Frightening horses

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Re: Frightening horses

Postby TrevA » 15 Jun 2016, 2:45pm

My wife is a horse rider and a newbie cyclist and it's made me much more aware of horses and to be extra cautious when near them. When approaching from behind we always slow down significantly, call out to make the rider and horse aware of our presence - something like "cyclists behind you". We then proceed to pass the horse wide and slow, riding in the right hand gutter if the horse is on the left. We will be prepared to stop if necessary if the horse become agitated.

Unfortunately, not all cyclists are as considerate. I'm not sure if Strava has a bearing here? Cyclist not prepared to slow down as in the middle of a segment? Or perhaps just not aware of the care needed around horses. Many motorists are just as bad, driving right up behind a horse, revving their engine, hooting their horn and generally not giving enough time or room.

Horses are unpredictable animals and can become scared by the daftest things - a flapping jacket, a plastic bag on the verge or even a flower that wasn't there yesterday.
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Re: Frightening horses

Postby Mick F » 15 Jun 2016, 3:34pm

TrevA wrote:Horses are unpredictable animals and can become scared by the daftest things ................
Devil's Advocate here.
Don't shoot me for this. Just thinking off the wall. It's not a personal opinion.

If horses were invented today, they wouldn't be allowed out on public roads due to their unpredictability and dangerous-ness. Huge dangerous animals.
You'd need a licence to take them out onto the road, and pay large sums in insurance.

The thing is, horses pre-date motorised transport, and even the bicycle. As such, they have as much right to use the highway as a pedestrian.
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Re: Frightening horses

Postby BakfietsUK » 15 Jun 2016, 3:59pm

Very interesting insights BevGreen, although you don't mention cars so much, guess the context being cyclists and horses accounts for that. I was told by a very nice lady on a horse that they (horses) can be reassured by a human voice. I am pleased you get pleasure from your riding, but I am saddened that you sound anxious about cyclists. Doubtless you're aware that both Equestrianists' and cyclists' are classed as vulnerable road users.

Sometimes I wish I had the presence that weighing 700kg has, especially when encountering cars with maleficent drivers. I Know horse riders have issues with motorists and if you read some of the other posts on this forum you may gain an insight into cyclists experience too. I think motorists tend to respect horses more than cyclists, not least because they weigh 700kg and could theoretically wright off their "precious" cars. A cyclist is vulnerable to a different and possibly more harmful dimension of bad behaviour than horse riders, in my opinion. However, I would be interested to hear if horses and riders suffer similar bullying by drivers of motorised vehicles. Could the presence of a horse be a moderator of Driver road rage. What's your experience BevGreen? Would you feel safer on a horse or on a bike in a confrontational scenario?

Horses have been on roads hundreds of years longer than cars and bikes and I respect them for that. I also respect the feelings of horse and rider and would in no way wish to intentionally harm either, whether through injury or anxiety. I like horses probably better than cats and dogs and I really respect people who can put in the hours of mucking out needed in order to work with such dignified and stately animals. If I had to spend 4 hours cleaning my bike every time I went out, I don't think I could go through with it.

I Guess your horse has acute awareness about cyclists so has learned to be wary of them. Perhaps most horses don't draw a distinction as I would between one risk form and another, if something concerns them, they work with that. I wonder how the rider's relationship with the horse can affect how easy it would be to reassure him or her in a moment of panic. I sense a relationship with a high level of trust would be needed and perhaps a horse experiencing a traumatic episode would possibly need to build up trust in their rider again. The horse would, I imagine take a while to start to trust it's surroundings. Also, given how empathic horses can be I would imagine they could pick up on any anxiety felt by the rider.

Maybe even the most trustworthy, kind and considerate cyclist may not be able to do anything about a spooked horse which has been taken on the road having had traumatic experiences in the past. I leave it to the judgement of any horse rider whether it is wise to do so and that they have the necessary skills to manage the situation. I do wonder how the horse feels about re experiencing traumatic surroundings and situations.

