James Moyle: Be sure to brush up on the legalities of equine safety

Here’s a situation that may be unfamiliar to many people, especially if you are not a full-time resident in a horse community: you are driving along and encounter a horse and rider on the road. What is the safest way to approach this encounter? Horses are large animals that may become spooked if you do the wrong thing, so we here at Apache Junction Horse Rescue would like to take a moment of your time discussing what you should do next.

But first, a brush-up of the legalities:

•Arizona Revised Statue 28-858 Approaching horses and livestock. “A person operating a motor vehicle on a public highway and approaching a horse-drawn vehicle, a horse on which a person is riding or livestock being driven on the highway shall exercise reasonable precaution to prevent freighting and to safeguard the animals and to ensure the safety of persons riding or driving the animals. If the animals appear frightened, the person in control of the vehicle shall reduce its speed and if requested by signal or otherwise shall not proceed further towards the animals unless necessary to avoid accident or injury until the animals appear to be under control.”

Horse behavior is best understood from the perspective that horses are prey animals with a well-developed fight-or-flight instinct. Some of the more scary objects for horses are bicycles, dirt bikes, and quads that approach in a manner quite similar to a predator. Sudden noises such as a horn honking or construction trailers filled with noisy equipment may also induce the flight instinct in a horse.

Also, parents who have young children with bicycles or motorized vehicles on the road and in the desert need to let them know that when approaching horses they should stop or reduce speed to ensure safety for the horse and rider.

Everyone wants to enjoy the great outdoors and the great weather we have to offer. A few seconds to allow horses to pass or get to a safe spot only takes a second.

Remember it is the law. See you on the trail.

James Moyle
Apache Junction Horse Rescue

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