This comes as a surprise to a great many people that I talk to along the ‘Ride: horses are still considered a vehicle in every state. So what does that mean in practical terms, why do I care, and why should you?
* As a non-motorized vehicle, horses are required to follow traffic codes in the same way that bicylclists are (and yes, bicycles are also considered vehicles). This means that horses being used on a road are supposed to stay on the right side of the road (going the same way as traffic, not against), stop at stop signs and obey other traffic signals, etc.
* Cars and other vehicles are required to drive around horses like they would another non-motorized vehicle, or someone in a slower moving vehicle, or someone pulled over: give plenty of space when passing, and slow down.
* Horses are allowed to be on any road that bicycles are allowed on (ie, not most interstates), unless otherwise posted or written in local traffic code.
* Some traffic codes dictate certain safety devices be used, such as using headlights or taillights after dusk; these may or may not apply to riders versus carriages, depending on the area. In my personal opinion, it just makes sense to use lights and reflective apparel on you and your horse no matter how or why you’re on the road in dim lighting. I have clip on bike lights attached behind the saddle for rear “tail” lights, and a headlamp I can use on my helmet, as well as lots of reflective tape on both of us.
* If there is no shoulder or bike lane where a horse can stay out of the traffic, a horse is allowed to use the right lane. But like bicycles, the rider should stay as far to the right as possible.
* Horses, like bicycles and other vehicles, are not permitted on sidewalks.
* Riders, like cyclists (and drivers), should know and use hand-signals to indicate intent to make a turn. Personally, I don’t trust drivers to know or pay attention to my hand signals, so I tend to just wait and go when it’s clear instead of signaling. But there have been instances I’ve needed to use hand-signals, and it’s not a bad idea to at least be familiar in case that need arises.
* As a driver, please do not get mad if you see a horse being ridden or driven on the road. We have a right to use our vehicle of choice there, too.
I am not a legal expert, so please don’t cite this article if you ever get a traffic violation for having a horse in the road. If you would like to see your local traffic code to see if there are any restrictions on horses, look up your state’s statutes as well as checking with local (municipal and/or county) traffic codes.
Like the image at the top of this article? It’s just one of many I designed and sell on the Centauride Store.