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Re: Frightening horses

Postby BakfietsUK » 15 Jun 2016, 4:02pm

MickF, a horse and cart is not a pedestrian in any way shape or form. You cant put the cart before the horse, so the horse is a vehicle too.

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Re: Frightening horses

Postby pwa » 15 Jun 2016, 4:43pm

I tend to exchange a few friendly words with horse riders as we pass, and it never seems to bother the horse. So I think a human voice may reassure the horse to some extent. You just keep relaxed, keep your eye on the horse and be ready to stop or even turn around if the horse seems uneasy.

Some cyclists know the countryside well, and know how to behave around horses and livestock. But perhaps some don't. I've always lived within a mile of open fields, and I've known about cattle, sheep, horses and so on since I was a child. For me a lane with no horse poo or cow muck on it is a lane with something missing! But maybe there are some cyclists out there who are less aware of horses. I won't call them "townies" because lots of townies love the countryside and know a lot about it.

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Re: Frightening horses

Postby Audax67 » 15 Jun 2016, 5:06pm

Slightly OT: at one point on our 2012 diagonale we were riding up a long false flat on a cycle path. On the far side there was a great pyramid of horse-manure, and further up the path two nippers were approaching quite quickly on mountain bikes. We went into single file to afford them space to go round the pile, but not a bit of it: cackling with glee, they lifted their feet off the pedals and rode straight through it. Didier and I laughed so much we might have ridden off the path for all the control we had.
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Re: Frightening horses

Postby gaz » 15 Jun 2016, 5:09pm

A month or so ago I was approaching an oncoming horse on a narrow lane. There was a cyclist riding alongside the horse, the two lady riders were clearly together and in friendly conversation. I assumed the horse would not have a problem with cyclists.

Suddenly the horse became unsettled. The speed of all concerned was low, stopping with plenty of space to spare was not a problem and the horse rider quickly regained control.

The issue? Apparently the horse didn't like men. Something else for me to bear in mind next time.
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Re: Frightening horses

Postby kylecycler » 15 Jun 2016, 5:28pm

TrevA wrote:Unfortunately, not all cyclists are as considerate. I'm not sure if Strava has a bearing here? Cyclist not prepared to slow down as in the middle of a segment?

Gawd, you hope not, but I wouldn't be surprised. :( Not the types who tend to post on this forum, though.

I think the trick is to make sure the horse hears you before it sees you - that way it identifies you as human and not anything else. I left it too late to shout out behind a horse a while ago and it spooked. The rider was on a long rein and it took her a while to get the horse back under control. I asked her what I could have done different but she said there was nothing - just one of these things - although in future I'll make myself heard sooner.

There's a poor lass in the States I read about who collided head-on with a cyclist in similar circumstances to Bev and her horse, except she was on her bike. Broke her collar bone. Then, unbelievably, the very first time she got back on the bike after she recovered, she was struck from behind by a pick-up truck - the driver was on the phone, most likely - which broke her back. She's still recovering; she posted X-rays on her blog and her back is full of metal plates and screws, although she's cycling again now. So it can happen to us too.

Trying to think of therapy for Bev's horse - maybe if she introduces a bicycle into its environment - in the yard, then eventually, over time, in its stable, then ultimately if she rides it herself around the horse, then gets others to ride it... That's what I'd try anyway. After that she just has to hope.

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Re: Frightening horses

Postby Bensons » 15 Jun 2016, 5:55pm

Just calling out 'hello' is my preferred option, more than once if necessary. Slowing down a bit is just common sense. I have had horses all my life, still have two retired ones.

When one of my old horses was four years old two youths on bikes came out of a forest track onto the main road and thought it would be fun to do a wheelie in her face .... we ended up in the ditch. Surprisingly she didn't like bikes for a good while.

