There has been a growing movement in the UK to raise awareness for rider safety with motorists.
How often have you ridden on trails, woods, or roads and asked a car, cyclist, or runner to slow down because they were going too fast or passing too close? I have. And I’ve been the motorist that has stopped for a horse and been thanked by the rider for being the only motorist to slow. All equestrians can agree there is an inherent risk to riding horses. Fortunately, educating non-equestrians about horse safety can greatly reduce this risk.
A personal example:
My husband runs in the woods. We’ve been together 14 years and I’ve been riding again 8 of them. Our county parks are a haven for equestrians and many farms are within riding distance, or easily trailer in. 14 of our 21 county parks are open to horses. Horses are a common sight. Last summer he came home from a run complaining about the dirty looks he received from two horseback riders.
“Jason”, I asked, “why would the riders give you dirty looks?”
“I don’t know. I was just running as usual and came around a corner to see them and didn’t realize they were there so I kept going.”
Hmm. Two problems here that I can see. One on either side.
- Jason thought runners had the right of way. Wrong. Equestrians always have the right of way. The park rules are thus, “It is important to obey rules of protocol for yielding right-of-way when pedestrians, cyclists, and equestrians meet on the trail: cyclists yield to all other trail users and pedestrians yield to horses.“ There are signs at every park entrance, but most people pass without reading.
I am an equestrian and yet he was unaware. So what of the thousands- no millions- of others of the trails or roads that have no experience with horses at all?
2. The riders in the woods would have been much more visible had they worn high visibility clothing. Who sees a deer until it darts in front of the car? High visibility clothing on the rider and/ or horse gives non-riders advance warning that there someone there, allowing more time to slow and make your presence known to avoid spooking or impact.
Education for Rider Safety
The biggest problem we face is ignorance from non-equestrians. We live in a world now where the majority of people have never encountered a horse. How are they expected to know how to interact with them and us safely? The onus is on us. Started in February 2017 by Sarah Johnson, the Glow Means Slow campaign strives to increase awareness and educate the public about safe interactions between motorists and riders.
“Why do we ask other road users to Pass Wide and Slow?
We ask them because horses are a natural flight animal. Their natural instinct is to run away from a predator and protect themselves. They don’t think about their rider or other road users all they want to do is evade the danger. No matter if a horse has been taught to deal with situations on the roads, if you have a road user who over takes or approaches quickly without any warning, they could fall into their natural instinct and flight.
We wear HiViz to warn you we are on the road. Yes sometimes it’s too late to see us if the road user is preoccupied or has a heavy foot but surely respect should be given when using the roads?!” Glow Means Slow.
This movement on Facebook and Twitter incorporates graphics and best practices to remain safe on the roads and increase awareness. Sophie Tunnah provides a thorough overview of the campaign on her blog, Team Tunnah Eventing.
High Visibility Clothing
In addition to all-important education is high visibility clothing. This colorful and reflective clothing is beneficial for equestrians, runners, and cyclists alike. Anyone who wants to use the roads and trails safely will benefit.
Danielle Reynolds, a 24-year old equestrian and entrepreneur has created STYLE VIS™- Trend Aware Visibility Wear by DVR Equestrian. She has started a Kickstarter campaign to launch a new line of clothing for this very purpose, which is live for a limited time.
According to the campaign details:
“The collection offers premium and stylish men’s and women’s sportswear incorporating highly technical fabrics and high-visibility designs.
The vision is to encourage riders (particularly the younger generation of independent riders) to wear high-visibility clothing crucial to their safety by offering a stylish alternative to what is currently available on the market. However, as you’ll notice from our film, most of our products are very versatile and would be extremely useful for runners, walkers and cyclists alike.”
The products vary from hats, sports bras, and bum bags to shirts, sweatshirts, base layers and waterproof pants. High visibility from DVR Equestrian comes in a few colors and is available for both men and women.
DVR Equestrian- A new equestrian brand with comfort and safety in mind for horse and rider. Click To Tweet
Guest what? This is something I could’ve benefitted from not so long ago. Two years ago we were on a trail ride and encountered a wasp nest. The horses were stung repeatedly. Knowing something was wrong, but not realizing what, we jumped off and two of three horses bolted. I landed badly and fell on my back into the wasp nest. Apparently I really need to work on my emergency dismounts.
I was hacking with other riders and was unhurt, with the exception of 7 wasp stings (including in my helmet). I was able to rid myself of the wasps, find my horse, and walk back on shaking legs to the barn. Lucky me. The horses warned us waited until we dismounted before bolting. Sadly, this isn’t always the case.
I had never been stung before. If I’d been out alone and had an allergic reaction, it would have ended very badly. With 500 acres of private land, the barn staff or emergency personnel would have had much trouble finding me if I was unconscious or worse. Moreover, it is just good practice to wear high visibility clothing when hacking out. Hunters, hikers, and more navigate the same areas we do on horseback.
What Can You Do?
Educating the public concerning safety when encountering horses and wearing high visibility clothing go hand in hand to keep equestrians and our beloved horses as safe as possible. Let’s help to reduce injuries and deaths world wide for horses and equestrians alike.
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