The other day I stumbled across an interesting post on Facebook- interesting, that is, because of the reactions it garnered.
The post was a reminder for locals to slow down when passing horses and warning of the dangers of reckless driving when sharing the road with horse riders.
Nothing new there.
What got me thinking, however, were some of the replies. Check out this old chestnut:
“Until horse riders pay registration fees like the rest of us motorists, they have no right to be on the road”.
Actually, under current traffic laws, horses ridden or driven in harness on roads are considered vehicles. They have the same rights and responsibilities as other road users. And why, pray, should horse riders contribute to road infrastructure costs when we would quite happily substitute sandy tracks bitumen and pot holes for culverts?
Horses ruled the roads well before cars, and this sentiment that ‘roads are for cars only’ has insidiously crept in over the last few decades.
A few horse riders joined in the discussion too:
“When out riding, I’ve been beeped at so many times. What the hell is wrong with people?”
Ah yes, the dreaded beeping. One tends to assume the worst, but often people are just excited to see a horse on the road and trying to be friendly. By beeping. Seems like pure idiocy to horse riders, but unfortunately, drivers are usually just ignorant rather than malicious.
My own worst encounters of the beeps were in country Victoria over the summer. Hoards of 4-wheel drivers with kids hanging out the windows, bags of chips clutched in hand, screaming and yelling in delight at our horse and donkeys on the road. Mum in the front, iPad held firmly in the air to capture us highway horse hobos, dad beside her tooting the horn.
I cringed and gritted my teeth. Now if it is possible for donkeys to give withering looks, that is exactly what Basil and Jasmine the donkeys did. Fly the horse didn’t bat an eyelid. Thank goodness he is a legend on the roads. He’ll take logging trucks, screaming motorbikes and even the dreaded holiday beepers all in his stride. Which brings me to the next comment…
“Some horses do not belong on the road”.
Agreed. If a horse on the road has not proved himself time and again, then they have no business being on busy roads. It is only creating a hazard for rider, horse and drivers.
Lets be honest- some riders can be a tad precious. No, you cannot expect to ride on the shoulder of a 90km highway and have cars slow down to 30km p/hour and move to the other side of the road for you. And no tractor is going to detour down a side road just because your horse doesn’t like the colour.
If your steed isn’t okay with being beeped at or having cars potentially whizzing past his ear (No, of course they shouldn’t be, but riders should prepare for the worst, right?), then you might need to question whether he/ she is ready for the busier roads after all. It really is a two way street here- while cars DO not to consider horses and slow down when passing, riders need to do all they can to train their mounts to become big brave, bad-ass highway cruisers.