After I met my husband we would go out riding for a good part of the day (involved pubs and cake shops even then) me on my horse, him on his bike and she came to view him on his bike as a comforting presence/never had a problem with bikes since.

Horses hear human voices all the time and would be much less likely to be startled by a cheery 'hello' than a few rings of a bell.

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Re: Frightening horses

Postby DavidT » 15 Jun 2016, 6:56pm

99% of horses (and riders) in my area - of which there are plenty are fine.

I was once told by a horse rider, and this was verified after by a relative who is also a keen horse rider, that to call out a friendly hello (or similar greeting) can be very useful, particularly when approaching from behind as a horse will relax when it identifies a friendly human voice. That was years ago and the advice has served me, and horse riders, well ever since.

That said I always keep a wide berth, or stop and give way if circumstances dictate in narrow areas. In the case of contact, the horse would win...

I once saw a horse get extremely jumpy when confronted with a recumbent bike - I think I posted on here at the time. The low height makes such a bike look more like a preditor apparently?

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Re: Frightening horses

Postby Grandad » 15 Jun 2016, 10:37pm

When teaching my 14 year old daughter the finer points of roadcraft I saw a horse and rider about 100 yards ahead of us on a straight road. I said "As we approach them keep right on the other side of the road and go slowly past" As I spoke the horse reared up and moved across the road.

By the time we reached it the rider had regained control and my daughter had received a well timed demonstration of the need to be careful around horses.

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Re: Frightening horses

Postby pwa » 16 Jun 2016, 8:24am

On an unrelated matter, horses in fields are some of the most dangerous animals you can meet if you are out for a walk. Some are fine, placid and friendly. But the odd one can be life threatening. I was once with a small group following a public right of way across a field when a stallion reared in front of us. It turned and kicked its back legs in our direction, fortunately not making contact. My companions were three or four retired gentlemen, and they suddenly turned into very agile 16 year olds as they jumped over a barbed wire fence to get out of the horse's way. Since then I've met a couple of aggressive horses that ought not to be in fields with paths across them, so I tend to be cautious with horses that are not with their handlers.

This is not related to the matter of horses on roads, which I welcome as part of a civilised way of life.

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Re: Frightening horses

Postby recumbentpanda » 16 Jun 2016, 8:58am

A wise and experienced horseperson of my aquaintance once gave me an important piece of technical information about these animals. We had been discussing much the same issues as this thread. After a while, she summed things up for me like this: 'What you have to understand,' she said, 'is that when all is said and done, horses are just mad'.

As a recumbent rider, I always get off and walk . . . after all, its not every day I meet an animal that's madder than I am.

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Re: Frightening horses

Postby MartinC » 16 Jun 2016, 9:14am

I find that the most frightening horses are the ones in horse boxes. The drivers seem to have a very little regard for other road users.

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Re: Frightening horses

Postby Tangled Metal » 16 Jun 2016, 9:44am

I wish the horse rider Bev would come back and post again. I think a post above asked some questions that would benefit a rider's view. Namely the attitudes of motorists to horse riders.

In my mind there is a priority of vulnerability on the road. Pedestrians at the highest risk and large trucks at perhaps the lowest risk. Shortly behind pedestrians i believe cyclists and horse riders. Not sure which is at a higher risk. I for one feel the input of a horse rider like Bev would be interesting on that discussion.

As to the length of time a mode of transport has been used, that's irrelevant. Walking has the longest history but you'd never ride on a motorway. Walking pre-dated that type of highway. It's entirely possible even our country roads are newer than the old ways of pedestrians and horse riders. Add to that the fact most people never had a horse. All this leads to my view that we all have equal right to these country roads so we must find a way to use them together.

IIRC there's advise on the relevant associations for cycling and horse riding on how to be around horses/bikes/cars. Worth reading the advice for other users and for your own activity. Whilst you'll not stop the idiots on either mode of transport it's quite possible that you're not doing the right thing yourself. Knowledge is important when using the highways on any mode of transport.