Riders in demand for safer routes for horses

ISLE horse riders have thrown their weight behind a campaign for greater protection on the roads.

Lynne Poulton is one of almost 12,000 people who have signed a national e-petition urging the government to increase public bridleways to create safer environments for horse riders.

There are currently 91,000 miles of footpaths in the UK but only 20,000 miles of bridleways and Mrs Poulton has launched the Facebook page ‘Epworth needs bridleways’.

“There isn’t a single bridleway in Epworth and considering this is a rural area, it’s a disgrace,” said Mrs Poulton, of Battle Green, Epworth.

“We can’t use public footpaths because of the trespassing laws which just leaves us the roads.

“There are also dykes close to the roads so where do the horses go? We need to keep the roads safe for everybody, horse riders and drivers.”

Another horse rider from Epworth, Gemma Bateman, has slammed mototists whose dangerous driving threatens the lives of both animals and people.

Miss Bateman said: “As an 18 year old I took my driving test and found there really was a lack of emphasis on how dangerous it is for both the driver, horse and rider if consideration isn’t taken.

“Drivers just dont realise we are often stuck between them and a ditch.”

The college student explained how a friend recently ended up with a horse on top of her in a ditch and the subsequent behaviour of a driver compounded the danger.

“If there had been water in that ditch she would have drowned and it is a miracle she didn’t die,” added Miss Bateman.

“After she was taken to hospital, me and a friend took the horses back on foot.

“Both horses were very highly strung and we were having trouble holding onto them up the road, when a driver came around the corner and sped up to us beeping his horn and revving his engine.

“After shouting at him to stop numerous times, one horse ran loose up the road and would have been killed if an oncoming car had come around the corner, as well as its innocent driver.”

The Highway Code advises drivers to reduce their speed and take extra care when passing horse riders on the road.

“Drivers need to slow down and, in many instances , stop until the rider tells you it is safe to pass,” she added.

“Horses have a ‘fight of flight’ instinct and when scared, they will do one of the two, which could leave the driver’s car in a mess or kill an oncoming driver who isn’t prepared for a raging horse coming around the corner.

“Horse and rider have as much right to be on the road as any driver. I have been sworn and shouted at by ignorant drivers for being in their way even at the age of 14.

“So far we have had near misses but will people only realise when an innocent member of the public or a horse rider, child is killed - is that what it takes?

“I want something to be done before it is too late.”

• To sign the e-petition logon to the Facebook page ‘Epworth needs bridleways’.