The warmer Spring weather has certainly encouraged more people and families to get out and about on their bicycles and Greenstead Farm is a popular destination in the Essex countryside to stop and get refreshments before continuing the journey.
If you’re cycling on the rural roads and lanes that surround Greenstead Farm, you are likely to encounter horses, some of which won't be used to groups of cyclists especially, and may be spooked easily - posing a danger for the rider and horse, as well as those on bikes.
There is plenty of advice available for cyclists and riders - it is mostly common sense but we've gathered some here as a reminder to ensure that everyone can continue with a safe and enjoyable ride.
The most important thing is to make the rider aware of your presence. Horses have a very large blind spot so if you're approaching them from behind they won’t see you until you’re practically level with their heads. It’s vital therefore to let the riders know you’re there with a clear greeting. A horse is far less likely to be spooked by the sound of your voice than by being suddenly surprised by you appearing next to them. Wait until the rider has acknowledged you and follow any instructions they give you for passing.
Whether approaching horses from behind or head on, slow right down and be prepared to stop. This also applies if you’re out for a training ride with a group or taking part in an event. Allow plenty of time and distance for the horse and rider to become aware of your presence.
Avoid unexpected noises
Try not to shift gears or brake hard when approaching horses as these sort of mechanical noises can easily spook them.
Most horses being ridden on the road are used to passing traffic so, as long as you give them plenty of room and pass to the right, as you normally would, they’ll be fine. Allow extra room in case they are surprised or startled, this is as much for your safety as it is for the horse and rider.
The more warning a horse rider has of you approaching, the better. Make sure you’re visible and have suitable lights fitted to your bike if lighting is poor - country lanes may be deceptively dark with overhanging trees and bushes.
Keep an eye out for signs that there may be horses around. Fresh manure, bridleways that cross the road and nearby stables are all fairly clear indicators. Look out for horses being ridden two abreast as this can indicate a younger or nervous horse. Some riders will also wear tabards indicating a young or nervous horse or if they’re an inexperienced rider.
Large groups of cyclists can be especially alarming for horses so, if you’re out on a club run or taking part in an event with other riders, be especially aware of this. Follow all the advice above, communicate through the group, that you’re slowing down and split into groups of four or five riders to pass. The horse riders may be able to find a safe place, stop and let you pass as one group but do allow them the time to do this.
Don’t take offence if a horse rider doesn’t appear to acknowledge your consideration, they are probably concentrating on controlling their horse.