Horses hear approach of electric vehicles, often before riders – report

"The findings clearly indicate the horse is cautiously recognising EVs long before the rider does."
“The findings clearly indicate the horse is cautiously recognising EVs long before the rider does.” © BHS Scotland

Horses can detect the low-level noise from electric vehicles, often before the rider is aware of its approach, research has found.

The new report analyses how horses respond to the noise of an electric car. The project involved the British Horse Society (BHS), Robert Gordon University and the Electric Vehicle Association (EVA) Scotland.

The report, funded by the BHS Scotland, reiterates how important it is for all drivers to adhere to the “Dead Slow” guidance, no matter what vehicle they’re driving.

In line with the recent Highway Code changes, drivers are encouraged to slow down to 10mph and leave at least a car’s width when passing a horse and rider on the roads.

Responsibility also lies with the rider to concentrate at all times and be aware of their surroundings. This is particularly important when it comes to electric vehicles, where the noise levels have been found to be harder to hear by humans than by horses.

The BHS director of safety, Alan Hiscox, presenting the report at a launch in Eglington Country Park in Scotland, said the organisation was pleased to have joined with EVA Scotland and Robert Gordon University to encourage greater levels of safety between electric vehicle drivers and horse riders.

“With more and more electric cars on Britain’s roads, this report’s new data and analysis provide significant insight,” he said.

“Not only will it help to alleviate concerns from riders about how their horse reacts to electric vehicles due to limited sound levels, but it will also be a vital tool when it comes to encouraging drivers, regardless of whether they are driving an electronic or conventional vehicle, to be careful when passing horses on the road.”

Professor James Njuguna, research strategic lead at Robert Gordon University, said the number of horse and electrical vehicle accidents and incidents is on the rise with society’s shift to electric vehicles, bicycles, and scooters.

“A better understanding of horse behaviour in the presence of an electric vehicle is a step forward for the shared road safety of all road users: Drivers, riders, and horses alike.

“The findings clearly indicate the horse is cautiously recognising EVs long before the rider does and forms a baseline for detailed studies in future.”

EVA Scotland director Neil Swanson welcomed the research findings.

“Research such as this is essential and invaluable both from an EV driver’s and a horse rider/owner’s perspective. The safety of horses and their riders on roads is paramount and understanding how to support the vigilance of both parties is essential if incidents are to be avoided.”

He encouraged all road users to take note of the report’s findings and strive toward creating harmony on the roads.

“We believe that a great deal of the learning here applies beyond equine awareness, with the knowledge able to re-inform drivers of the needs of other road users, pedestrian or wheeled.”

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