Horses have been recorded to naturally travel around 8.1-28.3km per day; with recent studies documenting horses travelling for 12-hours to water and food resources (Hampson et al. 2010). Yes, our domestic horses need not travel 55km to the water bowl that sits in front of them, but, horses are designed to roam. They have slow fermenting hind guts to provide warmth and fuel for the continuous roughage they graze, and distances they travel. Horses have long, strong limb structures, to accommodate hours of continuous walking and running. Even with turnout, domestic horses only travel around 7.2km/day, compared to the documented 17.9km average of a feral horse (Hampson et al. 2010). Incorporating hacking into our horse’s routine would surely improve this figure?
Not only does hacking offer parallel to a horse’s natural lifestyle of roaming, it also mentally stimulates them. Feral horses observe various sceneries and terrains on a regular occurrence, so it is not to my surprise when I read studies which suggest that the domestic horse lacks mental stimulation (Horseman et al. 2016). Despite the lack of research, many riders remark on the positive mental impact which hacking makes on their horses. Many magazine, blog and official organisation sites are also advocates for hacking; reporting that the activity mentally ‘engages’, ‘boosts confidence’ and ‘pleases’ the horse (Moore, 2018; FEI, 2018).
With this in mind, I am always shocked at the amount of people who do not want to hack, purely because they ‘find it boring’, or ‘it doesn’t fit into the horse’s routine’. But seriously, who actually enjoys riding in circles 6-days per week? I don’t – and I can imagine, neither do our horses? I always look at the riders at the top of their sport, and see what routine they have their horses in, as these horses must be thriving in their routine to be so successful.
Carl Hester, for example. A dressage rider, with over national titles, and Olympic Team Gold winner, he must spend every day riding circles, right? To my surprise, Carl regularly incorporates hacking into the weekly routines of his horses, including his Olympic competitors! If hacking is good enough for top riders, it is good enough for us mere mortals, surely?!
Despite its benefits, it doesn’t come to my surprise that hacking is a declining activity. It seems that the roads are becoming faster, and more dangerous, every day. According to the BHS (2019), a survey reported 3,737 road incidents involving horses between November 2010 and March 2019 – that’s 415 accidents per year, and almost 4 accidents per day. It is frightening to think that only 1 in 10 incidents are reported to the BHS, so the reported numbers are likely to be higher; including the 315 horses killed as a result of road accidents.
I used to really enjoy hacking, but, nowadays, the roads frighten me. I am incredibly lucky that Phoebe is un-phased by traffic, but after having a traffic accident with my late horse, I am always so worried. I hear the car coming, and my heart stops for a second. I remember the accident that I had, which left my horse so frightened that we had to make the decision to euthanize him. The aforementioned BHS (2019) survey found that 73% of incidents were caused as a result of cars passing too close, and 31% were a result of cars passing too fast. When I had my accident, the car passed us too close; he didn’t wait, and he pushed past. Sound familiar?
We need to tackle the sides of hacking which are under-supported and underrated.
Seems simple doesn’t it? We need more road awareness to drivers, we need more bridleways (and make those currently available more accessible), and we need greater opportunity to avoid the roads. So, this is what we need, but how do we get it?
- Document your hacking! HatCams are a great way to slow drivers down (they soon go down a gear when they see you are recording!), and are also great in evidence should an incident occur;
- Share your experiences – good and bad. Entice other riders to hack and show us all how much you and your horse enjoy it! Equally, don’t forget to report any bad experiences. Traffic accidents/poor driving can be reported to the BHS or the Police (111), and badly kept bridleways can be reported to your local council.
- Approach your local farmers. You would be surprised that many are open to the idea of seasonal riding passes, especially if you can contribute to its use.
- Petitions? Should we start petitioning for more bridleways or changing use of footpaths? I have seen many have been attempted and rejected – but perhaps if worded correctly and strategized, we might stand a chance? Is this something you all could get on board with?
I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas. Please comment or share them with the equine community to help us combat the problems we face with hacking.
A horse rider who was left with four broken ribs and a punctured lung when her horse was spooked by an undertaking cyclist says people on bikes to be more aware of how to share the road safely with those on horseback.
The rider, whose name was given only as Karen, had almost returned to her yard after a ride on her horse Polly when the incident happened last Tuesday, the Horse & Hound reports. No details of the location were provided.
"There was no traffic. I didn’t hear the cyclist and he didn’t shout to say he was passing – there were only inches between the edge of the road, him and me.
