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BBC’s Countryfile Sparks Controversy Amongst Equestrians

Countryfile is one of the nation’s favourite TV programmes. It is not a series which you would usually associate with controversy. But all that changed recently when the issue of horse riding and road safety was covered by the show.

Safety on the Road

Over 7 million viewers were watching the show when presenter Tom Heap spoke to riders and the British Horse Society (BHS). The subject at hand was the safety of horses and riders on British roads. Equestrian Gillian Singleton was amongst those interviewed. She had sadly lost her 19-year-old gelding Digby in a terrible road accident this year. A car driver simply didn’t see them. The programme also aired footage of vehicles passing horses closely and at indecent speed.

Questionable Advice

None of this was at all controversial but things took a turn for the worse when some of those present gave questionable advice. One person interviewed said that they didn’t think equestrians should ride two abreast on the roads. Another suggested that riders should dismount if their horses seemed nervous. Neither opinion is shared by the BHS.

A Variety of Opinions

The BHS has said that it was anxious to appear on the show to highlight the behaviour of drivers. It was also a chance to show riders what they can do to enhance their own safety and that of their horses. But they accepted that any debate can feature a variety of opinions.

Safety Clothing

The BHS has also since emphasised that it believes all riders should wear hi-viz safety clothing, even in sunny conditions. They believe that this safety wear really makes a difference. It could buy riders a valuable few extra seconds which might save their lives.

"We don’t share the same views as the other spokesperson featured on riders riding two-abreast on the road, as we know in some circumstance this is necessary."

The Statistics

A recent poll conducted by the AA found that a disturbing 17% of drivers thought that horses should be banned from public roads. Even worse, 8% did not know the correct way to pass a horse and 6% of drivers had already been involved in a near miss.

Road safety statistics are even more worrying. Clearly awareness must be improved as in the last five years 36 riders and 181 horses have lost their lives on the roads.

At least the Countryfile feature highlighted the problem and explained the issues to 7 million people. Some aspects of the broadcast may have been controversial but, overall, a discussion about road safety had to be a good thing.


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