In Australia horse riders on public roads must follow the same rules as a driver of a car, because the law considers horses to be vehicles. This means riders must be below the 0.05 blood-alcohol limit while on horseback, cannot touch their mobile phones, and have to abide by all traffic signs and the speed limit at all times. Since horses are not motorised vehicles with power steering and blinkers, there are a few extra laws that apply to us as well. The breaking of any of these laws can result in heavy fines or even jail time, so it is very important to know what is allowed. While these laws are nationwide, your local councils and shires may have extra laws that apply to where you live. It is always a good idea to find out if there are any rider-specific laws in your area before riding on the roads, as ignorance of the law is not considered a valid defence in court.
- If you are under the age of 18, you must wear a helmet when riding a horse on a road, footpath, or any road-related area.
- A rider is liable if a horse’s droppings (urine or faeces) on the road causes a problem for other road users. The driver or rider is responsible for removing any droppings that fall on the road.
- Horses are allowed and encouraged to ride on footpaths and nature strips instead of the road when possible, unless specifically prohibited by the local government. Horse riders must give way to pedestrians on a footpath or nature strip.
- If you are riding two-abreast with another rider, you must not ride more than 1.5m apart. This will allow other road users room to overtake safely.
- You do not need a driver’s license to drive a carriage on the road, and the vehicle does not need registration.
- A rider is not required by law to have lights at night (of course you should), but if you are driving a carriage at night you must have:
- two white lights visible for 200m on the front (one on each side)
- two red lights visible for 200m on the back (one on each side)
- red reflectors on each side of the vehicle towards the back
- A person must not lead a horse while also driving a motor vehicle or riding a bicycle.
- Horses can be ridden on the shoulder of the road, or to the left of any continuous edge line, in the same direction of traffic.
- Horses can be ridden across roads but must give way to all traffic on the road.
- Horses must not be ridden across a road on a ‘pedestrian crossing’ or ‘children’s crossing’ –the rider must dismount and walk the horse across.
- Riders must give hand signals when changing direction.
- A horse is not considered a vehicle if you are leading it.
It is important to note that this is not a complete list and is only a guide to get you started thinking about road rules and safety. As stated previously, always check with your local authorities for the most accurate and up-to-date road rules for your area.
Written by Neely H.