Horse riders saddle up for safety push

Friday 4th May 2018 6:00 am
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Ben Vincent riding through the village with friend Lara Cross ()

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A GROUP of equestrians will converge on the village of Binsted, near Alton, to raise awareness of how to pass horses safely on the road.

The pass wide and slow ride takes place on Sunday, May 20.

Organiser Sue Vincent, who lives in Binsted, said: “Although many drivers are safe and courteous when passing there are many who still don’t understand the need to be slow and wide when passing horses and ponies.”

It is a nationwide problem and the subject of an online petition, urging the government to make it law to pass by a horse wide and slow, and abide by riders’ hand signals.

Launched by Cornish rider Debbie Smith in 2015, the petition has more than 138,000 signatures and is aiming for 150,000 before it is delivered to the House of Lords.

Debbie said: “Horses are easily scared by cars that don’t take care when passing them. When they get scared they can spook or rear, throwing riders off. This can lead to someone falling through a windscreen. Until there is a law neither the driver, the riders nor the horses are safe.

“The roads are becoming busier and faster and there is heavier traffic on rural roads, tractors are getting bigger all the time. The roads are getting more and more dangerous.”

Statistics show that more than 4,000 horse riders and carriage drivers were admitted to hospital between April 1, 2011, and March 31, 2012, from injury in a transport accident.

As a result, Debbie launched her campaign in a bid to make passing wide and slow a legal requirement.

Her message is simple – she is asking drivers to slow down to no more than 15mph and to give horses a two-metre wide berth.

Supporting the petition, a growing network of campaign rides are held across the country on an annual basis, and this year Mrs Vincent has decided to join in.

Having taken up riding just two years ago to accompany her 11-year-old son, Ben, on hacks, Mrs Vincent is sure a lot of the problem is that drivers do not know how best to pass horses on the road and, while many are sensible, some feel the best way is to get past as quickly as possible.

But, she says, they perhaps don’t understand that “if an empty crisp packet (or similar) were to blow up in front of the horse’s feet he may suddenly spook and go into the car.”

If the driver is travelling slowly and giving the animal a wide berth, it will, she says, give both the rider and the driver more time to react, to prevent an accident.

On May 20, Mrs Vincent is aiming for a peaceful, good humoured and well-controlled ride. The intention is definitely not, she says, to be confrontational but to work with drivers to get the ‘pass wide and slow’ message across.

The riders will meet in The Cedars car park in Binsted at 10.30am and will be riding to The Bluebell in Dockenfield and back, passing through Isington, Blacknest, Bucks Horn Oak, and Frith End.

To join the ride, e-mail Sue Vincent at [email protected] or call 07799 881367.

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