A national survey of riding clubs, bridleway groups and riding establishments has found that 'offroading' by 4x4s and motor bikes is creating dangers for horseriders nationwide.
Peak Horsepower, a bridleway group affiliated to the British Horse Society, carried out the survey to find out whether the problems being caused for riders by recreational 4x4s and motor bikes in the Peak District are being replicated across the country.
The survey found that riders in all English counties are being affected by offroading and that the worst problems appear to be in Kent, Surrey, Somerset, Berkshire, Lancashire, Devon and North Yorkshire.
The survey was sent to 1057 equestrian organisations in England.
Three quarters of respondents said that their offroad riding routes are being used by 4x4s and motor bikes.
Ninety per cent of these respondents said that 'offroading' by these vehicles is creating problems on one or more of their riding routes.
Over a third of them said it is causing problems on many or most of their riding routes.
Respondents who reported problems with 4x4s and motor bikes were asked what kinds of problems they are facing.
Seventy-nine percent of those reporting problems said that 4x4s and motor bikes have damaged the surface of their riding routes
Over sixty percent of respondents reporting 4x4s and motor bikes using their horse riding routes said that these vehicles do not stick to routes where offroading is currently legal.
From the survey:
- 72 per cent said that the noise of offroad vehicles is frightening horses
- 54 per cent said that vehicle speed is a problem
- 54 per centsaid their riding routes are too narrow to pass motor vehicles easily or safely on a horse
- 51 per cent said there was nowhere to get out of the way of motor vehicles
- 35 percent said that blind bends are a problem.
They said that in their local area 'offroading' is also taking place on bridleways and restricted byways, which is illegal.
Charlotte Gilbert, the Chair of Peak Horsepower says: "Riding on ordinary roads is increasingly dangerous for horses and riders.
"Few local areas have a really good bridleway network and most riders depend for safe off-road riding on other kinds of tracks with no tarmac.
"These tracks are the 5,000 kilometres of unclassified county roads and the 4,000 kilometres of'byways open to all traffic'.
"Riders are now having to share these tracks with 4x4s and motor bikes.
"The result is that horse riding routes all over the country have become dangerous for horses and riders," says Charlotte.
"Surfaces are getting so damaged that horses can't use them.
"Other tracks are too narrow to be shared safely by horses and motor vehicles, or they have dangerous blind bends.
"The law as it stands is failing to protect riders and riding routes. It needs to be changed."