“Promoting safety for horses & riders on UK roads”
©2014 Horses & Road Safety Awareness
Off Road Riding
Many endurance riders, hunters and even happy hackers need to go across open land to reach a destination, or just for pleasure but a lot of the time this land has other animals in it. Most of these animals will flee at the sight of you, such as deer, sheep or flocks of birds, but some animals will stand firm. It goes without saying that most riders will know not to ride with other loose horses, as they all tend to get excited and run! Cattle Cattle are naturally curious but also very protective. If you encounter a field you need to ride through with cattle and calves in it ride slowly facing away from the cattle (even if this means you must leave the path) so as not to startle them or give them cause to chase you. Should the worst happen and the cows chase you, then take the following steps: If you are close enough to the exit, try to get through fast. This will probably be easier if you are dismounted. But if you don’t think there will be enough time DO NOT dismount as the cows may crush you against a wall/gate should they turn aggressive. If you are a confident rider and your horse listens to you well, you may be able to speed up and get away from the cattle. They should stop if they feel they have achieved their goal of seeing off the threat, but be aware this chase may make your horse run away with you or bolt. If you can not trust your horse to listen to you safely, the best thing to do is part ways. Dismount your horse and make sure the reins are not left loose. Your horse will get away from the cows and defend itself and might distract them from you making you able to get away and call for help. If you have parted with your horse and are not near a hedge/gate, and the cows still come at you, stand as large as possible with your arms and legs held out. If you have a crop or jacket on wave it about  and start yelling loudly at the cows. They should hopefully stop before you, giving you the time to back away slowly never turning your back on them and still making yourself look large. NEVER take your helmet or body protector off in order to scare the cows as they may protect you if they still attack. If this does not stop the cows and you feel impact is immanent, curl into a tight ball on the floor making sure to cover your neck and head with your arms. Keep still and hopefully the cows will back off when they realise you are no longer a threat. Call 999 if you are able to and try not to move. Most cows and calves are just curious and mean you no harm or they are expecting to be fed, but it is best to let them know you won’t tolerate them being close to you. Cows will fiercely protect their young so if you are asserting yourself to them, try to direct it towards the cows not the calves. If there is bulls in a field it will have a sign on it, it is highly recommended that you do not ride in a field with a bull in it, as they can be highly aggressive and are much less likely to be scared off by a threatening stance and will attack. Wild Boar Wild boar have recently been re-released into the UK forests. As a rule they are typically very shy and flighty so they will run off as soon as they suspect something and as such you may not even know one is near. However if one is injured or is taken by surprise they can be incredibly dangerous. Boar have very strong maternal instincts and will fight to the death to protect their young or family group. The male boars are usually alone, but will still fiercely protect themselves with their 6cm long tusks. A boar coming at your horse with all its strength is very likely to break legs, or leave very deep lacerations so use the following rules to keep safe: When you know you will be riding in an area that is close to a dense forest, be sure to ask the local forest trust if any wild boar have been spotted in the area. (Check out this website for sightings: ww.britishwildboar.org.uk If boar have been spotted the best method of not encountering one is to make noise and smell. Wear fly spray or perfume, sing, talk to your horse or just make general noise. This way the boar will know you are there and will avoid you. Should you come across a boar make a point of letting it see you stop, back off, turn around and actively make an effort to get away. A smart boar will not start a fight with a very large animal for no reason. Boar do not typically associate horses with predators, but they will generally avoid eachother. Should your horse spook at the sight/smell of the boar and you part ways, again try to make a point of making your way in the opposite direction of the boar in a non-threatening manner. Should the boar attack you, curl up into a tight ball and cover your head and neck. The most dangerous part of a boar are its tusks so if you are riding in a forest wear long sleeves, long boots and a body protector. Never be tempted to feed boar if they seem timid, this can be very dangerous for walkers as boar will seek them out for food. Be more cautious in the breeding season, which is typically spring. If you see young boar piglets know that the rest of the family is likely very close by, do NOT approach them. If you spot boar in front of you but they have not yet spotted you, stop and if possible let them move on in their own time. Be aware of the floor, boar tear up the ground looking for roots and may leave deep holes and wallows (mud baths) which your horse may trip on or get stuck in. Deer Deer are very shy and will always try to escape when they see a horse. Deer have been hunted by man on horseback for thousands of years, so it is in their nature to be shy of them. The trouble with deer will be if your horse spooks at them. The deer will usually be far enough away that your horse should only give a start but if they come across a fawn in the deep grass they may spook when it leaps up to flee. Work on methods of calming your horse. Should a stag come at you the best method to avoid injury is to turn the other way and run. Most stag attacks are territorial, especially in the rutting season and they rarely give mush chase. Small animals Most horse riders have been riding when a bird flies out of the hedge or a rabbit runs in front of you. The horse may see this as a deadly adversary and likes to run the opposite way. There is no way to stop these animals doing this but you can avoid your horse being so surprised by bomb proofing at home.  Have your horse in the school and roll a football towards him, or have a plastic/crisp bag tied to the fence of the arena. Other Many more wild animals can be encountered on a ride, especially near dawn or dusk. Foxes, unless ill and injured, should flee away from you as will badgers or any smaller animals such as squirrels or stoats, however all animals are unpredictable so never let your guard down around them and always treat them with respect. If you encounter an injured animal on your journey please call the RSPCA or a local Wildlife rescue. DO NOT attempt to rescue the animal yourself as many wild animals are extremely frightened by humans and may attack, plus many of them carry dangerous diseases that can be fatal to livestock and horses.
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