The Highway Code For Horse Riders

The Highway Code For Horse Riders

The highway code is just for drivers, right? Wrong! Just like other road users, the highway code applies to us horse riders as well! Knowing the highway code before you head out on the roads is essential. To brush up on the guidance from the Department for Transport, you can head over to the website or keep reading for a quick overview of rules 49 to 55, specific to horse riders and leaders. Here we'll also cover the latest guidance, soon to be added to the highway code...

Changes Could Be Coming...

In a big move towards making the roads safer for horses and riders, as of 29th January 2022 the following guidance will be applicable:

  • If you are an inexperienced horse rider or have not ridden for a while, you should consider taking the Ride Safe Award from the British Horse Society to provide a foundation of knowledge.
  • Road users should pass horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles at speeds under 10 mph.
  • When passing horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles road users should allow at least 2 metres of space.
  • Motorists should be patient and not sound their horn or rev their engine.
  • Road users should not pass a horse on their left as horses can be startled if passed without warning.
  • Road users should always be prepared to slow down and stop when necessary.
  • Feral or semi-feral ponies found in areas such as the New Forest, Exmoor and Dartmoor require the same consideration as ridden horses when approaching or passing.
  • Horse riders are often children, so take extra care and remember riders may ride in double file when escorting a young or inexperienced horse or rider.
  • Look out for horse riders’ signals and heed a request to slow down or stop. Take great care and treat all horses as a potential hazard.

Current Guidance

The Highway Code For Horse Riders - Safety Equipment

Rule 49 – Safety Equipment

No matter where we’re riding, safety should always come first, but never more so than when we’re out on the roads. While we’re hacking there are many potential hazards, from motorbikes and cars to scary roadworks and bins. The law states that all riders aged 14 or under must wear a riding hat, unless they are a follower of the Sikh religion and are wearing a turban. It is recommended that all other riders should also wear an appropriate riding hat too. Riding hats should be well fitted, correctly fastened and in compliance with current standards. If you're ready for a new hat, be sure to book your free in-store hat fitting.

The Highway Code For Horse Riders - What To Wear

Rule 50 – What To Wear

What we wear isn’t all about looking nice and being prepared for the weather. While it’s a good start, it’s even more important that our clothing is appropriate for what we’re doing. The rules in the highway code state that you should be wearing boots or shoes with hard soles and heels. It’s best to choose riding boots or country boots with a stirrup safe sole. Next up is your clothing, help yourself to be seen by opting for light-coloured or fluorescent items for riding in daylight and reflective wear if you have to ride at night.

The Highway Code For Horse Riders - Rider

Rule 51 – Riding At Night

As we all know, it is safer not to ride at night or when visibility is poor but sometimes this simply isn’t possible. When riding at night is your only option, it’s really important to use the appropriate amount of hi-vis and reflective wear, not just for you but your horse too. Here’s what’s recommended:


  • Reflective jacket
  • Hat band.
  • A white front and red rear light (this can be fitted to your hat, arm or riding boot).
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  • Reflective leg bands.
  • Fluorescent/reflective tail guard
  • Hi-vis exercise sheet.

Remember, the more visible you are, the longer other road users have to get prepared for meeting you safely. With this in mind, you may also wish to use a reflective bridle set, fly veil, riding gloves, arm bands and riding hat cover.

The Highway Code For Horse Riders - Saddlery

Rule 52 – Saddlery

It goes without saying, you must have control of your horse out on the roads. As riders, we know that some horses are naturally spookier than others. If your horse can be flighty or nervous, try to ride out with friends if this will help. While it can be tempting to hop on board bareback or in a headcollar, it is stated that you should never ride on the roads without both a saddle and bridle. These should be well fitting and in good condition.

The Highway Code For Horse Riders

Rule 53 – Conduct

So, you’ve mastered the rules of the school, but what about the rules of the road? Here’s what you need to know…

  • Before riding off or turning, look behind you to make sure it is safe, then give a clear arm signal (This is why it’s a good idea to wear reflective arm bands or gloves at night).
  • Keep to the left.
  • Ride with both hands on the reins unless you are signalling.
  • Keep both feet in the stirrups at all times (ensure your stirrups are the right length before setting off to avoid stiff ankles).
  • Don’t carry anything which might affect your balance or get tangled up with the reins.
  • If leading, keep your horse to your left.
  • Move in the direction of the traffic flow in a one-way street.
  • Never ride more than two abreast.
  • Ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding around bends.

Rule 54

To keep yourself, pedestrians and cyclists safe, never take a horse onto a footpath, pavement or cycle track. While it isn’t always possible, use bridleways where you can. In some cases equestrian crossings may be provided for horse riders to cross roads, these should be utilised where available. It’s not just cyclists that may be asked to dismount, at level crossings where a ‘horse rider dismount’ sign is displayed, always do as instructed.

Rule 55

Wherever possible, try to plan your hacks to avoid roundabouts. These can be dangerous for horses and riders. If using a roundabout is unavoidable, here’s how to do it as safely as possible:

  • Keep to the left and watch out for vehicles crossing your path to leave or join the roundabout.
  • Signal right when riding across exits to show you are not leaving.
  • Signal left just before you leave the roundabout.
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