I’d seen the horse once already. He was descending the Garth as I was climbing it. He was nervous, edgy, skitty; legs dancing around in Olympic dressage, as the elderly rider patted his flanks and placated him. I smiled and shouted hello. The rider beamed, raised his crop and nodded. I gave the horse a bit of time and an an acre of space. The rider thanked me for consideration. Everything as it should be.
An hour and a half later, I again found the same horse. This time I was approaching from behind. I shouted.
Hello! OK to pass?
Despite mountain biking for over 20 years, I never, ever work out whether you should or shouldn’t shout to/at a horse rider. So I reduced speed, came alongside him and asked. We rode side by side for around 5 minutes and chatted. The roads aren’t getting any quieter, we mused. Lots of new cyclists perhaps unaware of etiquette, we agreed. Our absolute right to be on the road we affirmed. The short answer to my question of course, is ‘yes’. Shout greetings, shout loud, shout anything you like within reason, but do shout something. A spooked animal is in no-one’s best interests.
As a consequence of that discussion, here are the rules I suggest applying each time a horse is approached:
1. Scrub speed on approach.
2. Shout out a pleasantry and let the horse – and its rider – let him/her know you are there.
3. Maintain the low speed, give a wide berth and exchange pleasantries.
4. Speed up after some distance has been put between you and the animal.
My normal actions would have accounted for items 1, 3 and 4, but being reasonably polite, I’m not comfortable shouting at people. For similar reasons I reluctantly use my bell on the Taff Trail (though inconsiderate drivers can expect some 90 decibel treatment when cycling space is threatened).
Horse riders and cyclists face similar issues on the road. The great irony is that most of the roads around here were built with horses (and by extension, cycles) in mind.
Top image: ‘Horsey’ bike by Korean designer Eunig Kim (details here).