“He came so close he was just about touching my stirrup. Polly got a fright and jumped off all four legs across the road.
“There was a lay-by across the road with a parked car and Polly went into the car and I came off. I remember not being able to breathe or speak.”
An occupant of one of two vehicles that stopped at the scene happened to be a nurse who works in A&E and called for an ambulance.
“I could see the cyclist stopped but he never came over and then he was gone.
“He left me.”
Her horse, a 15-year-old mare, was found at the stables.
After spending four days in hospital, Karen is now recovering at home... READ MORE
A warning from the Environment Agency
Plastic granulate, sold as an alternative surface for equestrian centres, could place Yorkshire’s horses and riders at risk, present a pollution hazard and lead to owners falling foul of the law.
Plastic granulate is a waste material derived from the recycling of cable sheathing and Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). It’s being marketed by some waste producers and brokers as a base material for horse maneges and track surfaces. However, there is no legal route available for its use for this purpose except in accordance with an Environmental Permit.
Furthermore, the plastics contained within this material can contain Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP’s), phthalates and lead stearate. Weathering can cause leaching of these toxic substances into the wider environment, potentially causing contamination to land and groundwater. Some plastic granulate may even be cross-contaminated with non-plastic elements such as metal fragments and glass, making surfaces where it’s used potentially harmful for horses and riders.
Environment Agency officer, Greg Deakin said:
We’re determined to eliminate avoidable waste and crack down on plastics as part of the government’s 25-year environmental plan.
We’re therefore urging those with equestrian facilities to carefully consider the use of this material. It might be offered free of charge or for a small delivery fee, but it is an offence under the Environmental Permitting Regulations to use this waste without appropriate environmental controls.
If you’re found to have plastic granulate waste deposited on your land without the appropriate Environmental Permit awarded by the Environment Agency, you could be fined and be liable for the cost of its disposal.
Many of us in the British equestrian community have been left appalled by footage caught on a helmet cam of a group of cyclists whizzing past a horse and rider, showing so little regard for their safety that one cyclist even undercuts them, hitting the horse, and catching the riders stirrup on their handlebar. This caused the normally bombproof horse to rear and bolt forward removing a back shoe in the process. But it could have been a lot worse.
The worrying thing is, that not only did this group of cyclists competing in the Windsor Triathlon, organised by Human Race Events, display zero regard for the safety of horse and rider in the first place - both kitted out in hi-viz gear by the way - but even after the incident they didn’t apologise or stop and check that horse and rider were ok!
About the same time in Kent, another rider and her horse set off on a Saturday hack and were passed by a lot of cyclists taking part in a race organised by Evans Cycles. Again, the rider claims, some cyclists failed to slow down, passed too close and seemed not to care that her normally sensible horse was becoming agitated. The final straw came in the shape of a low-level cycle decked out with flags that resulted in the horse bolting through a hedge, falling and throwing their rider. Even though a couple of female cyclists did shout through the hedge and offer assistance, when she eventually managed to get out of the field and unable to remount, led her horse home, cyclists refused her requests to slow down, even when her horse was spinning around.
With the increasing number of cyclists on the road we’re sure many of you have had similar experiences and so we think it’s imperative that the equestrian and cycling community come together NOW to provide a simple set of guideline for sharing the roads safely before a horse and rider or cyclist are more seriously injured.
The British Horse Society already has a ‘Code of conduct for horse riders and cyclists’ that has a lot of good information in it. Unfortunately, the message that horses need special consideration doesn’t seem to be getting through to the cycling community.
We also wonder if certain points need to be clarified. For instance, when it advises cyclists to slow down, there is no indication of what speed is appropriate.
Also, should we as riders use a system of arm signals that are respected by cyclists, such as moving an outstretched arm up and down to indicate, ‘please slow down’ or putting a hand up to say ‘please stop!’ ?
We were pleased to here that in the videoed Windsor incident the organisers said that that, ‘Riders will be identified and disqualified from all Human Race Events.’ However, this still leaves a question - if cyclists are taking part in a race, how can they be encouraged to slow or stop for horses when they will be penalised for losing time?
In both incidents we’ve mentioned the cyclists were competing in organised races but both horse riders seem to have been unaware that they were taking place. In the BHS Code of conduct they say that ‘British Cycling has agreed to ask their race organisers to notify BHS Approved Riding Schools and Livery Yards when they are organising an event in their vicinity.’ But obviously, this doesn’t seem to be enough, if it’s actually happening at all. Should race organisers make more of an effort to ensure that riders are made aware of races in their area and how can this be best achieved?
