Bridleways losing official public status

Horse riders are increasingly being killed and hit by cars because bridleways are losing their official public status and being lost to developers.

According to a new study, nearly 200 horses and riders have died in road tragedies in the past five years, and with more horses being forced on to roads, the figure could continue to rise.

The British Horse Society says there have been more than 2,000 reports of accidents involving horses on UK roads since 2010 with almost one in ten resulting in a fatality.

And according to the survey they conducted, three in four accidents happened because the vehicle passed the animal without allowing enough space.

A spokesperson for the charity said a major problem was that many drivers are unsure how to behave when near a horse.

But she said another key factor was that riders were being "increasingly pushed onto roads because the number of bridleways are shrinking".

And thousands of these public rights of way could be lost forever within a decade under a clause in right-to-roam legislation.

Introduced by the Labour government in 2000, the clause stated that any pre-1949 paths must be recorded by 2026 to continue to carry public rights.

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act contained a provision that will extinguish those rights if the paths have not been properly recorded.

And with potentially thousands of pathways still unrecorded, this could have a far-reaching effect on horse riders and their ability to exercise safely.

Figures for the number of road accidents reported to the British Horse Society have steadily risen since they started their campaign five years ago.

In 2012, 165 accidents were recorded and this figure has gone up by nearly 50 per cent to 316 in 2015.

Just last month a grieving family watched as a car smashed into a horse-drawn funeral cortège, killing one of the animals.

The Fresian stallion called Will was knocked to the ground in the smash and later had to be put down due to serious injuries.

Lee Hackett, BHS Director of Policy, said: "We are asking drivers to slow down to 15mph when they see a horse in the road.

"It's worth remembering that these statistics are just the accidents reported to us, there will be countless others.

"Almost everyone who rides a horse can recount a story about a time they had a near miss on the roads."

Kevin Clinton, Head of Road Safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said: "Horses are large, powerful animals and they can easily panic and bolt if startled.

"All driver should be aware that they may come across horse riders at any time, especially in rural areas.

"If you see one, slow right down as you approach and pass it slowly and smoothly, without revving your engine or sounding your horn."

The BHS's latest campaign, Dead Slow, urges drivers to reduce speeds to 15mph when they encounter a horse and rider on any road.



Article by  - originally appeared in The Telegraph March,2016

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