LOCAL horseriders have spoken out after a spate of scary and dangerous experiences on the rural roads.
In Tremar Coombe, Sue Speed says she had two close calls in the space of two days – one when a driver passed her far too quickly, causing her horse to go up into the hedge, and another, where a driver reversed towards her, meaning she had to act quickly to prevent the horse from being struck.
The incidents were reported to police but there was not enough evidence to pursue, said Neighbourhood Policing Team leader Sgt Ian Chambers.
Tremar, St Cleer, Darite and Minions are popular equine locations, and many local riders keep their horses nearby for good access to the moors. It’s not unusual to see riders of all ages out on the lanes. When the Cornish Times went to meet Sue and some of the other regular riders in the area, we discovered that the dangerous incidents described above were far from being one-offs: all the riders had had bad experiences.
Mandy Parsonage is mum to young riders Mia, 11, and Jessica, nine. She tells how an incident at the start of the first lockdown put one of her daughters off riding for months.
“We were riding down the Coombe to where there is a sharp bend. I could hear a car coming really fast, so I stepped out and waved my hand, but he actually accelerated. One of the horses reared up – it frightened my child.”
Sarah Smith made the point that all the riders she knows are also car drivers. She said that “the bus drivers and the bin lorry drivers are brilliant” but that some drivers will carry out dangerous manoeuvres such as overtaking horses on a blind bend because they are in a hurry to get past.
Sara Caers, who teaches riding, said: “I’ve got young horses that I’m trying to get used to going on the road, you’ve got to train them. It takes a couple of years to train a horse to be good in traffic.
“I think that most people don’t realise that horses are flighty animals.”
For Sara, the problem lies in a shift in attitude towards riders and horses in general.
“People used to love seeing horses in the villages, now they’re seen as a nuisance.
“Most people on the roads are really good, but it only takes one to kill you. There’s an attitude among some drivers who are aggressive.
“ I think it’s about better education.”
The whole group felt that it was “only a matter of time before someone was hurt”.
After her recent experiences, Sue has started wearing a camera mounted on her helmet.
“I was riding one horse and leading another, something I often do,” she said.
“I shouted at a driver to slow down and he slammed his brakes on and reversed back.
“The amount of traffic has increased considerably and people aren’t slowing down for horses.
“I’m absolutely petrified that someone – or one of the horses – is going to be killed.”
Sue is also concerned about other livestock on the roads, especially at this time of year with lambs, foals and calves all close to, and sometimes on, the moorland roads.
Sergeant Ian Chambers of Liskeard’s Neighbourhood Police says that speedwatch has begun again in order to monitor the roads near Bodmin Moor. He is urging horseriders to consider the use of head-cams when they are out on the roads.
“If any motoring offence is captured in full with a visible registration of the vehicle involved, footage can be uploaded to the Operation Snap page on the Devon and Cornwall Police website,” he said.
This can be found at www.devon-cornwall.police.uk/contact/contact-forms/operation-snap-dashcam-footage/
“I would ask that extra care is given when driving through the open moorland areas, and that horses are passed slowly, with drivers giving plenty of space. I would also encourage horse riders to wear reflective jackets to ensure they are extra visible, and use head-cams.
“Now that lockdown restrictions are easing, the Liskeard Community Speedwatch team are able to conduct checks at their various sites, one of which is Foredown, Pensilva.
“The team conducted a Speedwatch here a couple of weeks ago and found that in the space of an hour only three vehicles were travelling above the speed limit, all of which have received letters advising them to reduce their speed. The team will continue to conduct these checks whenever possible and we would encourage people to report issues to us.”
Nationwide, more than 1,000 road incidents have been reported to the British Horse Society (BHS) in the past year.
Director of Safety Alan Hiscox said: “It is clear that some drivers are unaware how to safely pass horses on the road. The Highway Code Rule 215 states that drivers should be careful when overtaking. With the Highway Code set to be reviewed shortly, the BHS has lobbied the government to ensure that stronger protections for horse riders are included.
“Horse awareness is currently included in the theory and hazard perception element of the driving test, and we have worked with driving instructors’ organisations with our Dead Slow message.
“We would still strongly encourage driving instructors, particularly those in rural areas, to ensure their students are aware of the dangers. Likewise, we recommend all those who ride on the roads to complete our Ride Safe Award, which covers how to stay safe on the roads.”
The British Horse Society encourages anyone who experiences an incident to report it, either at www.horseincidents.org,uk or via the new Horse i app.
“Reported incidents give us a stronger voice when lobbying for changes to protect riders,” said Mr Hiscox.
“It can also highlight local hotspots to us, allowing us to work with local partners on initiatives such as putting up our ‘Dead Slow’ Road signs.”