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.
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.
21805 of the California Motor Vehicle Code provides
that vehicles must yield to equestrians in designated
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.
Down the Road
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.
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.