Accident, ‘near misses’ spur plea from riders

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Safe place . . . Members of the Brighton Adult Riders Club enjoy riding their horses in the safety of the Brighton Pony Club grounds. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD

A recent accident and a spate of “near misses” have prompted local horse riders to call for drivers to take more care when passing horses on country roads around Dunedin.

Long-standing rider Karen Beattie and fellow members of the Brighton Adult Riders Club say most local drivers are considerate and slow down or stop for horses, but a few are careless, putting everyone at risk.

“People need to understand that a horse is a huge lump of bone and meat, which will do enormous damage or even kill a driver and passenger if you hit them at speed, Ms Beattie said.

Local riders have been prompted to highlight the issues after a recent accident on a rural road near Mosgiel, when a horse and rider were hit by a truck after the horse was startled by a dog.

The horse was badly injured.

“The truck driver did everything right – he slowed down and gave them a wide berth, but the horse was startled and an accident happened anyway,” Ms Beattie said.

The incident illustrated how things could suddenly go wrong when dealing with an animal that had a “variety of manners” and could be highly strung.

“Horses hate noisy cars, flapping canopies on trailers and cyclists – they can’t understand them.”

She had been concerned recently when walking her horse along an 80m stretch of country road early on a Sunday morning.

“Even though it was very early, there were still quite a few cars, and several didn’t even slow down when passing us,” she said.

“The law says the animal has the right of way, and that drivers should slow right down, or stop, to let them pass.”

The vast majority of Dunedin’s large horse-riding contingent tried to avoid going anywhere near the road and would take their horses by float to safe places to ride, such as going trekking.

“Sometimes though, it is just necessary to ride on the road for short distances.”

On Monday, The Star visited the Brighton Adult Riders Club and heard other stories of close calls with vehicles. Members said that most locals were considerate and respectful, but that too many drivers were still speeding past horses.

“we do our best to stay out of everyone’s way, and will get off and walk near the road,” rider Gemma Burgess said.

“We would just like people to be in a little bit less of a hurry, and to take more care when they pass us.”

Ms Beattie said she and others were constantly working to locate paper roads and good tracks for safe riding.

“We would really like people in the community who have suitable areas on their land to consider opening them up for riders.

“There are already landowners who will let us use their land, and we also use forestry tracks sometimes. It is very much appreciated by us all.”

Saddle Hill Community Board chairman Scott Weatherall said he was aware of the issue, and the board had highlighted it recently in a discussion on its Facebook page.

“We want everyone to be able to enjoy the wonderful things our area has to offer in safety includes people riding horses .. so I would like to ask everyone to be mindful, slow down, and give horses a wide berth,” he said.

ROAD SAFETY AROUND HORSES

  • Slow down and pass carefully, giving the horse and rider plenty of room.
  • Do not sound your horn, rev your engine or pass at speed, as this could frighten the horse.
  • If the horse and rider are on a bridge or narrow road, be very careful – slow down or stop.
  • If the horse appears frightened, stop.
  • At night, dip your headlights when approaching a horse.
  • Two vehicles should avoid passing near a horse.
  • Important note: Be careful around horse traffic. If you are not, you could be charged with careless or dangerous driving. – NZTA