Frightening horses

Commuting, Day rides, Audax, Incidents, etc.

Frightening horses

Postby 661-Pete » 18 Oct 2004, 9:22am

Good old ‘rural’ moan this – mild diversion from the more common urban aggro! Yet never a countryside spin goes by without meeting at least one group of horse riders (there are a lot of stables in our area). I must stress that 99% of the time there is no problem whatever. But yesterday I had a very scary moment on a narrow road when the horse took sudden and unprovoked fright at my approach (I was going towards it in the opposite direction). Thankfully the rider very skilfully brought her mount under control, apologised profusely, and explained that it was a young horse with a known history of twitchiness with motorcycles (I was obviously mistaken for one). There were cars about too but the horse didn’t seem bothered with them.

This sort of thing has happened to me before - but usually when I bring up the topic I just get a denial – I swear I’m not doing anything to aggravate horses, just riding slowly and quietly towards them; also I don’t have noisy brakes. Questions: do other cyclists experience this sort of thing? Are there things to watch out for? Is there, or should there be some sort of control over what horses are allowed on a public road? Should the riding stables be doing more to familiarise their horses with cyclists at an early age, e.g. by getting the stable hands to cycle around the yard or something?

Comments from anyone, especially anyone with equestrian experience (I don't have any)?

Pedalling Pete

Re:Frightening horses

Postby Pedalling Pete » 18 Oct 2004, 10:32am

Can't comment as equestrian, but a red ribbon tied to horses tail is a recognised warning among the fraternity to keep clear of the rear hooves! On the road, reflective jackets tend to be adopted to warn the uninitiated of inexperienced riders, and perhaps their mounts. I have heard suggestions that the spokes can cause a whirring sound outside our hearing range, but may be old wives tale. Approaching from behind a horse I always give a "Behind You" shout which is usually acknowledged by thanks. I agree that having a cyclist in the yard would make good sense in the training process. But then they are all different. It may be that the less manageable mounts go for a lower price, so their riders are aware of the risks they are taking. NB: a year or so back there was an incident involving a horse and a tandem which resuted in the death of a cyclist. Just take nothing for granted, especially if requested to stop by the rider - better to be safe than sorry.


Re:Frightening horses

Postby troywinters » 1 Dec 2004, 2:49pm

I believe it's precisely because you are so quiet that you startle it suddenly appearing at it's side, like having a predator creep up behind it, I try to make some sort of noise well before reaching the horse(s) which also alerts the riders.


Re:Frightening horses

Postby troywinters » 1 Dec 2004, 2:52pm

thats when from behind, as to coming towards could simply be a lot of poorly trained horses.


Re:Frightening horses

Postby CJ » 1 Dec 2004, 3:56pm

It would be a good idea to train horses by having people they know cycle about the yard etc. It's because bicycles are now so rare that we frighten some horses.

They are creatures of habit, naturally scared of the unfamiliar. My dad breeds shires and when he takes a young one that's lived in a field all it's life, out on a halter for it's first walk on a hard road, it'll sometimes even be shy of stepping in a puddle, having never trod in standing water before and not being able to see the bottom!


Re:Frightening horses

Postby TATANAB » 1 Dec 2004, 5:04pm

I have had exactly the same experience. Again the rider was profusely apologetic, and asked me to speak to her as I passed in a very narrow lane so that the horse identified me as a person not a wierd and colourful unidentified creature. Approaching horses from the front, I think the onus is on the horse rider to reassure a nervy mount before I get there. From behind, I whistle because I want the horse to know I am there, I am not usually bothered too much about the rider. I take the same approach with loose dogs and cats. I whistle to them to announce my arrival and so not startle them. No, I do not think a bell is a good idea, I think the sound needs to be a natural one - voice or whistle.

By the way, as a cyclist I usually have a fair idea of what is happening behind, and on a windy day I look behind at regular intervals because I cannot hear so clearly due to the wind. A horse rider explained the obvious, that they cannot hear because of the clip clop, but failed to explain why they could not look behind.


Re:Frightening horses

Postby Madra » 3 Dec 2004, 8:03pm

Having spent many years riding thoroughbreds I can tell you that there's very little you can do (as a cyclist) to reassure a horse that is, by nature, very skittish (nervous) In fact, one of the reasons I cycle now is that I have suffered many injuries by falling from my mount and often when my horse has been 'spooked' Most horses have excellent vision but they have a small blind-spot behind them which often causes problems when something approaches from the rear. When approaching from behind. I try to counter this by taking a wide berth as early as I can, thus giving a horse and rider an early warning. However, quite honestly, there is very little that can be done to pacify a harse who is naturally very nervous. Desensitisation techniques are also usually very uncuccessful.


Re:Frightening horses

Postby Madra » 3 Dec 2004, 8:08pm

Sorry about the typing errors......I'm already on my third glass of wine!


