Book A Cycling Tour
Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Google Plus Share on LinkedIn Share on Email
Horse and Velo: how to ride safely around horses

Cycling Blog

Horse and Velo: how to ride safely around horses

Tweet This
Share This
Horse and velo

December 22nd, 2015

As cyclists we spend a lot of time involved with (or at least exposed to) efforts to get drivers to be more considerate to people on bicycles; it’s good to educate ourselves so we can return this courtesy to other road users. After all we all enjoy riding the same roads!

To this end, the British Horse Society have published a pamphlet advising cyclists on how to safely interact with horses on the road. You can find it here (clicking will download a PDF file) or read our summary below.

Understanding the horse


Some people know that horses (like humans!) have a blind spot and that they can get spooked if an object appears quickly in their vision without them expecting it. What people may not realise is just how restricted a horse’s vision is:

Horse's blind spot

Visual of a horse’s blind spot – linked to source

In urban environments horses may be wearing blinkers to restrict their gaze further and reduce the risk of them becoming spooked, but in country settings their eyes are often uncovered. This means you should take extra care when cycling past them.


Horses have a very powerful kick: estimates put it at a similar force to a small car travelling at 20mph. As well as being able to wreck your bicycle, they can quite easily injure you to a degree that will require a hospital visit. Best to be clued up on how to avoid this!

Riding safely and considerately

The pamphlet gives 4 key points on how cyclists can help:

Take personal responsibility for our own actions

Shout ‘hello’ (or some similar polite greeting) when approaching from behind and ask if it’s safe to pass. This isn’t just courtesy: make sure you wait for a ‘yes’ before passing!

Express gratitude when passing, but don’t be offended if they don’t reply: they may be focussing on not falling off!

Understand that horse riders only have access to 22% of the off-road public rights network and often need to go on road. Don’t get angry at them for riding on the road, in the same way that we don’t like it when motorists tell us off for riding on road.

Perhaps most importantly, recognise the emotional attachment between the horse rider and their friend and fellow creature (in the same way you’d like them to recognise yours with your expensive and sentimental bike).

Cycle safely and observe strict etiquette

Make sure you are visible so horse riders can position themselves accordingly and in time: use lights and wear hi-vis in low light conditions, and make visual signals to riders if they can see you.

Pass slowly, especially when riding in a group. Resist the urge to fly past as you may startle the horse

Pass on the right. If they are riding two abreast (which is allowed!) give them the opportunity to get into single file before passing

Take your litter home

Horses can be startled by sparkly objects such as wrappers or hi-vis: don’t leave anything behind!

(You should do this anyway, regardless of whether you’re thinking about horses!!!)

Take into account horses when organising or riding a large event

If possible, break into smaller groups of 4 or 5. If not possible, give the rider time to stop if they want to.

From HRSA: if involved in organising an event, put signs out a couple of days beforehand to give horse riders the chance to find another route

Other resources:

  • An information page for cyclists from Horses & Road Safety Awareness
  • A quick reminder from Reddit about road behaviour: everyone yields to equestrians, cyclists to pedestrians, and downhill cyclists to uphill cyclists.
  • A great advert from Cycling Scotland, aimed at drivers, reminding them to treat cyclists and horse riders with equal respect

2 Responses to “Horse and Velo: how to ride safely around horses”

  1. Alison Harris Says:

    Thank you very much for putting the BHS PDF on your website and for your excellent and amusing summary ! We horse riders , past and present , appreciate your concern .

    Alison H Chair North West Yorks committee of BHS , which started a campaign here to coincide with the Grand Depart in 2014 .

  2. Vincenzo Iaciofano vinnychoff Says:

    Great to see tips with other users of the road. I normally chat to the horse riders and found out that the silence of bikes can also spook the bikes. Mine has a noisy cog so is heard some way. Also chatting and saying hello is a nice way to break the silence.

Leave a Reply

Sign Up For Updates

* indicates required