These are just a few issues that we’ve highlighted but now it’s over to you. What have been your experiences of meeting cyclists whilst riding on the roads? What constructive suggestions do you have? Does the BHS code give enough guidance?
Meg Worrell-Hart from North Somercotes was thrown across the top of a car when it passed too close and struck her horse Dave on Saturday.
A young horse rider who was flung from her steed has urged motorists to take care in a viral open letter - triggering a staggering reaction worldwide.
Meg Worrell-Hart, 21, was thrown from her horse on Saturday, January 20 when she was riding near her home.
She published an open letter on Facebook following the accident urging motorists to be cautious when passing horses - a post which has now gained over 45,000 likes and 55,000 shares, with messages of support coming from as far as California...
An open letter to all drivers.I’ve only just stopped crying enough to write this.My absolute worst nightmare happened today.I was almost home aboard my pride and joy after a lovely hack. I heard a car approaching from behind far too fast I signalled at them to slow down but they didn’t. As they were almost level with us Dave was spooked and reared up. They were far too close and coming far too fast to avoid us, we did not stand a chance.They hit us at roughly 45mph, I was thrown over the top of the car and landed in the road.Dave took off for home.We’re both very sore and shaken up. Dave has a possible hairline fracture In his shoulder but we won’t know until the painkillers have worn off. Physically we’ll heal but I doubt we’ll ever hack again.I cannot stress enough how important it is to pass horses wide and slow. Next time you see a horse and rider on the road please think. There is a person aboard that horse who has a family and is cared about. That horse is everything to them. That person cares for his needs twice a day. Every day. All year round. He is their family, their friend, their teammate, their everything.That horse and rider on the road may be an inconvenience in your busy life but they are real people and animals who feel fear and pain who are loved and cared about and they deserve your respect.Please slow down.I can’t thank the ladies in the car behind enough for consoling me and being so kind as I was in a blind panic and in floods of tears.The driver was more worried about to damage to his stupid car.I am so so angryYou have to slow down or people are going to die.Meg Worrell-Hart
An 'out of control' Rottweiler is seen chasing and barking at horses in Oxford.
The incident was recorded by Tracy Smith, 40, an experienced horse rider.
She says dog owners need to be educated more on safety around bigger animals.
Dogs should be kept on leads and in ear shot of owners when a horse is nearby.
A mum in Oxford has revealed terrifying footage of an 'out of control' Rottweiler chasing her teenage daughter's horse for more than three minutes.
Tracy Smith's daughter, Ella, 14, clung on in fear when the large dog repeatedly darted at her horse, barking as it chased them in circles near their home on August, 12.
Betsan Llewllyn Jones, 14, ended up unconscious in the middle of the road and her friend suffered cuts and bruises in incident in Colwyn Bay
A young girl ended up in hospital and another was injured after being thrown from their spooked horses when a biker tried to ride through the middle of them.
Betsan Llewellyn Jones, 14, was riding her horse on a rural road along with her friend, who was on her pony, when the unidentified biker tried to get between them.
Betsan's horse and her friend's pony were scared and reared up. Betsan managed to cling onto her terrified horse but took a blow to the head when the pony reared up. She fell from her horse and landed in the road and blacked out.
She is still in hospital and may have suffered a compression fracture to her spine, her father said.
Her young friend ended up in a ditch and suffered cuts and bruises to her face and lips... READ MORE
Ranting driving instructor learns his lesson from 14-year-old horse rider: She cooly schools him on the rules of the road...
Craig Allred, 52, can be heard shouting: ‘What gives you the right to let your horse shit on the road?’ after becoming angry by the mess made by the animal.
When young rider Callum Mullock tried to explain that he and friend Megan Lockett, 14, who filmed the incident, couldn’t ride the ponies through the privately owned fields alongside the public road, Mr Allred replied: ‘I don’t care about your horse’.
The 12-year-old countered this by saying: ‘Well, we don’t care about your car’, with the youngster expressing his fear that the angry instructor might try and ‘run us off the road’.
He said: ‘He was very angry. He said that we shouldn’t be riding on the road. I was a bit shaken up after that I didn’t know what he was going to do.
