Horses are dying in accidents on British roads at a rate of more than six a month, statistics released by the British Horse Society have revealed, with concerns the rate will increase as Covid-19 lockdown restrictions eased.
In 2020, there were 1037 reported incidents causing 80 horse deaths and one person died in a horse-related accident. Some 81% of these incidents occurred through vehicles passing by too closely, with almost half subject to road rage.
Since November 2010, 4774 road incidents have been reported to the British Horse Society, with the deaths of 395 horses and injuries to 1080. In the same period, 44 people died and 1220 were injured in incidents relating to horses.
As Covid-19 lockdown rules ease, a rise in accidents is predicted as roads become busier, prompting an equestrian company to compile a list of tips for the public to follow when encountering horses.
The “extremely concerning” number of horses injured in road accidents in the past few years has led Diane Leake, of rug company Ruggles, to share some advice to keep all parties safe while out in public.
Pedestrians and dog walkers:
• Road signs will let you know if the area you’re walking in is a horse riding route. Stay aware and look out for signs which could suggest horse riders may be present.
• When a horse is approaching, ensure children are close by and encourage them to be calm and quiet.
• If you’re on a horse route, make sure dogs are kept on leads at all times. If a dog spots a horse there is a possibility the dog will run to the horse and potentially cause the horse to be spooked. To prevent this at the earliest stage ensure you keep dogs away from routes that may attract horses. If you see a horse on a dog walk, remain calm to ensure the dog will not panic and run. Quickly attach the lead to the dog, keeping the dog distracted and close to you. If possible, change direction to prevent contact with the horse. If this is not possible aim to keep 2 metres away from the horse.
• If you’re on a route where horses are ridden ensure you do not walk too close to the horse.
• Horses have sensitive hearing therefore it is necessary to remain quiet at all times if a horse is approaching. When a horse hears a sudden noise they may spook. Keeping quiet will allow both the dog and the horse to remain calm and any incidents can be prevented.
When driving, you may see a horse and rider out on the roads and it’s important to follow the advice below to keep both yourself, the horse and the rider safe.
• It is vital to remain calm and to slow the car to 15mph. When the horse is approaching the vehicle is it safer to bring the vehicle to a complete halt. This will allow the rider to guide the horse around the car safely and carefully.
• Aim to keep the car as quiet as possible, do not rev the engine or use the horn as this can disrupt the horse and spook it, leading to potential danger.
• Once the horse has safely passed, it is still essential to continue following these steps. Slowly drive away; if the horse is disturbed they can change direction and speed.
“It is vital to educate the public and drivers to follow the simple steps we have recommended. If you encounter a situation similar to any of the above it is important to remain calm as it’s common for horses to pick up on a stressful situation,” Leake said.
For horse riders, Leake recommends wearing high-vis clothing to pre-warn pedestrians and choosing a quiet route when on public outings.