With days getting shorter and increasingly darker it is a good idea to remember a few basics when it comes to hacking on the road to ensure safety for us and our horses.
Firstly make sure you’re being seen!
According to the British Horse Society (BHS) “Wearing hi-viz equipment when riding on the road can give vehicle drivers a valuable three seconds extra reaction time that could save the life of both horse and rider!” Wearing high visible garments also makes it much easier to be found if you should be unlucky enough to fall off your horse in a remote area.
It is advisory to wear a reflective vest all year round when hacking but it is definitely a must during the darker months of autumn and winter. There are plenty of options available even in different colours like pink, white, yellow or orange as high-viz garments are getting more fashionable and wearable all the time. Besides high-viz vests and coats you can get multi-purpose reflective bands and clip on lights to fix on your riding hat, wrists or legs.
When it comes to your horse it is a good idea to invest in some reflective Brushing Boots (like the Club Brushing Boot for example). These boots are made with 3M reflective straps that use retro reflection technology which occurs when light rays are returned in the direction of the original light source such as a car’s headlights. Reflective straps can also be attached to martingale, reins and bridle. Additionally you can get high-viz exercise sheets which are very effective and further enhance your visibility in dark conditions.
Secondly follow the Rules of the Road
You can enhance your safety with your own behaviour as well by following the basic rules of the road. You are a participant in traffic just like cars and bikes and have to behave responsibly:
- Stay on the left near the side of the road
- When in a group, ride behind each other
- Indicate with your arm stretched out horizontally when turning left or right and always look around before you turn
- Holding out the right arm and slowly waving it up and down indicates to an approaching driver to slow down
- Indicate drivers to slow down or stop by raising you arm with the palm towards the car and make sure you thank them! Bear in mind that many drivers still do not know how to react when passing a horse, so your appreciation will help them.
- Always keep in mind that your behaviour reflects back on all horse riders and will shape their public image. Help building a good relationship with other users of the road (e.g. car drivers, cyclists, etc) is important for our all safety.
Last but not least: Safety
Always wear a riding hat that meets the safety standard. Wearing a body protector (for example the Contour Body Protector) is also advisory.
If your horse needs protection against brushing injuries or tends to knock its own feet or overreach, you can use the same boots you would use for schooling. Suitable are brushing boots, fetlock boots and overreach boots, depending on what protection he needs. Specifically for hacking Knee Boots are excellent because they will protect the horse’s delicate knee joint against injuries if he should slip or go down on the road. More information about which boot to use for hacking can be found in the Woof Wear Academy.
The BHS has also compiled very useful advice on riding on and off-road, on fields, and bridleways on the HorseAccidents website.