Horse Related Traffic Tips - Rules of the Road.

At Equine Legal Solutions, we frequently receive questions about the rights and duties of equestrians on public roads.  Here is a brief summary of the California Motor Vehicle Code as it applies to equestrians. 

Who Must Yield to Whom?  

Section 21759 of the California Motor Vehicle Code provides that the driver of any vehicle approaching a horse-drawn vehicle or person on horseback must slow down or stop as appropriate under the circumstances to avoid frightening the horse or otherwise endangering horse and rider.  So, the folks who roar past you yelling and honking the horn are violating the law.

Equestrian Crossings

Section 21805 of the California Motor Vehicle Code provides that vehicles must yield to equestrians in designated equestrian crossings.  However, 21805 also notes that the rider must use due care not to proceed into the path of a vehicle – even at an equestrian crossing, you still have to look both ways to make sure there is no oncoming traffic before proceeding.

Riding Down the Road

Section 21050 of the California Motor Vehicle Code provides that “every person riding or driving an animal upon a highway” has all of the rights and duties of a vehicle driver.  This means that equestrians must obey all traffic laws, including riding with traffic (on the correct side of the road) and signaling all turns.  If you are riding along the road and your horse suddenly bolts into the path of an oncoming car, you could be held responsible for the accident.

Loose Horse!   

As a horse owner or horse property owner, you can be held liable for negligence if you fail to keep your horse contained and it causes an accident. In one California case, a Half Moon Bay stable’s horses escaped onto Highway One, causing an accident.  When law enforcement arrived at the stable, the investigating officer leaned on the fence while talking with the stable owner and the fence gave way!  Not surprisingly, the stable was held liable for the damages to the motorist.

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