No matter how much time and schooling you put in to prepare your pony for the road, the first ride is a new experience for them. And ponies learn by doing – over and over and over. But even the most experienced “road pony” can have a bad day. All it takes is a dog barking and running at them at the end of a driveway, or an errant bug bite or sting to create an unfamiliar situation that might cause them to jump sideways. Even the smallest sideways move can result in a collision if others sharing the road don’t know what could happen.
According to the Highway Traffic Act, “Every person having the control or charge of a motor vehicle or motor assisted bicycle on a highway, when approaching a horse or other animal that is drawing a vehicle or being driven, led or ridden, shall operate, manage and control the motor vehicle or motor assisted bicycle so as to exercise every reasonable precaution to prevent the frightening of the horse or other animal and to ensure the safety and protection of any person driving, leading or riding upon the horse or other animal or being in any vehicle drawn by the horse or other animal. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 167.”
Motorists should always err on the side of caution when passing a horse and need to recognize that horses are unpredictable animals that have a mind of their own. With that in mind, slow down and give horses ample room when passing them, if it’s safe to do so. Drivers who rarely leave the city streets, or those who may venture out for a “nice Sunday drive in the country” can innocently put lives at risk by assuming the animal they see going in a straight line along the side of the road will absolutely and without a doubt continue to do just that (and not only the horse or pony’s life, but the rider’s life too)!
Riders, please do your best to make sure your mount is as road-safe as they can be by:
o ensuring your pony has received sufficient training and is ‘trail-safe’ before tackling riding on the road,
o ensuring your level of skill will keep you safe on the road,
o exposing your pony to all kinds of vehicles, including farm machinery, bicycles, motorcycles and ATV’s,
o riding with a road-safe companion horse(s) until your horse or pony is confident on the road,
o avoiding riding at dusk (or dawn) when driver visibility may be compromised,
o pulling well off the road (into a field or driveway) if your pony is not behaving or if you are at all concerned,until the traffic has passed.
Drivers, please do your best to:
o pull out into the oncoming lane (when safe to do so, of course!) and slowly pass (e.g. 20 km/hr) – the 30 extra seconds you spend could be life-saving,
o stop your vehicle in a safe location if a rider is having trouble controlling their horse and until the rider has resumed control,
o never honk your horn to “warn” a rider that you are approaching because it could frighten their horse,
o proceed very slowly and with caution if you are pulling a trailer of any kind, or driving a truck with loose things in the truck bed or are covered in a tarp, (for example) where ends may be flapping – please recognize this adds to the overall ‘risk’ of the situation,
o try to avoid speeding up quickly once you’ve passed, as this can shoot loose gravel back at the horse potentially causing a wreck of a different kind!
Riders everywhere appreciate your patience and your willingness to help keep our ponies safe!!