A common question we are asked, is how our horses deal with the traffic. From our point of view, a better question would be; how do the traffic deal with a horse drawn vehicle?

I’m writing this blog to answer those questions, but also to be a bit of a guide, for those drivers that really don’t know what to do when you see a horse drawn carriage and maybe even panic a little bit. Did you know that horse drawn vehicles are actually considered to be a vehicle?!

Now, the first question is relatively easy. How do our horses deal with traffic? Our horses are trained to deal with traffic. They are exposed to new and exciting situations often and regularly, long before they are asked to work in traffic or with passengers. They are exposed to town, and tractors and people, and anything else they may be likely to encounter. Lots of time and patience goes in to making our horses understand that traffic is nothing to be afraid of. 

This is where you- the driver of the other vehicle comes in. Please don’t do anything that will make our horses think that traffic is scary. 

Please pass WIDE and SLOW. If it is safe to over take, do so. If it is not safe to overtake, please do not. It really is that simple. 

We will endeavour to allow you to pass when appropriate, however sometimes you will just need to wait. While waiting to overtake, please don’t tailgate. The horses don’t care, but it can put the wind up our passengers at times. When you do overtake, please give us room. Do not try and stay in our lane. If you are overtaking, it supposedly means the other lane is clear. Please use that other lane. We have in the past, had cars within a foot of our wheel hub. That is too close. That is scary close. We also don’t expect you to crawl past at 5 kms/hr, but pass with enough distance, and at a pace, that if a horse were to react, YOU would have time to react. 

Under NO circumstances, on a single lane road, should you attempt to overtake on the left hand side. To do this you will be driving on the road verge. For whatever reason, it always seems to be white ute drivers that will attempt this stupid manoeuvre. Clearly they are very important and in a hurry to be somewhere with their metal rattly things in the back of their Ute. When met with the bumpiness of a road verge, these metal rattly things, makes one hell of a scary noise. Our horses are rather familiar with the road rules, so having some scary metal rattly thing coming up on their left, is not something that they are ok with. It is also illegal.

Please don’t try to spook our horses.

Another manoeuvre that leaves me scratching my head, it people that deliberately try to spook the horses. I’m having a guess here, that THOSE people are not reading this blog, however laying on the horn, revving the engine excessively, swerving at us, or yelling abuse at us, will land you reported to the police. Quite simply it is unnecessary and DANGEROUS. Not to mention just dumb. (Yes it does happen more that you might think).

We plan our routes carefully. We plan to give the horses the easiest terrain, limit the amount of right hand turns which may prevent traffic flow, and where possible we avoid busy roads. We certainly try to avoid 100km/hr roads. If we do need to use these roads, we will have a car following with hazard lights. We love our job, but staying safe is our main priority. 

Another thing that drivers are often not aware of, is if the driver (or rider) of a horse signals that you need to stop, it is a legal requirement that you stop! You must follow the hand signals of the driver (rider). This is a safety thing, as horses can be extremely unpredictable animals. In saying this it is fair to say there may be drivers (or riders) that don’t communicate effectively when necessary (ie when their horse is throwing a tanty), so please just be nice.

Anyone is allowed to drive or ride a horse on the road. There is no special licence required. HOWEVER if one is to have paying passengers in the carriage, one must hold the appropriate accreditations. We pay a registration and accreditation fees to have our carriages on the road. This is our livelihood, and this work pays for the very best in food, maintenance and care for our beautiful horses. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this, your reading and sharing of this will go a long way to help keep us, and other road users safe. We would love to hear your thoughts and comments on this post and would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

6 Responses

  1. Well written Shaye. It would be good to think that the ones who cause problems might read this and learn, but I suppose that is expecting a lot. Enjoying all your blogs.

      1. Here they are considered a vehicle, so must follow road rules. BUT if a rider or drivers signals the vehicle driver to stop or slow, they legally must do so (although often they don’t comply)

  2. Agree, well written shaye, people need to read and respect the road rules, I would love a ride in the carriage and I would expect car drivers not to be abusive and aggressive and scare the horse. People either need to be on time or be patient, you have just as much right on the road, its youre livelihood we are talking about.best of luck to you.rory Taylor.

  3. Brilliant!! And so true about ‘very important drivers’ who need to overtake noisily and dangerously, in a hurry. One thing you didn’t mention that I had a lot when riding in the city suburbs years ago, was motorcyclists who liked to drive as fast and as close to a horse when overtaking it. Often we, (then) teenage girls, were put in dangerous situations as the bikes screamed past leaving 3 or 4 horses upset in their wake – not to mention the teenaged riders trying to pacify their mounts. It’s not rocket science, it is common sense….but as we know ‘common’ sense is not ‘common’ at all….sadly it is rare. 🙁 Great work, Shaye – keep up the great blogs!

    1. That would have been so scary! Fortunately we don’t have much trouble with Motorbikes, even the noisy ones drive past slow and respectably (although there was this one time in Langhorne Creek). Initially I had a ‘Common Sense” paragraph in my blog…. but as you say, it is just not that common sadly…

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