Sunday, 19 May 2013

10 Tips for Passing Horses Safely when Cycling

I've been meaning to write this blog for ages.  I pass horses so often when on the lanes of Cheshire, that I was unclear as to what the protocol should be when passing, other than wide and slow.

A few weeks back, we passed a group of horses and there was one particularly nervous horse who was very jumpy and nearly took one of our group out as we passed.  No fault of anyone's, just one of those situations when a group passing through slowly, spooked the horse and the rider was doing her best to get things under control.

I think cyclists and horse riders have a healthy respect for each other.  We both are often verbally abused by motorists wanting to pass quickly and taking dangerous risks.  So, what is the safe way to pass horses if you're on your bike?  The British Horse society offer this advice to cyclists: -
  1.  Horses are creatures of fright and flight and sudden movement or noise can cause problems for all concerned.
  2. Because cycles are generally quiet, they may not be noticed by either the rider of the horse until they are very close.  Try to attract the the horse rider(s) attention by making verbal contact before you reach them (I normally shout "rider behind").  This advice is particularly important when coming up behind horses.
  3. Look out for the riders' signals and heed any request to slow down or stop.
  4. For the safety of all involved, please be patient and wait for the rider to sort out any riding issues your presence might have raised.
  5. Riders may be attempting to get off the road into a safe place, in order to let you pass - given the chance to do this by adjusting your speed and keeping a safe distance.
  6. If possible, ask the horse rider if it is safe to pass, before attempting to do so.
  7. Pass the horse(s) wide and slow.
  8. Horse riders may need to ride two abreast for safety, when escorting a young, or inexperienced horse or rider, give them a chance to sort themselves out.
  9. Don't be annoyed if a horse rider doesn't appear to be acknowledging your kindness and consideration.  They do appreciate your help but may be concentrating on controlling their horse.
  10. Bikes and horses are valuable.  With a little courtesy and consideration all around, there is room on the road for everyone.

If you are a horse rider and you have any further advice, please feel free to leave a comment.  If you want to seek any more advice you can speak to The British Horse Society on 02476 840561 or visit


  1. Excellent advice. As a regular rider I'd add that when you cycle up behind a horse you're in the horse's blind spot, which can make a nervous horse spook. Where possible, move into the outside lane well before overtaking. Also a spooking horse can often move sideways very swiftly, so the more room for manoeuvre you can allow, the safer you'll be.

  2. Great blog. I'd also add that it helps to keep talking after your initial "Bikes behind" to be sure the rider has heard you but more importantly that the horse has heard you and recognises that a human person is approaching. I tend to blether away until I/we get past, and rarely spook a horse these days.
    It's a small thing, but respectfully keeping each other safe on the roads can only be a good default approach!

  3. Thanks for the advice! I get very nervous whenever I have to pass by a horse. I didn't realize the horses might be feeling the same way!

  4. As a horse rider - Thank you! And as you say "with a little courtesy and consideration all around, there is room on the road for everyone" I am happy to be patient with all road users whether I am riding my horse, in my car, on my bike - it doesn't take much. The best best thing you can do when approaching a horse from behind on a bike is talk loudly or shout. If the horse knows it's a human coming up behind they are much less likely to be bothered. I posted this blog onto my facebook page yesterday, as I was so frustrated with a group of 20 road bike cyclists taking up half the road came straight at me and my horse head-on full-speed (which I assume is about 30mph) did not slow down at all, did not narrow the group. My usually very sensible horse was totally freaked out. Sadly I have noticed a big increase in this type of behaviour of road bike cyclists, probably all think they are in the Tour de France. So thanks Phil and please keep spreading the word, us horse riders are happy to move out of the way if you give us time or if approaching from behind, let us know you are there.