Horseriding and Highway Code

Horseriding and Highway Code

Horseriding and Highway Code is a set of rules and regulations that road users must comply with when using the roads in Great Britain. The Code is also applicable to horse riders. Many of the provisions outlined in the Highway Code are legal requirements.

Legal provisions within the Highway Code are indicated with the words must or must not. If an individual does not comply with these rules, they will be committing a criminal offence.
Horseriding and Highway Code
However a failure to comply with other rules outlined in the Highway Code will not constitute a criminal offence. Nevertheless, the Road Traffic Act 1988 states that if an individual fails to observe the provisions outlined in the Highway Code, can be used in civil or criminal court proceedings and relied upon to determine liability.

Such provisions are indicated through the words should and should not, or do and do not.


Although the Highway Code primarily relates to vehicles, sections of it also apply to horses.

The Highway Code has guidelines for the following:

  • Helmets
    There is a legal requirement contained within the Highway Code under the Horses (Protective Headgear for Young Riders) Act 1990 which states that all children aged 14 years and under must wear a suitable helmet which is fully compliant with the Horses (Protective Headgear for Young Riders Regulations) 1992.Horse-riders must also ensure that the helmet is securely fastened. This is a legal requirement. Children who follow the Sikh religion and wear a turban when riding are exempt from these regulations.
  • Clothing
    Within the Highway Code there are guidelines which relate to the clothing that horse riders should wear on horseback. Boots and shoes should have hard soles with heels. When riding during daylight hours, the rider should wear suitable fluorescent clothing.During the hours of darkness or when there is poor visibility, horse-riders must wear reflective clothing.
  • Weather Conditions and Darkness
    There are rules that govern how horse-riders should use the road during poor visibility or hours of darkness. As outlined above, the rider must wear adequate reflective clothing. The horse should also wear reflective bands above the fetlock joints.A suitable light which displays red at the back of the horse and white to the front should also be securely fitted to the horse.

    The rider should also wear a band on their right arm and/or leg or riding boot.If a horse needs to be led during darkness, the individual leading the horse should carry a light, showing white at the front and red to the back. Reflective clothing should be worn by the horse and the person leading the horse. In this instance, it is strongly recommended that the horse also wears a reflective or fluorescent tail guard.


Before taking a horse on the road, it should be adequately prepared to ensure that the horse and the rider are safe. The Highway Code issues guidance to horseriders for the adequate preparation of horses before taking them on the road.

Horseriders should never take a horse out without a bridle and a saddle. Furthermore, the guidance also states that the tack should be in good condition and it should fit the horse well. Furthermore, riders should be confident that they can control the horse if required. Only experienced riders should take a horse out on the road that is nervous with traffic or people.

Horseriding on the road

While riding on the road, there are a number of practices that horseriders should observe to keep themselves and the horse safe. Before moving off, or turning riders should check behind them and make a clear signal that they intend to turn.

The Highway Code also issues the following guidance to horseriders:

  • Remain to the left of the road
  • Both hands should be kept firmly on the reins unless the rider is making a signal to turn
  • Both feet should be kept in the stirrups at all times
  • Other people should not be carried on the horse other than the rider
  • Anything which can result in loss of balance or items which could get tangled in the reins of the horse should not be carried
  • When a horse is being led, it should be to the right of the rider
  • In a one way street, follow the flow of the traffic
  • When riding as a group, horses should never ride more than two abreast. On a busy road, single file should be observed.

Pavements and Footpaths

There is a legal requirement within The Highway Code which states that a horse must never be taken onto a footpath or pavement. This requirement is clearly outlined in the Highways Act 1935.

Taking a horse onto a footpath or pavement is a criminal offence.

Riders should also avoid taking horses onto cycle tracks. Where possible, bridleways should be used as well as equestrian crossings where provided. At a level crossing, horseriders should dismount if there is a sign instructing them to do so.

Horseriding and Highway Code states that horseriders should take all reasonable steps to avoid riding on a roundabout.

When the horserider does have to use a roundabout, they should:

  • Ensure that they stay to the left and remain observant for vehicles crossing the path of the rider as they leave and join the roundabout
  • Make adequate signals to the right when riding across roundabout exits to show that the rider is not leaving the roundabout
  • Just before the horserider leaves the roundabout, they should signal left

The provisions outlined in the Highway Code are there for a reason. Ultimately they are in place to safeguard horse-riders, the horse and other road users. Failing to comply with the legal requirements for horse-riders in the Highway Code may be a criminal offence.

About the Author

About the Author
This article was written by a member of the Expert Answers team and posted by Lloyd Barrett, Admin & Customer Services Manager for online advice service Expert Answers. Expert Answers provides first step legal advice & support to users in the UK who post a question on their secure platform.

The following sites are affiliated to AllaboutUKlaw: Ask Lawyers : Ask Solicitors : UK Composite : First Step Legal Support