‘I said to my friend I thought he might try to run us off the road. Usually people are quite understanding of horses. It was a very quiet road, not many people around.'... READ MORE
For me, hacking out on my horse is one of the best ways to spend a sunny day – what's not to like about cantering through a field or along a track surrounded by beautiful countryside! However, for most of us, going out for a hack usually involves riding on the roads, an action which is becoming increasingly dangerous. We hear more and more reports of terrible accidents involving cars but there is actually no official requirement from the government to record road accidents involving horses unless a person needs to be taken directly to hospital. A horse's life or suffering is of no consequence according to them!
This is why The British Horse Society have taken it upon themselves to document these incidents, providing an online form to report horse related road accidents, including near misses, past and present.
According to the BHS there are over 3000 accidents each year involving horses and riders on the roads in the UK alone. I think we all agree, something needs to change, but rather than sit around talking about it, we all need to act!
Ride Yorkshire is one of many organisations who are working to change this, and to make horse and rider road safety a priority for all road users, including equestrians! Ride Yorkshire is a not-for-profit social enterprise which operates in Yorkshire, working to help riders in the area by doing things like providing hacking route suggestions and even organising horsey holidays in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. Janet Cochrane is one of the leading figures behind Ride Yorkshire, and she is helping to organise an event on 21st May which aims to raise awareness regarding horse and rider road safety. With the help of the University of York Riding Club (which I am a proud member of…) Janet and between six and eight other horses and riders will set off from the University Campus, riding around a designated route along the roads of York. Janet told me,
“We really hope that the ride will make people think about horses and riders on the road; we want to make ourselves obvious, but without getting in the way too much, so we are going to be wearing florescent tabards and handing out information about what we’re doing along the way. We’re hoping to get the local media involved, and the local police and council have been helpful too”.
Explaining why she decided to organise the ride, Janet said,
“Our aim is to make people aware that the roads are a place for horses and riders as much as cars and cyclists. We want to help people to realise that actually, as equestrians we are short of places to ride out other than the roads, and that all road users therefore need to learn to respect one-another”.
Because the ride is setting out from the university, she hopes that it will encourage young people to think differently about their attitude to riders on the road.
“We know that lots of students have cars, but many do not have much driving experience simply because of their age. We just want to help as many people as possible to be safe on the roads; at the end of the day, we want to make the roads a safe place not just for us riders, but for everyone”.
As many of us are aware from the many tragic stories and news articles shared on social media, horse and rider road safety is an issue which can’t be ignored any longer. Janet explained,
“rider road safety is becoming more and more important because there are so many cars on the road now. People simply aren’t aware of the right way to pass horses safely because the information isn’t made available to them. There isn’t enough emphasis in the Highway Code on how to pass riders safely, and when learning to drive people tend to be given very little information about this”.
Through the ride in May, Janet hopes to make passing horses and riders safely a top priority for all road users.
Alongside the May event, there are many ways that riders can ensure that we maximise our safety on the roads. Janet stresses the importance of wearing florescent clothing when out hacking,
“So often I have seen riders out on the roads without High-Viz clothing, and from a distance they simply merge into their surroundings, especially if they’re on a dark coloured horse or out riding in bad light. Putting a florescent tabard on before you leave the yard, and putting some reflectors on your horse, can make all the difference between a driver seeing you in good time and not being able to pick you out against the background”.
One of the main problems though is that other road users don't know the correct way to pass a horse safely. As riders, we understand that horses as prey animals can be easily spooked so to them, a cyclist can easily seem like something that might attack them.
“It is so important that cyclists coming up behind us let us know that they’re coming,” says Janet, “Generally, horses are fine with bikes passing them, but some might completely panic – the point is that you never know. If cyclists were to call out and say something like ‘Good Morning!’ from a distance, at least the horse and rider are made aware of them in advance”.
After all, if a horse were to kick out at a bike, it’s the cyclist who would probably suffer most, so this is for their own safety too. For car drivers, the recommended speed for passing a horse is 15mph, but what is crucial is that the driver allows a wide berth between the horse and the car. Janet pointed out that even if the horse is fine with cars,
“something could so easily spook them and cause them to jump out and hit the car”,
which could cause so much damage so caution is key.
This event being run by Ride Yorkshire is part of a nationwide campaign. On 21st May, many other groups across the country will organise similar rides to promote awareness regarding road safety. If you wish to support one of these rides yourself, visit the ‘Pass Wide and Slow’ Facebook page, which whilst also acting as a place to report road safety incidents, gives you the opportunity to get involved with local sub-groups too. If you are lucky enough to live in the beautiful Yorkshire countryside like me, Janet would love to hear from you via the Ride Yorkshire website.
Please share your experiences of riding on the roads below…