Anyone who has to ride their horse on the roads knows what a gamble they take each and every time hoof hits tarmac — but I think we can do a lot more to help ourselves than we currently do.
For many years I hacked an ex-racehorse around the roads in Surrey, and it’s a joy to me now, living in Hampshire, that I can ride straight out onto the New Forest and barely cross a road. When I do go on a road, the cars here are so considerate that rarely do you encounter one that doesn’t slow down.
I spend less time in the saddle than I used to – and it has been an interesting time. While passing riders on foot, on a bike or in a car, I have noticed how unfriendly they are. Surely it’s polite to say hello to each other? Walkers do!
Non-riders often accuse riders of being “snooty” and as reluctant as I am to say this, I do get why this is — there are riders out there who do not acknowledge, let alone thank a car that has slowed down for them.
Earlier this winter I drove past a hunt in Surrey. They were all over the road — it sometimes happens — but they were so engrossed in what they were doing they made no effort to move over for me. As I edged my way past, not one of the riders turned to look at me nor thank me.
This was the same hunt that has been in the press over the years trying to fight its cause to the public, to tell people that it is friendly, inclusive and non-classist. The sight of people dressed up to the nines on horseback not thanking a car trying to drive past it is enough to make me — a former news editor at Horse & Hound — angry. Imagine how someone unhorsey is likely to respond to this?
Riders not thanking car drivers is a huge bugbear of mine (as you can probably see!). Even if you’re deep in conversation with a friend, lost in thought or just fed up of taking your hands off the reins as a stream of traffic goes past, I believe it’s our duty as a rider to be polite, friendly and encourage traffic to slow down by thanking people.
If you don’t, next time they see a horse they will drive past at speed — and who can honestly blame them? If you’re struggling to control your horse, a nod will do — the car will be able to see you’re in trouble.
I’ve actually been known to get out of a car to ask riders I slowed down for why they didn’t even acknowledge my presence. And I’m not some middle-aged Pony Club chairman, just someone who is anxious to avoid their own demise at the hands of an idiot who is quite frankly fed up with snotty horsey people and thus doesn’t think to slow down.
I’ve also been known to turn the air blue when a car has sped past — and quite fairly so I reckon — but surely credit where credit is due?
We are all road users, increasingly we are all countryside users, and we have to get along. It’s absolutely crucial that acknowledge people who slow down for us.