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I sometimes meet horse riders on my way. As the road is closed for the regular motor traffic, I am not sure if these riders and horses are trained enough so I do not need to care.

  • What is the safe distance for a cyclist to pass by the moving horse with the rider?
  • Assuming I move with the typical bicycle speed, do I need to slow down?
  • Assuming my light is not unduly powerful, do I need to pay special attention to its brightness?
  • If I approach from the back and think they do not see me, should I warn the rider with the bell?
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    Personally I’ve never had a problem with slowing down a bit and keeping as much distance as possible, especially when overtaking. I guess it’s also a good idea to announce your presence (e.g. a simple greeting) without startling the horse. But I don’t know anything about horses, so the opinion and experience of a horse rider would be welcome.
    – Michael
    Nov 19, 2021 at 11:40
  • @Michael I once startled a horse so much it almost threw off the rider, by simply braking normally on gravel, still about 20 m away. I guess it depends a lot on horse and rider, location; darkness was falling already, etc... Best to be over-careful. Nov 19, 2021 at 12:09
  • If the horse is likely unfamiliar with bicycles, the best thing to do (in my limited experience) is to pull off the trail and stop. If it's likely that the horseman is unaware of your presence it's wise to make some noise (preferably calm speech) to make your presence known. Do this some distance from the horse, to give the horseman time to process it all. Nov 19, 2021 at 13:46
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    MTB lights (i.e. those that would show up overhanging branches) may need adjusting, but if you're talking about sensible road lights, they should be fine. And be ready for cues from the rider
    – Chris H
    Nov 19, 2021 at 15:10
  • Some horses can be startled by flashing lights - if you know you are likely to meet horses maybe set your lights to constant beam.
    – Mr_Thyroid
    Nov 21, 2021 at 21:03

1 Answer 1

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The best answer I've found for being around horses is to simply slow down and stop well away from the animal. The rider will see you and act in the best way for that horse.

Do not yell or call out.

Do not ring a bell or blow a horn.

Do not do any brake lockup skids or anything similar.

You do not know the nature of the horse nor the skill of the rider. Just spare 30 seconds for a breather and let them go past nice and calmly.


There's a special case if you're approaching from behind to pass. The horse probably won't see you until you're near the back legs, and that's just asking for a startle. Absolutely do not use a bell.

In that case I'd calmly announce your presence to the rider without being too loud, and then ask if its okay to pass. If the rider requests you wait or anything, then you do as requested.


If the horses in your area are feral, they will run off long before you get near them. If there's a horse without a rider, then its possibly escaped from a paddock. If the horse is wearing a saddle then there may have been an accident already.

Pay attention to the horse's nostrils and how hard it is breathing. Horse's body language is fairly obvious; if it looks upset it probably is upset, so keep your distance.


There's no particular concern for lights or their brightness. Simply avoid shining lights at the horse's face. If it is dark enough to need lights to see, there's a much lower chance of meeting a horse+rider. A DRL should cause no problems.

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    Imagine chains of small LED visibility lights wiggling vertically much higher than a human would reach, not other lights. First time I met them in the night, I was sure we have aliens at last.
    – nightrider
    Nov 19, 2021 at 11:13
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    Tone of voice helps a lot as well as sensible volume - think greeting rather than warning. Slow down early and gently whether approaching from on front or behind, in case of brake noise
    – Chris H
    Nov 19, 2021 at 15:07
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    It is important not to approach silently (like a predator would). I've never had a horse startle by me calling out or ringing my bell (but I have a Knog Oi which has quite a pleasant, non-jarring tone). I did have one rider say it's better to call out than ring your bell so the horse knows you are human.
    – Mr_Thyroid
    Nov 21, 2021 at 21:02

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