A two-day ‘Close Pass’ operation was successfully carried out in Shooters Hill, London last week to educate drivers on how to safely pass horses on the road.

Between 15 and 20 drivers were stopped over the two days and educated on the safe speed and distance to pass horses on the road.

The British Horse Society (BHS) Safety Team worked with Royal Greenwich Equestrian Centre, Metropolitan Police Department Horse Mounted Unit and the Metropolitan Police Service to educate drivers who passed horses too fast or too close.

Two police horses were used for the operation – Elizabeth and Oliver – and were ridden up and down a stretch of road for between two and three hours each day, with their riders wearing hi-vis clothing.

Their riders alerted colleagues if a vehicle passed them too fast or close, and that vehicle was then pulled over further along the road.

Once pulled over, police officers explained why they had been pulled over and offered advice on how to pass horses safely on the road at the correct speed and distance.

“It’s fair to say that most drivers were unaware that they had passed the horse too fast or too close,” said BHS director of safety, Alan Hiscox.

“It’s interesting because it ties in with the BHS’s findings in that most drivers aren’t inconsiderate or trying to do the horses harm, they just don’t know how to pass them safely.”

All drivers that were stopped were very apologetic.

“It was a good opportunity for us to give them our Dead Slow information and advice cards, and all of them said they would pass their cards on to their family and friends, so not only are we stopping up to 20 drivers, but that message is spreading out to maybe another 50 or so drivers,” added Alan.

“The support of the police on the day adds gravitas to the message. People were asking us what was going on and thought it was a great idea when we explained.”

Why Shooters Hill?

Areas are chosen for the Close Pass operations based on the number of incidences reported to the BHS or the police.

“You might not think that a suburb of London would have such a high incidence of horses on the roads, but you’ve got 19 BHS approved riding centres in London alone, plus the Royal Horse Artillery, Royal Mews, Royal Cavalry and lots of livery yards as well as the mounted police, so there’s actually a surprising amount of horses on the roads in London,” explained Alan.

“A lot depends on which police force we are working with, and whether they have a mounted branch or if they use police officers riding their own horses.

“If we focus on Shooters Hill, we know some of the local equestrian centres and Royal Artillery have had some problems with cars and motorbikes close passing them,” continued Alan.

“Ultimately, we choose areas that come in to us from the Horse i app or on our website and then we contact the police force in that area and ask them if they can hold a Close Pass operation with their horses.

“We’ve done six this year; Sussex, Thames Valley, Metropolitan, South Yorkshire Police, Merseyside and Greater Manchester, and we’d like to increase the numbers in 2022.”

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Report your incidences

The Close Pass operations are part of the BHS’s ongoing Dead Slow campaign.

“If people experience incidents on the road themselves, they can report them through the Horse i reporting app,” said Alan.

“You don’t have to have the vehicle registration number, just log the info onto our website or via the app.

“It doesn’t have to be an actual collision, just anything that was a bit close, and then we can put up our Dead Slow signs in conjunction with the local authority or ask the police to do a close Pass Operation with us.

“It’s great that the BHS can work with police forces around the UK,” added Alan. “It is a significant step to increasing the safety of horses on the road and an ongoing process to educate drivers on how to pass horses safely.”

Main image credit: BHS/Metropolitan Police

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