A British survey of 1200 drivers found overwhelming support for the notion that horse riders should face a legally binding proficiency test before being allowed on the roads.
Of those surveyed, 94 percent backed some sort of legally binding proficiency test for riders using the road.
Seventy percent thought horse riders should have – at the very least – third party insurance before riding on public roads, and 58 percent of drivers said that Highway Code advice telling riders to avoid busy roads and roundabouts should become legally binding.
The survey, carried out by national car-leasing company Flexed.co.uk, said the increasing number of young riders meant that many drivers backed some sort of minimum standard of horsemanship before taking to roads in both country and urban settings.
“It’s only right that both drivers and horse riders are taught how to share the road responsibly,” company spokesman Johnny Ratcliffe said.
Sections 49 to 55 of the Highway Code dealt with the riding of horses on public roads. Certain rules, such as the wearing of hard hats and the prohibition on riding on the pavement, were backed by law. However, most of the Highway Code’s single page on horses was only advisory.
“These people are just as entitled to use the public roads as any car, bus or lorry,” Ratcliffe said.
“But with children as young as 12 years old riding a horse in traffic, you can see why there are calls for enforceable training.”
The firm provided some quotes from those surveyed:
- “Sometimes it’s just kids up there. Would they know what to do if their horse bolted into traffic? It’s cruel on the horses, if anything.”
- “I’ve got no problem with horse riders – I give them respect and a wide berth and they’ve only held me up for half a minute at most. But you’ve got to worry about training and insurance these days, haven’t you?”
- “Why should these toffs and their snooty offspring have right of way? Roads are for cars, make them stick to the fields.”
Despite this attitude, Flexed spoke to horse riders and stable owners and found some appetite for better training if it helped to soothe relations with other road users.
Flexed said it found some support for the concept of more rider training among the riding fraternity.
One experienced rider said: “Quite a few of us have equine insurance. Millions in coverage if there’s an accident, God forbid. And it’s right that riders ought to be trained properly before mixing with cars. Some drivers are such idiots.”
One younger rider commented: “I’ll take a test if car owners take a test on driving near horses. Fair’s fair.”
Flexed argued that was time for a new approach to road safety, particularly in the countryside.
“We’ve all got to use the same roads,” Ratcliffe said. “Let’s use them with patience and sanity to avoid these confrontations.”