A Fylde coast horse rider has begged drivers to slow down on the roads.
Dawne Leach, 50, is backing a national campaign to encourage drivers to stay aware after her own horse, Phoenix, was sent scrambling over a hedge after being spooked by a speeding car.
She said: “It was on a country lane with hedges on either side. A transit van came racing around the corner doing 40mph and on a narrow bend that’s very fast. I wouldn’t have wanted to be in another car with him going at that speed, let alone on a horse.
“The horse had to scramble over the hedge to get out of the way.”
Miss Leach, of Blackpool Road, St Annes, added the incident was not the first time she felt at risk riding her horse near Cowburn Stables in Poulton.
She said: “Myself and a lady were once riding on a main road going back to the stables and one car tried to drive past us. I put out my hand to try to tell him there wasn’t enough room but he didn’t take any notice and clipped my friend’s leg.”
She has now expressed her support for the British Horse Society’s campaign, Dead Slow, after new figures from the charity revealed more than 2,000 reports of road accidents involving horses since 2011.
Around 75 per cent of reported accidents happened because the vehicle passed the horse without allowing enough space, while over a quarter of respondents said that they also had to deal with driver road rage.
Miss Leach said: “It’s a big problem and it doesn’t just put a horse and rider at risk – it puts the driver at risk as well.
“If a horse is frightened at something and it jumps out, that could be a ton of weight coming down on the windscreen of a car, which could easily kill the passenger or driver.
“It can be a life or death situation.”
The Dead Slow campaign calls for drivers to take extra care around horses by driving past at no more than 15mph and no closer than one-and-a-half metres.
Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said: “Horses are large, powerful animals and they can easily panic and bolt if startled. This is dangerous for the horse, the rider and other road users.
“All drivers should be aware that they may come across horse riders at any time, especially in rural areas.
“If you see one, slow right down as you approach and pass it slowly and smoothly, without revving your engine or sounding your horn. If there’s not room to pass it safely, wait until there is.”
Miss Leach said: “I know people think it’s annoying and will say you shouldn’t be on the road if you can’t control your animal, but we don’t go out on the road lightly. There are hardly any bridleways on the Fylde coast and not everyone can travel so we have to use the road.
“People who take their horses on the roads spend a lot of time training them and go at early morning to avoid rush hour. But at the end of the day it’s an animal with it’s own brain.
“They are fight or flight animals.
“We don’t want our horses frightened any more than drivers want to be inconvenienced.”
People can find out more about the British Horse Society’s Dead Slow campaign online at www.bhs.org.uk. Horse-riders can report road incidents to the charity on www.horseaccidents.org.uk.