In your car – you are a threat - please SLOW DOWN for horses

Lewis and Harris Riding Club and Western Isles Pony Club are asking drivers take care when they see horses and riders out on the roads.

In a message to drivers they say: “Horses are unpredictable and easily frightened by things they perceive as a threat. This comes from their natural instincts, they are prey animals and as such, their reaction to any threat is flight. A twitch in the ditch may take them back to the Sabre Tooth Tiger that threatened their ancestors – waiting to pounce as they pass. This can make them shy into the path of a car. The bird flying out from behind a hedgerow or the plastic bag blowing in the wind may cause the horse to unexpectedly spook into the road - and into your oncoming car. There is little a rider can do about this, natural behavioural instincts are strong. Many of our club members have reported cars travelling too close and too fast recently, therefore we ask for your patience when passing horses.”

They add: “In some instances, the rider may be busy keeping control of their horse and not able to acknowledge your consideration, but they will be very grateful to you. The message therefore is, please be careful when passing horses, give them a wide berth and go by SLOWLY (under 5 MPH) and be prepared to stop if necessary. Do not get close behind or rev your engine and do not sound your horn! Nobody wants to damage your vehicle or worse and with a little consideration there is room for everyone to live in harmony on the roads. There are more than 3,000 equestrian related accidents each year and none of us want to to be part of these statistics.

We would also strongly recommend that riders wear fluorescent/reflective clothing (better known as hi-viz). It should be worn at all times when riding out, regardless of the time of day, time of year or prevailing weather conditions. Wearing hi-viz when riding on the road can give vehicle drivers a valuable THREE seconds extra ‘reaction time’ that could save the life of both you and your horse! It should also be noted that some insurers require that you and your horse wear hi-viz before they will accept a road accident claim.The BHS Department can advise on the minimum standards that should be met.”