Horse rider warns against dangerous driving

Mairi Ralston and her daughters, 11-year-old Erin and eight-year-old Louise, during a recent outing on the horses.
Mairi Ralston and her daughters, 11-year-old Erin and eight-year-old Louise, during a recent outing on the horses.

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An experienced horse rider, who regularly rides on Kintyre’s roads with her two young daughters, is appealing to drivers to be more considerate after a spate of near misses with cars in recent months.

Mairi Ralston, from Rhoin Farm, contacted the Courier after noticing an increase in drivers behaving inconsiderately by passing her and her daughters, Erin, 11, and eight-year-old Louise, too quickly and closely while they rode in the Sound of Kintyre and Moss Road areas.

She said: ‘The standard of driving can be awful. People seem to be unaware of how to pass horses safely or of what a rider’s hand signals mean.

‘A common occurrence is cars overtaking us when there are oncoming cars – because we’re slow they think they can nip in. We have to put our hands up, asking them to wait, but many times they overtake anyway and end up swinging in because the other car is coming.’

Mairi explained that her horses are used to farm machinery and heavy lorries from the nearby McKerral’s yard and that it is most often something else which gives them a fright.

She said: ‘All of our horses are very safe on the road and traffic really doesn’t bother them – it’s when things happen like birds flying out of hedges, people’s washing cracking on the line, or balloons at someone’s garden gate – these are all things that can spook the horses, causing them to shoot across the road. If a car is passing us at 60 miles per hour, there isn’t much room to stop.’

The riders do everything they can to make being on the road as safe as possible, always wearing high visibility clothing and strips on their hats, and Mairi usually attaches a camera to her hat.

‘My horse wears a big fluorescent sheet over his back end,’ she added, ‘so it’s not like people can’t see us.’

Mairi hopes that highlighting the issue and reminding people of the correct way to pass horses may help to prevent an accident in the future, especially in a rural area with such a large horse riding community.

‘There probably aren’t many days that there aren’t horses on the road somewhere in Kintyre,’ she said, ‘and nobody is going to come off well if a car hits a horse.’

Mairi, who passed her road safety test for horses when she was 12, added that most drivers are considerate but it is the inconsiderate minority that poses the danger.

‘We just want people to be a wee bit more patient,’ she said. ‘We don’t want to be hurt but drivers won’t want their cars damaged either. My horse weighs almost a tonne, so a car isn’t going to look good if it hits it!’

A Police Scotland spokesperson said that the force receives reports of incidents like those described by Mairi from time to time, and added: ‘Advice for drivers would be to expect horses, cyclists and pedestrians on country roads and drive appropriately, with care and according to the conditions and view ahead.

‘If you meet a horse and rider while driving, slow down and, if appropriate and safe, stop your vehicle and switch off the engine and allow the horse and rider to pass you and drive away slowly.

‘When you come up behind a horse and rider ahead, slow down and keep well back, at least three car lengths, be patient and wait for the rider to signal you to pass. When passing, drive slowly with low revs and try to keep at least a car’s width away from the horse.’