How to pass a horse


To the Editor:

I think this is a good time to spread the word about how to approach and pass horseback riders. There are more of us out in this wonderful weather, and also more vehicles, bicycles, and what have you.

So let’s start with bicycles, as yesterday a nice young fellow came silently up behind us as he didn’t want to startle the horses, but that is just what happened. When approaching a rider, either from behind or in front, please holler out “hello” so we and the horses know you are coming. In making contact, it can then be determined the safest way to pass, usually the horses to one side, while the cyclists pass slowly. When dogs are involved, it is best to restrain your dog (in most places there are leash laws …), as some horses will kick to defend themselves from what they perceive as danger. I thank those of you who are quick to restrain your dogs and keep everyone safe.

Now on to the road: Massachusetts law for vehicles is to slow down, pass wide, and STOP if the rider indicates you to do so. You can find the entire set of rules on So even if you are not asked to slow with a hand signal, please slow down anyway, as the person may not be able to take their hands from the reins to do so. Some horses are better with traffic than others, and the only way to train them is to practice with positive results. Horses are extra wary of larger, louder vehicles (trucks), especially those pulling trailers with monsters on them. And oh dear, those motorcycles (of which I have one), they are especially demonic for most horses. I do try to desensitize my horse with my little Honda, but a Harley, well, they are loud for a reason, so yes, the horses know they are coming, but don’t know that they are not going to be eaten! And those yellow bullet things in the State Forest, well, thank God the drivers are horse-savvy and stop for us. Let me give a big shout out to UPS, FedEx, and the too many Mack truck companies to list, thank you all for taking the extra minute to be sure our mounts are secure in your wake. Our lives do depend on it.


Vickie Thurber

West Tisbury