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DriveSmart BC – Sharing with Horses

Victoria – DriveSmart BC put out their plea in March for drivers to respect horses.

Don’t spook the horse.

With the May long weekend coming up, the Province has their two cents worth:

Horses and their riders are recognized road users in the Motor Vehicle Act. Drivers should be aware loud noises, like horns or passing vehicles, can startle horses and trigger unpredictable behaviour, causing risk to riders, animals and drivers.

People travelling on foot, bikes and horseback are also advised to use appropriate physical distancing when passing others, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Drivers should remember to allow extra room for all to share the roadway.

Drivers are encouraged to use the following tips when travelling near horses:

  • slow down long before getting too close;
  • pass at a slower speed and give the horse and rider a wide berth (typically a one-car width);
  • brake and accelerate gently to avoid making extra noise or spraying gravel;
  • turn off stereos and do not honk, yell or rev the engine;
  • if travelling by bicycle, scooter or motorcycle, ride quietly and approach single file; and
  • if a horse appears agitated, wait for the rider to get it under control before passing. Once past the horse and rider, accelerate gradually.

Horse riders should use caution when travelling on narrow roads or in times of low visibility, such as dusk or dawn. Riders are advised to wear reflective vests, as well as outfit horses with high-visibility leg bands when possible.

From DriveSmart BC – Our Motor Vehicle Act defines traffic as pedestrians, ridden or herded animals, vehicles, cycles and other conveyances, either singly or together, while using a highway to travel. That’s right, a horse being ridden on the highway is considered to be traffic. Animal drawn vehicles are a legitimate part of the mix too.

You might be surprised to find that the rider or driver of an animal drawn vehicle has the same rights and duties as the driver of any type of motor vehicle.

Like a cyclist, this means that the horse or horse drawn vehicle is entitled to use our roads in the same way as a driver does. However, they are not required to be as near as practical to the right side of the highway. Riders must also follow all of the other rules of the roadway such as signalling their intentions, obeying traffic controls and following the slow driving rules.

Animal drawn vehicles must display a slow moving vehicle sign at the rear when on a highway and both would have to display lights when on the highway after dark.

Drivers must behave as if the horse rider or horse drawn vehicle is another motor vehicle on the highway. It is especially important that drivers follow and pass with care.

Riders and drivers must exercise reasonable consideration for each other while they are using the highway.

Both the Minister of Transportation and the government of a municipality may make regulations or bylaws that control the riding of horses or the operation of horse drawn vehicles on or beside our highways. In fact, horses and horse drawn vehicles are prohibited on freeways and may only cross at intersections by permit from the Minister of Transportation.

What is unique is that a horse brings a mind of it’s own to this situation and does not always obey the rider’s instructions. They can be upset by passing motor vehicles as well as the actions of an inconsiderate driver and react unpredictably.

Drivers of vehicles should be aware that if in passing by a horse being ridden or driven and they indirectly cause an accident, which could include spooking the animal which then throws the rider off, they must stop, render assistance and provide their details to the rider.

Failing to do so could result in charges of failing to remain at an accident.

For more information on this sharing the road with horses, visit the Horse Council of BC web site.

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