Passing Cars

I’ve had two incidences this week when hacking of cars tailgating me.

A lot of my hacking is on lanes between bridle paths but as I usually hack when it’s quiet it doesn’t cause a problem. Usually.

When a car approaches I make sure I’m close to the hedge, unless I don’t want them to pass for a moment (if I know there’s a junction coming up, or I can see a problem ahead, and I slow my walk to a snails pace. Stopping sometimes causes the horses to fidget, so unless there’s a limited passing space I prefer to keep them moving. I never wave a car past, but that will come into this post later, but do everything else to help them pass.

So today on my hack I was on a wide, straight lane when a car came up behind. So Llani and I crept into the hedge and slowed right down, leaving plenty of room to pass. But this car stayed just behind us, in both our blind spots. I kept turning to glance back at them to see what the situation was and the driver looked blankly at me. So I stopped. She stayed behind. Then edged towards me. I turned to make sure the car wasn’t too close to Llani’s hindquarters. The driver stopped and reversed. It was like playing Granny’s Footsteps!

Eventually she passed me, but it was a real faff. On the plus side she was very careful and slow. On my way back to the yard I contemplated the situation. Could I have been clearer in my actions? Did Llani look like he was going to explode in front of her? The answers were no, so I came to the conclusion that she was waiting for me to wave her past. Which would involve me taking a hand off the reins and thus losing an element of control over my horse. But that’s another matter.

This does bring me on to why I never wave cars past me when hacking.

At the time I was in college I was exercising a friend’s overweight pony, and encouraging her to ride by giving little lessons and walking out on hacks with her. We left her lovely house on the side of the mountain and continued up their steep one-track lane when we spotted a car in the distance. Conveniently we were right next to a passing place, so we pulled in and I waved the car on. It didn’t move. So I waved again. It still didn’t move so eventually we walked up to it.

The driver rolled down her window and spoke to me haughtily “I am a riding and road safety officer for the British Horse Society and you must never wave a car on. Should they have an accident because you told them to pass, you would be liable. Don’t do it again.” And off she went.

Whilst I felt like a five year old in disgrace, it made a lot of sense and since then I’ve avoided waving cars past, and tried to tell others not to (whether they listen or not is up to them), whilst at the same time giving all other signals that I’m happy for them to pass me – moving to the side, halting, waiting at junctions or before them, and thanking them when they do.

Sometimes when driving along I see riders waving me on gallantly, when I know that it’s the brow of a hill and that cars in the opposite direction tend to hare along. I dread to think how many near accidents have been caused by riders thoughtlessly waving cars past. Although there is a bit of responsibility from the driver to make sure they’ve checked that it’s safe to pass themselves.

I know there are a lot of road safety campaigns going on at the moment, for cyclists, rivers and riders alike, but perhaps this element of riders not telling cars to pass should be addressed. After all, how many cyclists do you see waving you past? But also drivers should know that they shouldn’t be waved past, and perhaps told of behaviours of the horse rider that suggests they are happy for you to pass them.


2 thoughts on “Passing Cars

  1. Schmitt August 12, 2015 / 8:30 am

    While I can’t speak to your liability should you wave a car past (though I’m skeptical) I think shuddering at near accidents caused by said is overstating it – note she didn’t say accidents were caused by it, only that you might be liable.

    I expect my horse to put up with a whole lot of stuff from me and not having two hands on the reins at all times is one of them. If that were all that prevented us from accidents I’d feel as if I were on shaky ground.

    That said, try making eye contact and then bobbing your head pointedly in the forward direction.

  2. Sparrowgrass August 12, 2015 / 12:28 pm

    I am on the not-waving team. While it’s true I don’t like taking a hand off the reins without good reason, I don’t wave because my driving instructor impressed this on me for the same reasons. I do know someone who had a (car-on-car) crash because he trusted to the person waving him out when he shouldn’t have.

    I do eye contact (if not too awkward) with a big smile – that’s as close as I get to waving on.

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