The scale of the threat to horses and riders on Britain’s roads was highlighted this week, with the British Horse Society saying more than 2000 horse-related road incidents had been reported in the last five years.
The society set up a dedicated website in 2010 where road-related horse incidents could be reported.
In its first five years, 2070 reports of road incidents involving horses had been reported, it said. Of these, 36 caused rider deaths, and 181 resulted in a horse dying from their injuries or being euthanised. The charity believes there are many more unreported incidents.
It revealed the grim toll as it launched a campaign encouraging motorists to pass horses carefully at 15 miles an hour.
It said more than 60% of incidents involving horses on the roads happened between 10am and 3pm, with accidents most commonly occurring in June.
Its analysis of the 2070 road-related horse incidents showed that 75% happened because the vehicle passed the horse without allowing enough space, while over a quarter of respondents said that they also had to deal with driver road rage during the incident.
Most of the incidents occurred on a minor road and in a rural area. Nearly half the horses involved were accustomed to riding on the roads more than once a week.
The society found that 90% of respondents were female. Most of the incidents – 1799 – occurred in England, with 146 in Wales, 115 in Scotland, and 10 in Northern Ireland.
The counties with the highest number of accident reports were Essex, with 155 reported accidents; Kent, with 89; and Lancashire, with 81.
The society’s campaign, called Dead Slow, follows a number of high profile petitions calling for greater protection for horses and riders on the roads following the injury of horse carriage master Mark Evans and the death of his horse Wil, who was hit by a car in Wales last month as he pulled a funeral cortege.
“We are asking drivers to slow down to 15mph when they see a horse on the road,” the charity’s policy director, Lee Hackett, said.
“A lot of people aren’t sure how to safely pass a horse when driving, and so we have produced a video showing exactly how it should be done.
“It’s worth remembering that these statistics are just the accidents reported to us. There will be countless others.
“Almost everyone who rides horses can recount a story about a time they had a near miss on the roads. We are campaigning for legislative change, but that can take a long time. That is why we are asking for this instant change in behaviour from drivers.”
The head of road safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, Kevin Clinton, said horses were large and powerful animals who can easily panic and bolt if startled.
“This is dangerous for the horse, the rider and other road users. All drivers should be aware that they may come across horse riders at any time, especially in rural areas.
“If you see one, slow right down as you approach and pass it slowly and smoothly, without revving your engine or sounding your horn. If there’s not room to pass it safely, wait until there is.”
The society encourages horse riders to wear high-visibility gear at all times on the road.
Horse accidents can be reported to the society via the website, www.horseaccidents.org.uk