Horses and Cyclists (Updated)

This is an updated version of a post issued a couple of months ago. Since then some research has been carried out on this topic.

Horses are a common sight on many of the country roads and trails in the Cycle Seahaven area. They are usually very well ridden, the riders are friendly and there’s rarely a problem. Here are a few tips which should allow you to pass safely.

  • Remember a horse is a “prey” animal, it will view anything moving behind it as a potential threat.
  • On bridleways, it is important that cyclists give way to horse riders (the Countryside Act 1968 gave cyclists the right to use bridleways but stated that they must give way to horse riders and walkers).
  • Let horses and riders know you’re there. A horse is unlikely to see or hear you, especially if you are approaching quietly from behind. Calling out ‘hello’ to equestrians is welcome and important in alerting horses and riders that you are there.
  • Never ring your bell when near a horse. If you do, then it could startle the horse.
  • When approaching a horse from the rear ask the horse rider if it’s OK to pass. Speak in a calm voice, never shout.
  • Don’t pass until they say so; sometimes they will tell you to wait.
  • Pass wide and on the right. Most horses are used to traffic passing them on the right so pass them as you would anyone else; don’t cut inside, and allow plenty of room in case the horse is surprised or startled.
  • Large groups of cyclists are very scary for horses. Passing in small groups of no more than four or five will really help. If you are in a large group, make your presence known so that equestrians can try to find somewhere safe.
  • Always pass a horse at a moderate, steady pace, i.e. 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.
  • When you pass a horse from the rear tell the rider how many cyclists are following you if you’re the first cyclist 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.
  • 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 for discharging any static).
  • If you come across a horse that looks unsettled, 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.
  • Above all, never do anything to startle or frighten a horse.

We hope these tips prove useful. If any horse riders are reading this then we’d very much welcome your comments, especially if you have further tips which would enhance the safe passing of horses by cyclists. Please leave a reply below.

Safe and happy cycling,

Clive Aberdour and Dave Sutton

(Touring Ride Leaders)

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Roger Lambert
Roger Lambert
22nd August 2018 7:18 am

Thanks for the update…really sound advice. I’ve spent years riding bicycles and even scarier motorbikes on country roads and ALWAYS given horses space and respect. I firmly believe that ALL users of this fabulous part of the country gain from this kind of approach to safety and shared use..!

Linda Pilkington - Peachey
Linda Pilkington - Peachey
21st August 2018 10:12 pm

Great article! Coincidentally this came up on my facebook feed today and it shows what can happen if you don’t adhere to these: