The summer season is in full swing, which means families everywhere will be packing up their belongings and heading out of the city to the backwoods to relax and enjoy the quiet. But before you veer off the highway and onto those rural back roads, there are somethings that all travelers need to know. As a horse owner and rider I have seen it far too many times- motorists endangering the lives of themselves, horses and riders. Each time I go out and ride on the road very few cars slow down, and instead often speed by with children waving and staring out the window in wonder of the animal that most only get to read about in books..
In simple terms, most state laws require that motorists pass wide and slow when approaching a horse to avoid frightening it. The law does not specifically state a speed limit while passing a horse, but 15 MPH or under is the unwritten rule.
An average horse weighs about as much as an adult moose. If a moose was walking down the side of the road how fast would you go around it? Chances are, you, and most other people would pass very slowly because the actions of the moose are unpredictable. But the truth is, the actions of a horse, even with rider, are just as unpredictable- and the outcome of an accident would be just as catastrophic.
Another thing that drivers should be conscious of is that horses are flight animals. That means when faced with a threat, a horse will run rather than fight. While most domestic horses will generally walk alongside the road without any problems, millions of years of instincts cannot be overridden. On top of the instinct to run from danger, horses have a keen sense of eyesight and hearing. That means things that people traveling in cars cannot hear or see- something as simple as a barking dog, sprinkler or lawn mower- may cause a horse to spook. A horse reacts to a percieved threat in a milisecond...far faster than someone traveling 40 MPH can react to stop.
Just as driving courses teach the severe consequences of not wearing a seatbelt, they must begin to teach the severe consequences of improperly approaching a horse on the road. Until that day comes, I ask you to brake for horses as you would brake for moose- and please tell everyone you know.