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bike vs. horse etiquette on the road

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

bike vs. horse etiquette on the road

Old 10-20-13, 09:11 AM
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zvez
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bike vs. horse etiquette on the road

Still very new to riding. This morning on one of the back country roads I ride around 930, no traffic no people. Come around a gentle sweeper and see a woman on a horse she's off the road on the right side by ten to twenty feet, she's a hundred feet away facing me. As I pass her (only probably riding at 15mph). She asks me in the future to warn horse riders when you're approaching.

Not sure what I could do short of singing merrily on my entire ride to let a potential horseback rider know a bike is near. Am I missing something, think she's way off base. Had she been riding facing away from me I certainly would've spoken up, but since we laid eyes on each other the same time?
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Old 10-20-13, 09:18 AM
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Cyclists should always yield to horses.
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Old 10-20-13, 09:32 AM
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In my area, the horse people think they own every road and trail, so short of staying inside and miles away, there is no way to make them happy. I just slow down and ride as far around wherever they are as possible. If the animal can't handle that... maybe it shouldn't be on a road... My wife used to ride horses, and in her opinion it is very irresponsible for horse people to get upset that you spooked their horse if you acted reasonably, they shouldn't have the horse out in public like that.
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Old 10-20-13, 09:40 AM
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Originally Posted by zvez View Post
Still very new to riding. This morning on one of the back country roads I ride around 930, no traffic no people. Come around a gentle sweeper and see a woman on a horse she's off the road on the right side by ten to twenty feet, she's a hundred feet away facing me. As I pass her (only probably riding at 15mph). She asks me in the future to warn horse riders when you're approaching.

Not sure what I could do short of singing merrily on my entire ride to let a potential horseback rider know a bike is near. Am I missing something, think she's way off base. Had she been riding facing away from me I certainly would've spoken up, but since we laid eyes on each other the same time?
She is Off base as your bike will spoke the horse before you can say anything.
We came up behind this one and it Spoked.





The rider could not control it.
It went up the side of the grey house before it stopped.
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Old 10-20-13, 09:42 AM
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On a trail I'll walk my bike past a horse rider typically I'll get a thank you for being courteous.. I'm not doing it for the rider though I'm doing it for the horse and myself, if I get a smug attitude instead I'll usually verbally snipe them especially the ones who won't slow their horses down to a jog at least for the actual pass and don't even get me started on the ones who ride three abreast down trail roads and get huffy when they run into other traffic... On the road if your horse needs them they damn well better have blinders and from the scenario you described I wouldn't be concerned with warning as much as planning ahead on the pass but again in your scenario not even that really.. just stay on the asphalt and you're fine. Did you ask her if she also yells at cars?
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Old 10-20-13, 09:43 AM
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A cow can jump a fence and chase you.



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Old 10-20-13, 09:45 AM
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I encounter a lot of horse riders in my back road rambles. If coming from behind I slow down to walking speed and let them know I'm there. They will usually motion me to pass which I do so slowly. If approaching them I stop till they pass or signal me to pass. I have seen horses get spooked and rear up from passing bikes.
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Old 10-20-13, 09:45 AM
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Originally Posted by 10 Wheels View Post
She is Off base as your bike will spoke the horse before you can say anything.
We came up behind this one and it Spoked.





The rider could not control it.
It went up the side of the grey house before it stopped.
Spooked. And cool pics Horses scare me for that very reason.
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Old 10-20-13, 10:00 AM
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Originally Posted by shoota View Post
... cool pics
+1. Awesome, even.
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Old 10-20-13, 10:16 AM
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She is entirely correct. Horses react unpredictably to things they don't understand. They are a prey species. So when you come upon a horse that's not behind a fence, always speak to it way in advance: "Hello horse. Just a human here, lovely to see you this fine morning, etc." Horses weigh 1000-1200 lbs. and can really unmake your day. Give them some respect.

If you are hiking and a horse approaches, always get off the trail on the low side (NEVER the high side) and talk to the horse.
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Old 10-20-13, 10:19 AM
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Being that she was already off the road so far I think the horse rider was a bit off base. If she was ON the road then I would say she would merit a warning like any other slower moving traffic. I wonder what she would expect motorcycles or cars to do for a warning? Honk the horn? I was specifically taught NOT to do this when passing a horse as it could upset them pretty badly.
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Old 10-20-13, 10:29 AM
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thanks for the tips guys.
Absolutely think it's appropriate if the horse/rider is near and walking away from me. When passing horse/riders on my mc I always slow down to idle speed and just crawl past.

This is first time it's happened for me.
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Old 10-20-13, 10:32 AM
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Originally Posted by zvez View Post
Still very new to riding. This morning on one of the back country roads I ride around 930, no traffic no people. Come around a gentle sweeper and see a woman on a horse she's off the road on the right side by ten to twenty feet, she's a hundred feet away facing me. As I pass her (only probably riding at 15mph). She asks me in the future to warn horse riders when you're approaching.

Not sure what I could do short of singing merrily on my entire ride to let a potential horseback rider know a bike is near. Am I missing something, think she's way off base. Had she been riding facing away from me I certainly would've spoken up, but since we laid eyes on each other the same time?
She's quite right. I have had several experiences where when riding up on horses they have been really spooked creating a dangerous situation. They seem acclimated to cars coming upon them but the sudden quiet of the bike can be startling. I always
call out quite a distance away.
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Old 10-20-13, 10:38 AM
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Agree the horseback rider is right.