Re:Frightening horses

Postby fionaB » 19 Dec 2004, 9:48pm

At least you got an apology from the rider - on my last encounter with a horse coming in the opposite direction along a long straight road (uphill for me), after the horse started to prance sideways to the consternation of the car driver following it, all I got from the rider as I pulled off the road until she regained control, was that it was my fault for wearing 'that bl00dy stupid yellow helmet'. Not the sort of rider to endear herself to the prole-y masses!

Phil Dyson

Re:Frightening horses

Postby Phil Dyson » 21 Dec 2004, 1:33pm

In my experience, the horse generally knows a cyclist is behind it far sooner than the rider does - watch the ears twitch. A gentle call from some distance behind, and a wide berth, talking as you go past generally does it.

If a horse is twitchy even when it sees you approach from the front there's nothing much you can do except stop and let the horse go past you.


Re:Frightening horses

Postby Elucasr » 27 Dec 2004, 9:44am

I have never yet had a serious problem with a horse (I drove a horse and cart on the road when I was 7 years old, 8 miles return jouney to the station). I always ring my bell (moderately) when about 100yds from the horse, if it is windy and the rider has obviously not heard, I ring it again at about 50yds. I also slow down if necessary.

I normally get a "Thankyou" from the rider (except in the Cambridge area, why?). When I meet a horse rider I always greet them and usually am greeted back (except in the Cambridge area).

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Re: Frightening horses

Postby BevGreen » 15 Jun 2016, 1:50pm

I have joined this forum specifically to talk about horses and cyclists.
I never used to have a problem with cyclists (cycling was something I loved as a kid and still do, but I don't have the time to do it except on holiday).
Now I have a problem..... my horse is large (weighs 700kg) well trained and frightened of cyclists ..........why? .........because a cyclist hit him at speed and sped off after muttering something under his breath, with not so much of a sorry.......I wasn't doing anything just enjoying an afternoon hack on a quiet country lane. My horse up until that moment had no problem with he does.

I've spent hours with friends on bikes getting him used to bikes again. He was doing well until another cyclist nearly took him out on a blind bend going far too fast. The cyclist nearly killed himself braking very hard skidding all over the lane trying to stop. If I'd been a car travelling at the same speed there would have been a head on collision and the cyclist would probably be dead.

This horse means a lot to me and he's been ruined by inconsiderate and downright dangerous cyclists I'm back to square one trying to convince him that cyclists are nothing to worry about.

Contrary to a lot of misconceptions most horse riders are not rich. Most spend all of their income and time on looking after their mounts. They enjoy their horses as much as cyclists enjoy their sport.

I want to co exist quietly with other road users.
For those cyclists that are considerate, I really appreciate your kindness in letting me know of your presence when approaching from behind (it is hard to keep looking over your shoulder every few second just in case a cyclist is approaching). And to those that take heed at my requests to slow down and sometimes to stop (although I try not to ask them to do this), thank you, again it is very much appreciated. I always say thank you and wave if possible but sometimes my hands are full you may have passed me before you hear my thanks.
I don't want to have to stop riding (would you?), and yes I'd much prefer to ride off road, but generally you have to ride on road, to get off. I'm sure as a cyclist you would be upset if you couldn't go out because of the behaviour of other road users.
And to the cyclist at Cop Hill who swears at me and refuses to slow down or stop ......put yourself in my shoes it is your type of behaviour that has made my horse the way he is.

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Re: Frightening horses

Postby pwa » 15 Jun 2016, 2:07pm

Bev, I support you 100%. I meet a lot of horse riders when I'm cycling on the lanes around here and we are on very good terms. I add to your call for cyclists to expect a horse to be around the next corner and ride accordingly. We all have a right to be there and we should take care of each other. I hope you get your horse back to how he was.

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Re: Frightening horses

Postby Audax67 » 15 Jun 2016, 2:12pm

In Germany once I pulled well over to my side of the towpath to give a horse & rider a wide berth. I was so intent on the horse that I went into a tooth-rattling pothole and nearly fell off. The young "lady" aboard the beast nearly laughed her leg off.
Have we got time for another cuppa?

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Re: Frightening horses

Postby iviehoff » 15 Jun 2016, 2:40pm

Given that there is a risk of a horse doing something erratic, despite the best intentions of the rider, the wise cyclist minimises the risk of it. To avoid spooking them, it is wise to make them aware of you early. It is therefore a good idea to make a noise when you are approaching either from the front or the rear. Quietly is counterproductive, as mentioned previously, though also sudden loud noises are also counterproductive.

Horses, being prey animals, have eyes pointing approximately sideways to maximise their ability to spot predators. This means that they don't have very good 3-d vision for judging distances, and also straight in front is not the best region of their vision.