Reflective Riding Equipment's Effect on Road Safety

Reflective Riding Equipment's Effect on Road Safety

Scofield found that riders most frequently wore FR tabards (seen at right) when riding on the road.


In horse vs. vehicle showdowns on the road, the vehicle most frequently wins. For this reason, "near misses" by cars when riding on roads can be terrifying for riders, particularly in the United Kingdom, where equestrians commonly ride along narrow roadways.

To help improve horse and rider safety on U.K. roadways, Rose Scofield, a masters student at Duchy College in Cornwall, recently studied reflective riding equipment's efficacy in preventing traffic incidents. She presented her results at the 9th Annual International Society for Equitation Science, held July 18-20 at the University of Delaware, in Newark.

Available rider safety equipment varies and includes fluorescent or reflective (FR) tabards, jackets, vests, boot lights, hat covers/bands, and gloves. Horse equipment includes FR sheets, breast plates, boots, bridle accessories, saddle cloths, and saddle accessories.

As part of Scofield's study, she distributed a questionnaire through U.K. equine websites and forums to 426 riders that ride on road systems. She divided respondents into two groups based on whether they had experienced near misses on the road in the previous year (60.3%) or not. She then asked both groups what FR equipment they wore while riding.

After analyzing the responses she determined that:

  • Riders most frequently wore FR tabards when riding on the road;
  • There was no significant relationship between wearing FR tabards and near-miss incidence;
  • There was no significant relationship between horses wearing FR equipment and near-miss incidence; and
  • There were significantly fewer near-miss incidences when riders wore or displayed lights (8.2% of all riders wore lights and experienced no near misses, whereas 3.6% wore lights but did experience a near miss).

"This suggests that wearing lights should possibly be recommended when riding on the roads to enhance the safety of both rider and horse and contribute to the welfare of the leisure horse in particular," Scofield said. Whether the horse or rider wear FR equipment does not appear to affect the occurrence or absence of near misses, she added.

Although wearing lights should help improve road riding safety, Scofield believes further steps must be taken to protect horse and rider.

"Previous research has stated that drivers exhibit different hazard perception and reaction than horse riders," Scofield began. "Additionally, younger drivers reported feelings of frustration when encountering a slow-moving horse and rider combination."

Thus, she said that going forward she would like to see the U.K. establish highway codes concerning this equipment, require compulsory training during driving tests for handling horse encounters on the road, and encourage equine insurance companies to only provide coverage if riders on the road wear FR equipment.

About the Author

Alexandra Beckstett, The Horse Managing Editor

Alexandra Beckstett, Managing Editor of The Horse and a native of Houston, Texas, is a lifelong horse owner who has shown successfully on the national hunter/jumper circuit and dabbled in hunter breeding. After graduating from Duke University, she joined Blood-Horse Publications as Assistant Editor of its book division, Eclipse Press, before joining The Horse.

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