Catherine and Kate Bell of Pattersons Corners are alarmed about local motorists’ lack of knowledge and care in interacting with equestrians who share the roadways. The mother and daughter use their road and the shoulder of the road to ride their horses. This use is completely legal. Their horses are well trained and do not react to cars, trucks, buses or even motorcycles as they pass. Nonetheless, these vehicles ought to slow down and move over while passing an equestrian for the safety of all parties.
Catherine explained, “we’ve had a couple of scrapes with people driving by, blowing their horns, or yelling at us to get off of the road. They don’t seem to realize that horses are flight animals and we’re on the back of them. We’re not wearing armour – we could get severely hurt, if not killed. Never mind them and their car: it would be like hitting a moose.”
Catherine has brought the issue up with North Grenville’s councillors, and Mayor Peckford even came to speak with her and Kate about the issue. In the spring of this year, the Municipality did issue a statement on social media asking drivers to slow down when passing horses and riders, and cautioning them about the dangers of speeding past horses.
But from Catherine and Kate’s perspective, much more needs to be done. Catherine recalls that just a couple of weeks ago, a motorist swore at her, telling her she ought to “get that horse off the road.” She’s feeling “very angry and tired from not being listened to and afraid that I’m waiting for the day we get hurt.”
Not only would a more broad-ranging public education campaign perhaps alleviate the situation, but Catherine wonders if North Grenville should explicitly establish itself as an equestrian community. Not only are there a number of professional riders and equestrian facilities, but many residents of rural areas keep horses in their backyards. From her network of other horse people, Catherine knows that many are in the same position as she: they are afraid to use the roads due to the erratic driving of some motorists. Perhaps the township could develop a logo or sticker stating that the area is an equestrian community so that the presence of horses on rural roads is normalized.
Many local horse owners use the rural roads to enjoy the scenery, access trails, or simply exercise their animals. As long as the horse is well behaved, this poses no issue to other people using the road to drive, cycle or walk their dogs. Until it becomes safe and normal to do so, equestrians will either be forced off of the road, or, like Catherine and Kate, start wearing body cams to record and protect themselves in case of an accident.