Apparently horses see cycists as predators and are easily scared.

I generally announce myself and ask if OK to pass. If in doubt, cyclists should yield.
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Old 10-20-13, 11:26 AM
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I don't think the woman's request to announce is unreasonable. Most bikes are very quite and may suddenly startle the horse once it realizes you are approaching quickly. Also, the sound as you begin to coast from the rear wheel (paws) could sound very threatening to the horse, sort of like a rattlesnake? Either that or I've seen too many cowboy movies,

If this woman's horse is capable of being so easily startled, she really should be staying away from roads, since anything could happen quickly. I'd imagine that a crotch rocket buzzing by at a high speed would likely have the same outcome. Likewise, a group of 10-20 cyclists in a paceline might do the same. I've ridden by some horse back riders/horses that don't seem to flinch, while others get very nervous. They can be very unpredictable.
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Old 10-20-13, 11:31 AM
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If approaching from behind I would yell up ahead to the rider and let them get control. If the horse is coming from opposite direction just pull off and let the horse pass. Same as it is when mtn. biking trails where horses are allowed as well.
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Old 10-20-13, 12:18 PM
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Originally Posted by surgeonstone View Post
She's quite right. I have had several experiences where when riding up on horses they have been really spooked creating a dangerous situation. They seem acclimated to cars coming upon them but the sudden quiet of the bike can be startling. I always
call out quite a distance away.
They were facing each other and the horse/rider were well off the road according to the OP. How do you announce for that in any meaningful way when they can already see you coming, and there's already good distance between bike and beast?
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Old 10-20-13, 12:22 PM
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this was exactly my thought. She saw me the same time as I saw her. as she was facing me. But I'm wondering if now she meant to announce myself once I was there more for the horse's benefit than hers, in other words, the woman saw me, knew what I was, but the horse may/may not have seen me and would view me as a potential threat. So perhaps it would mitigate things if going forward I make my presence known by saying hello and such the horse could be aware.

Any rate you guys have helped tremendously giving me various insights. As a newbie I've tons to learn but this place is my go to for help!


Originally Posted by MegaTom View Post
They were facing each other and the horse/rider were well off the road according to the OP. How do you announce for that in any meaningful way when they can already see you coming, and there's already good distance between bike and beast?
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Old 10-20-13, 12:27 PM
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Originally Posted by MegaTom View Post
They were facing each other and the horse/rider were well off the road according to the OP. How do you announce for that in any meaningful way when they can already see you coming, and there's already good distance between bike and beast?
I wish I had an estimated measure of "well off the road" but...

You just say "Hi there. How ya doing?"

It's polite to the horseman and provides an audible clue to the animal that you are in fact human, even though you have an alien-head helmet on and have apparently given up on traditional bipedal ways.
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Old 10-20-13, 12:29 PM
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Horse owners can't possibly expect cyclists to know how to treat their animals.
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Old 10-20-13, 12:35 PM
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I see two sides.
Side one is just be nice. Nicer than you need to be. What the heck. On trails I'm really careful of horses. Some of it is that I don't trust them or their riders. But it's low cost. I get off and smile, then ride afterward.

But the other side of me thinks that, why the heck should people be allowed to have creatures in public they can't control? Heck, they don't even do what we ask dog owners to do, which is pick up their droppings. Horse owners, all to often, think they own the world*

Still, being nice costs little or nothing, so that's how I'll roll.


*Does not apply to working ranches and working horses, just suburban rich pleasure riders.
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Old 10-20-13, 12:38 PM
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Originally Posted by zvez View Post
Still very new to riding. This morning on one of the back country roads I ride around 930, no traffic no people. Come around a gentle sweeper and see a woman on a horse she's off the road on the right side by ten to twenty feet, she's a hundred feet away facing me. As I pass her (only probably riding at 15mph). She asks me in the future to warn horse riders when you're approaching. ...
That's silly. She shouldn't be near the street if she can't control the animal better than that - and she should be warning the horse herself when she saw you coming.
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Old 10-20-13, 12:44 PM
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Originally Posted by LesterOfPuppets View Post
I wish I had an estimated measure of "well off the road" but...
Originally Posted by zvez View Post
...and see a woman on a horse she's off the road on the right side by ten to twenty feet, she's a hundred feet away facing me....
10-20 feet plus the width of a lane seems to measure up for my everyday uses, but I don't encounter many horses. When you're greeting this horse and rider from a guesstimated 15-30 feet are you to shout so that they can actually hear you.. or would that also serve to spook the horse? Pleading total ignorance here.... From such a distance it, and knowing where we're both heading, it would never occur to announce anything to anyone that isn't even on the road. Perhaps I'd wave, but only if there were no other cyclists around to think I might be waving at them... cuz I just don't do that.
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Old 10-20-13, 12:52 PM
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All the multi-use hiking/biking/horse trails around here have signs giving the right-of-way hierarchy rules:
1. Horse.
2. Hiker.
3. Bike.

As previously noted, horses are easily spooked.
There is an old saying: "If a mule kills you, it was on purpose; If a horse kills you, it was probably an accident."

BTW If you need to get off the path to let a horse by, get off on the *downhill* side.
Being on the uphill side makes you look more like a predator.
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Old 10-20-13, 01:04 PM
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Even though you say you were facing each other, perhaps for whatever reason she didn't actually see you until you were riding past? Maybe wave next time you're in a similar situation? One path I ride on has equestrian trails that intersect it at different parts and there are plenty of signs that say always yield to horses. I've never come across one, though.
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