a duck flying out of a ditch, rubbish on the roadside or animals appearing from behind a hedge that may cause the horse to take fright.
If horses are educated to negotiate the roadways without having first experienced a big fright they will usually cope well.
Riding with a friend and a reliable horse is a good idea to build up his confidence.
Some riders do not have access to arenas or paddock riding and horses need variety to keep them sane. Horses can also be a mode of transport.
If motorists could ‘button’ off a little when meeting horses the horse would usually cope well as it would give him a bit more space to deal with the situation and a moments hesitation costs nothing.
Contractors should inform their drivers that big machines or trucks can be very imposing and to take care.
Drivers should be aware about the noise of air brakes and also wait until the horse is well passed before applying the peddle to the metal again.
In my experience drivers of well-known trucking firms are very considerate.
Some of the people with less understanding are the town’s folk who have ‘migrated’ to the country on their lifestyle blocks.
They can feel very safe as they speed by in their four-wheel drive or other vehicles. The person on the horse may be a friend or the child of a friend.
If a vehicle collides with a horse, the horse may come through the windscreen and endanger or kill the occupants of the vehicle.
The horse will probably be killed as well as the rider or there will be a ‘bloody’ mess on the road.
There is also responsibility on the part of the rider.
Horses should be ridden on the left side of the road unless there is no verge and then maybe the right side would be a better choice.
It could be advisable to pull over on the side, stay relaxed and rub the horse on the side of the neck while the vehicle passes.
Helmets are a must and Hi Vis vests are a good insurance as they give motorists time to see the riders in the distance.
Drivers have told me they have had trouble seeing the horses as they may blend in with the hedges or under the shade of trees.
Riders should also be polite with a smile, a ‘thank you’ or a small wave. In my experience courtesy counts!
Some Pony Clubs have had the Police attended a rally to educate riders on the use of hand signals etc however drivers need education as well.