Friday, 13 June 2014

Jockeys Cautioned in Traffic Incident

Thirty nine jockeys received a caution this week - for lining up too early in April's Grand National, a traffic offence of sorts, although not linked to the Automobile Association's recent publication of advice regarding equestrian road-sense.

While the BHA was concerned with the jockeys' lack of care towards pedestrians at Aintree (they knocked over one of the starter's assistants), the AA has taken action following a survey in which 8% of drivers stated that they would be unsure of the appropriate actions to take on encountering a horse on the highway.

In Cartmel we're occasionally fortunate to see Jimmy Moffatt's string of racehorses out for a jog - or a pair of Friesian horses (from the Black Horses stud just outside the village), in harness, collecting newly-weds from the 12th Century priory.
Other leisure riders, clad in luminous jackets, trip-trap through the village too. Apparently they're not so welcome in all parts of the country; 17% of drivers stated that they didn't think horses should be allowed on the road at all - something that should be giving the equestrian community cause for concern.  
There are, of course, regional variations. Visit any town in the Scottish Borders during the Summer and you'll as likely as not face a short delay as a hundred or more horses pass by to celebrate the Common Ridings. Horses and ponies of all shapes and size are regularly seen in the high-streets of Hawick, Galashiels, Selkirk and Peebles and very lovely it is too.
We have to be pragmatic, times change, and modern roads were designed for cars not horses. It isn't much fun to ride in speeding traffic, but a long ride around the country lanes can be life-enhancing. As drivers, if we learn to slow down a bit, the sight of a horse on a country lane might be life enhancing too.
While it is thought that there are about 3,000 horse related accidents on the road every year, there are at least 20,000 involving bicycles. When it comes to serious accidents, the statistics for cyclists get even worse with an even higher proportion of life-changing injuries and fatalities. One factor, apart from the large number of bicycles on the road, is the predominately polite manner in which horse-riders have historically conducted themselves.
That perception may be at risk in the modern environment where good manners are rare, patience is thin and a culture of blame breeds distrust. Some riders have started wearing cameras on their helmets, which not only makes them look ridiculous, but also sends disrespectful and untrusting signals to other road users. Personally, I couldn't disapprove more strongly.

Of all the guidelines issued to riders by organisations such as the British Horse Society and the Pony Club, the most important is that they should show courtesy to all drivers and conspicuous gratitude to those that demonstrate consideration when passing.

As for drivers, it may be sobering to reflect on the fact that about a quarter of all riders are children aged under 16. It is sensible to pass wide and slow, being prepared to stop if necessary.
It is also worth remembering that the rider can usually see further along the highway and hear more than the driver. They are more likely to be aware of additional vehicles or hazards, so if a rider is able to issue clear hand signals, it pays to be attentive. If you want to find out more, look up the AA's recent advice on their website.
And so to this week’s selection: as long as he can avoid traffic problems in the large field entered for the William Hill Scottish Sprint Cup, and his jockey doesn’t mow down any pedestrians, I think Hawkeyethenoo will take a lot of beating in the £100,000 feature at Musselburgh on Saturday.


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