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How to Safely Pass Horses on the Road

While driving in some regions, it’s not uncommon to encounter people riding horses on roads. In this article, you’ll learn some basic etiquette for passing horses and riders on roads with your car.

These rules for passing a horseback rider on a shared road aren’t just polite- they can be essential for the safety of everyone on the road. Passing a horse carelessly in a speeding or disruptive car could risk scaring the horse, which could cause significant injury to you, the horse, and the rider.

A car passes a horseback rider at sunset.

1. Slow Down

As soon as you see that you’re coming up to a horse and rider, the first thing you’ll do is slow down. The horse will be moving much slower than you, and it’s best to slow down gradually to avoid having to slam on the breaks.

2. Check for Oncoming Vehicles

As you’re preparing to pass the horse, make sure you check for oncoming vehicles just like you would when passing a car. Keep in mind that when you go around the horse, you’ll pass them much slower than you would a car or motorcycle, so you’ll need more time to do so. If another vehicle is coming down the road in the distance, it may be better to wait until they’ve gone by and you have an open road before attempting to pass the horse. 

3. Pass the horse

Once you’re sure the coast is clear, it’s time to pass the horse. Gradually speed up and pass them as smoothly as possible. If you rev your engine as you pass them or make sudden movements, you risk scaring the horse and causing unpredictable movement- like it leaping in front of your car or motorcycle.

When passing a horse on the road, make sure that you give the horse plenty of space. Completely passing into the opposite lane is the best way to avoid scaring the horse.

Things to Avoid

When you’re passing a horse, there are a couple of things you’ll want to avoid to avoid spooking the horse; these include:

  • Making sudden movements
  • Using the car horn
  • Revving your engine
  • Cutting too close to the horse
  • Speaking or shouting at the rider

Horses are prey animals, and they can become easily startled if they are around loud noise or sudden movements. If they are frightened, they can become unpredictable, which puts you and the rider in a dangerous situation.

If you’re driving a car or motorcycle with a particularly loud engine, you may want to lay off the gas completely and instead coast around them. This will prevent any loud noises that could startle the horse. 

What To Do if You Spook the Horse

If you accidentally spook the horse, the first thing you’ll want to do is slow down. A frightened horse is 2,000 pounds of unpredictability with a human being on top!

Instead, give the horse plenty of space. If the horse has a strong reaction, try to stay away from them until they calm down again.

For the most part, you should not stop and try to help the rider. If they’re skilled enough to be riding on the road instead of a confined riding arena, they should know what to do in the case of an emergency, and even if they don’t, a stranger coming up to an already terrified horse won’t help the situation. However, if you notice the rider seems to really be struggling with their horse and you’re concerned about their safety, then you can pull off the road some distance away and watch until the horse fully settles before moving on. 

If the rider has been thrown from the horse, then that is the time to intervene. Chances are the horse will take off, but if it hasn’t, then you can do your best to catch the horse and make sure it stays clear of the road and the fallen rider. If the horse is calm enough, you can also try and tie it to a tree so they can’t wander off while you attend to the rider.

If the rider is unresponsive or seriously injured, you should call paramedics immediately to come and assess them. If they are wearing an ID, you can also attempt to contact their family. As long as they’re breathing and in a safe area, you should simply wait with them until the paramedics arrive. Trying to move a fallen rider could cause further injury. 

Key Takeaways: How to Pass a Horse

The most important thing to remember in this situation is to be cautious. It’s always better to be too careful than to think it’s fine and cause an accident. Just like when you’re passing a car, you’ll want to be cautious of oncoming traffic and make sure that you’re getting around the horse and back into the correct lane as quickly as possible.

To prevent the horse from spooking, you should do your best to keep things quiet, don’t rev your engine, and never use your horn. It won’t provide any benefit to the situation. Refrain from sudden movements and stay as far to the other side of the road as you can when passing.

Unless the rider is obviously injured, it’s best to leave them alone, don’t try to approach them to assist. If they are seriously injured, try and move the horse away from the rider, then call the paramedics and stay with them until they arrive.

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