Right, I`m going to have a rant.
Whether cyclists choose to believe it or not, they are actually scary to horses. Yes, they are not large, rattling lorries, or buses with air brakes; but cyclists tend to be brightly clothed, whizz up silently behind horses and make them jump. As well as the sudden appearance of a cyclist or ten, horses are often mystified by the way people roll along with wriggling feet – not at all like our normal gait – and bikes make a clicking noise when free wheeling, as well as the flashing of the reflectors and the squeak of brakes, which can unsettle a horse.
So what has triggered my rant, I hear you speak.
Well Llani and I went for a hack today, in between light rain showers. After being hailed (with hailstones the size of golf balls) on halfway down the road we turned the first corner of the wiggly lane and were happily walking up the hill when a slushing noise came from behind. Llani turned to look behind, and we saw a lycra wearing cyclist, pedalling along. Now, Llani is not too keen on bikes (he was fine until a dozen sprinted past him, and now he keeps a wary eye on them) but he seems happier with cyclists if them talk as they pass him. It`s almost as though he begins to understand that they are human.
This cyclist was slowing down, but as he drew near I asked, “Could you please talk as you go past so that he understands you`re a person?” Unfortunately, I only got as far as “go past” when he interrupted me with “What do you expect me to do? I was only cycling along the lane. I didn`t even see you until I came round the corner … I have as much right to be on the road as you …”
He cycled past, gesticulating wildly, wobbling as he turned to rant at me. Well. I wasn`t having a go at him, in fact he was passing in a very sensible manner, I just wanted a little assistance in making the experience positive for my horse. If he`d have listened to me in the first place, and not become defensive he should have understood. As it was, his wobbling and shouting had actually helped Llani understand that the lycra-clad monster was just a human being using a very strange mode of transport.
Whilst cyclists have as much right to be on the road as us horse riders, they really should remember to slow down when approaching horses. If they are in a large group then it can be very intimidating so it can be a good idea to split into smaller groups. If approaching from behind the bell is very useful, as it alerts us riders to something behind us. In a similar way to when cycling along the canal it is good practice to alert pedestrians to you so they don`t fall in the canal in fright as you whizz past them (We recently took a Sunday walk along the canal …) Slowing down for horses, talking and perhaps remaining stationary so a nervous horse can pass, or wheeling the bike past a worried horse, can all help to prevent a horse becoming bike-shy and help road users work together so the roads are a safer place.