Horses are a common sight on many of the country roads where we cycle, especially in the Arlington, Ripe, Chalvington and Chiddingly areas. They are usually very well ridden, the riders are friendly and there’s rarely a problem. However, I’m aware that some cyclists are unsure what to do when they encounter horses so, as an experienced ride leader for road cyclists, I thought it might be helpful to suggest a few tips. So here goes:
- Never ring your bell when near a horse. If you do then it could startle the horse and you’re likely to be rebuked by the horse rider.
- Always talk to the horse rider in a calm voice, never shout.
- Always pass a horse at a moderate, steady pace, ie not too fast. You’ll probably need to slow down but there’s no need to stop unless the horse looks agitated in which case the rider may tell you what to do.
- Always give horses a wide berth when passing and only pass when it’s clearly safe to do so.
- When approaching a horse from the rear ask the horse rider if it’s OK to pass. Don’t pass until they say so; sometimes they will tell you to wait.
- When you pass a horse from the rear tell the rider how many cyclists are following you if you’re the first rider to overtake.
- When approaching a horse from the front switch off a flashing front light if you’re using one.
- Talk to the rider as you pass to demonstrate to the horse that you’re friendly. The weather is usually a good subject; riders usually appreciate this.
- Never cross a level crossing if a horse is already on the crossing or about to cross it. (Horses can get a shock if they touch a rail which could be nasty if a horse bolted. (That’s why some level crossings have posts for the horse rider to touch to discharge any static).
- Above all, never do anything to startle or frighten a horse.
Please regard these tips as just suggestions rather than golden rules. They work for me and are based on my many years (decades, in fact) of cycling along country roads and passing horses as well as advice from horse riders.
Just occasionally, I come across a horse that looks unsettled in which case I always keep a good distance from it and wait. Usually, the horse rider will signal to pass when they have the horse under control or will pull the horse off the road and into a field.
I hope this is helpful advice. However, I’m always willing to learn so I’d very much welcome comments from any horse riders reading this.