On the Road Again: Can Horses and Cars Share the Road?

Face it, we are lucky.  We live in suburbia with everything close at hand -- a city, the country, the ocean and mountains; But convenience comes with a price and unfortunately, humans that have horses in areas where there is traffic are paying a big price.

Today I was hacking home after a canter in our local conservation area.  It isn't a long road hack and our town has posted signage and speed limits that warn motorists.  Unfortunately they are largely ignored and we generally have to wave to cars (AND school buses) with the universal up down wave and ask them to slow up.  Most motorists do slow and are kind, but the ones that don't often become aggressive or worse, confrontational; Today was no exception.

After meeting many cars that easily yielded to my horse and me a car rounded the corner in front of me (20 mph limit) going at least 35-40 and well over the double yellow line.  I waved because my horse quickened and hopped because of the suddenness of the car's appearance.  The driver -- a middle aged, well-groomed man, in a late model Volvo SUV -- abruptly hit his brakes and put his window down within 4 feet of my stirrup.  I quickly explained (on a dancing, skittering horse, who is usually a solid citizen under normal traffic situations) that the speed limit was 20 and that according the Massachusetts General Law he should slow down until the rider gained control and waved him on.  He told me that he was an attorney and after a silly exchange about the exact citation of the Massachusetts General Law he told me that he could "make this very expensive for me".  Make it expensive for me? How?  By hitting my horse and having a bloody mess on his hands?  By suing me because I asked him to follow the rules of the road? Almost as a response to my sadness and frustration my horse calmed as he sped off and took me home on a long rein.  

This is a blog I didn't want to write.  It is much more fun and interesting to share training tips, successes and feel-good stories, but this is an issue that many of my fellow riders -- professional and amateur -- are dealing with.  I hope that people will read this and share their stories (both positive and negative) and what measures they have taken to deal with the conflict between horses and people in their cars. By the way, I did contact the local police despite being intimidated by the driver.  It's likely nothing will come of it, but if riders start speaking up we can begin to educate a public that doesn't understand the innate dangers of horse-car interactions.


Seija Samoylenko