Keen horse riders have handed over a petition to Essex County Council in a bid to raise awareness of their needs across the county.
The Essex Bridleways Association's 2,644-signature petition forms part of the charity's on-going 'Better Bridleways' campaign, which aims to provide safer routes for horses and their riders and stop them having to use busy roads.
Julia Wilson, chair of the Essex Bridleway Association (EBA), said: "We are appealing for greater consideration to be given to horse riders when it comes to creating safe, off-road access.
"Council and government policy focuses heavily on walking and cycling and yet horse riding is frequently overlooked.
"There is a common misconception amongst other road users that horse owners have miles of bridleways to ride on, but this is not the case and in most parts of Essex we are very poorly catered for.
"As a consequence of this, and massive development in the county, we are forced to share the roads with increasingly fast and heavy traffic."
Earlier this year, 18-year-old Writtle College student Scarlet Coughlin was crushed by her horse while riding in Feering, after a van sped past and spooked the animal.
She broke seven bones, tore ligaments, needed skin grafts, and had bolts put through her shin, heel, and toes as part of a reconstruction of her right foot, and only started walking again last week after three months in a wheelchair.
Scarlet, from Tolleshunt D'Arcy, spent almost two weeks in hospital under the care of a foot and ankle specialist, but was told that she would never be able to play sport again following her gruesome accident.
Police are still looking for the driver involved, but have as of yet been unsuccessful in their appeals for information.
"Horse riding is a wonderful activity for enhancing both mental and physical wellbeing," added Julia.
"In an age where adults and children are being encouraged to become more active, it seems ridiculous that those of us that are already keen to spend our spare time outside, participating in an active lifestyle are, in effect, being penalised."
The association handed over their petition to Essex County Council cabinet member for transport and highways, Cllr Eddie Johnson, at County Hall in Chelmsford on Wednesday (June 8).
It reads: "The roads of Essex are getting busier and the opportunities to ride are in need of improvement.
"Essex has one of the largest populations of horses in the country, many horse riders are leisure riders and ride to maintain a healthy lifestyle, but Essex has one of the smallest networks of bridleways."
Bridleways are defined as highways over which the public has a right of way on foot, horseback and on all types of bicycle, and they are marked by a blue arrow with a white surround.
The EBA is also urging Essex horse owners to complete its online survey which is designed to build a more accurate picture of horse riding in the county.
Ms Wilson added: "We know that Essex has a large equestrian population but we need more detailed figures to support the case for improved equestrian access. Unless we, as horse riders, make our voice heard we will continue to be overlooked by those in authority."
For more information, visit www.essexbridleways.co.uk or the Essex Bridleways Association Facebook page.
Article Source: Essex Chronicle
Image courtesy Essex Bridleways Association
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