Our Motor Vehicle Act defines traffic as pedestrians, ridden or herded animals, vehicles, cycles and other conveyances, either singly or together, while using a highway to travel. That's right, a horse being ridden on the highway is considered to be traffic. Animal drawn vehicles are a legitimate part of the mix too.
You might be surprised to find that the rider or driver of an animal drawn vehicle has the same rights and duties as the driver of any type of motor vehicle.
Like a cyclist, this means that the horse or horse drawn vehicle is entitled to use our roads in the same way as a driver does. However, they are not required to be as near as practical to the right side of the highway. Riders must also follow all of the other rules of the roadway such as signalling their intentions, obeying traffic controls and following the slow driving rules.
Animal drawn vehicles must display a slow moving vehicle sign at the rear when on a highway and both would have to display lights when on the highway after dark.
Drivers must behave as if the horse rider or horse drawn vehicle is another motor vehicle on the highway. It is especially important that drivers follow and pass with care.
Riders and drivers must exercise reasonable consideration for each other while they are using the highway.
Both the Minister of Transportation and the government of a municipality may make regulations or bylaws that control the riding of horses or the operation of horse drawn vehicles on or beside our highways. In fact, horses and horse drawn vehicles are prohibited on freeways and may only cross at intersections by permit from the Minister of Transportation.
What is unique is that a horse brings a mind of it's own to this situation and does not always obey the rider's instructions. They can be upset by passing motor vehicles as well as the actions of an inconsiderate driver and react unpredictably.
Drivers of vehicles should be aware that if in passing by a horse being ridden or driven and they indirectly cause an accident, which could include spooking the animal which then throws the rider off, they must stop, render assistance and provide their details to the rider.
Failing to do so could result in charges of failing to remain at an accident.
For more information on this sharing the road with horses, visit the Horse Council of BC web site.