Ask NRMA: Are horses regarded as vehicles?

Horses on the road - NRMA Blog

NO HORSEPLAY: Slow down and be prepared to stop.

Across Australia, horses have the same rights as any motor vehicle. Classification of a rider includes any person who rides a motor bike, bike, animal or animal-drawn vehicle. 

According to the NSW Road Rules, horse riders cannot travel on the road more than two abreast and must be within 1.5 metres of each other. Horses and riders are permitted to travel on footpaths and nature strips unless specifically prohibited and provided they give way to pedestrians at all times. A person also must not lead an animal while also driving a motor vehicle, while being a passenger in a motor vehicle or riding a bicycle.

When it comes to rules for motorists, there are no specific rules in NSW. It is interesting to note however that in Queensland the equivalent to our NSW Road Rules specifically lists failing to give way to a “restive horse” as an offence. Under their rule, a motorist is obliged to pull over to the left side of the road and turn the vehicle’s engine off if signalled by a rider (usually by raising a hand and pointing at the horse) until the horse/s have calmed down or have travelled far away enough not to be aggravated. You don’t want to see an aggravated horse, it’s the stuff nightmares are made of.

If you are a horse owner, make sure you have NRMA’s Premium Plus product to cover you, should you breakdown with a horsebox.

So watch out for ridden, driven or led horses and when you come across horse traffic remember:

• Stay stable and approach with care.
• Horses can be unpredictable so slow down and give them plenty of room.
• Never sound your horn, rev your engine or pass a horse at high speed.
• Slow down or stop if a rider is having difficulty with a horse.

It’s worth noting that horse riders are subject to the road rules in all states, they don’t rein supreme. This means riders must be below the 0.05 blood-alcohol limit while on horseback and abide by the speed limit. It’s also a neigh to use a mobile phone whilst riding, so no horsing around!

For more general information about horse riding on roads across Australia, have a look at Horse SA’s road safety book.

Have you had any experience with horses on the road?

The information contained on this webpage is provided for general information purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice or as a substitute for legal advice. 

Whilst we endeavour to ensure the information is complete and up to date, we make no warranties as to the accuracy or any other aspect of the information and accept no responsibility for any loss or damage you may suffer as a result or your reliance on any part of it. Links to other websites are inserted for convenience only and do not constitute endorsement of material on those sites, or any associated organisation, product or service.

22 thoughts on “Ask NRMA: Are horses regarded as vehicles?

  1. It’s a shame learners are not required to know this as part of passing their license – I have yet to have any driver confirm they have been asked this in a driving test

    • Hi Reichel, thanks for taking the time to share your feedback! Quillam will be pleased. Hope you are well. Dan, NRMA Social

    • They do. Believe me riders are not reliant on drivers being sensible. Or dog owners controlling their dogs or children in prams or anything anything a prey animal may find frightening.

  2. We have a lot of residential building works happening in our area. Unfortunately, a lot of the truck drivers seem to think it unnecessary to slow down when they see horses, even when signalled to do so. It would be great if drivers new to the area could have some sort of induction regarding horse/rider safety. I am sure if they were stood in road with a truck thundering towards them they would be scared. We all need to be aware and respectful of each other.

  3. I got asked what you should do when approaching horse riders on the road in my L’s test which is hilarious because i am a horse rider and it rarely gets asked.

  4. I live in rural NSW where a lot of the roads here are main roads (100 klms speed limit), Doesn’t this set of rules imply that a horse rider can ride the main road and try to wave people to a stop for an uncontrollable horse? If this is the case, then what you expect of me as a driver, is to pull my car up, doing 100 k’s an hour, in the space that I would see you and understand that you have a horse there…. That is ludicrous and dangerous to my health and everyone else’s who may be on that road. In saying that, my wife rides horses, but she would never ride on a main road, so I guess common sense plays a big part, but there is still the fact that this scenario is possible. I think this rule is irresponsible in this way, unless there is some clause there which was not mentioned, and which says that horses ridden on main roads wave their right to flag cars down, simply because of the risk it raises. On every other road, say any road under 60 klm’s speed limit, I feel this is completely fair and should be made harsher penalties for those who break such law. Great article, but this law seems a bit unfinished in my opinion….

    • Just slow down take your foot off the pedal and be prepared to take avoiding action. We are often walking with our dogs ( sometimes a horse) on a country gravel road 100 speed limit and some idiots have no hesitation in showering us in rocks and dust as they roar past… a little regard for other people.

  5. I’ve grown up and always owned horses, and these same rules apply in every state. This is because horses were the first mode of transport.
    I am sick and tired of arrogant drivers who have a total lack of respect for us whom are on the horses back.
    I had an incident the other day where a 4×4 came flying down the road and refused to slow down after many attempts of using my arms to slow him down refused. If I stuck my leg out I could’ve kicked his car. Now I was on a horse that I’ve just broken in and is very green and oh boy sid he flip, he was jumping around bucking and rearing. I was so annoyed at him he even waved then gave me the finger. I was yelling at him to stop. As he drove past I swore my head off at him…
    Please people if you do see a person in a horse Please Please Please slow right down. If it was someone who’s not so experienced this could’ve turned into a very serious accident..
    Thank you

  6. Please tell me who I can call to get a horse & rider sign erected on a country road I live on before there is a fatality up here

  7. Thank you for this article and related comments. Are these rules the same for Victoria? If so where can they be found in the Act or regulations?

  8. Would love to see a horse do 80-100kms an hour… as for riding on main roads, most riders wouldn’t do that for the risks that are involved or at least I wouldn’t. I live in qld and used to live riding my horse around town and back streets, but the amount of motorists that showed no consideration or thought it funny to honk, or not slow down when my horse was clearly acting up, put me off doin it. Then u get people saying well u shouldn’t ride a spooky horse on the road, 1 how we goin to educate it if we don’t present it, 2 it’s not just cars that spook horses but what if a bird flew out of a bush and spooked it… did you as a driver know a horse can spook and move up to 80kms an hour in a fright moment… imagine that coming through your windscreen… people need to find their common sense again and not be so ignorant. Just remember our forefathers used them to pave the roads you now drive!!! Have some consideration…

  9. Could you please verify the statement that is an “offence not to give way to restive horses”. I understand that this was adopted by many states under the National Road Rules, but as far as I can tell, it was not adopted in NSW, and as such it is not law within NSW. Qld did adopt this rule though, and it has become law in their state.
    I am genuinely interested in where this is drawn from.
    Kind regards,

    • Hi Heidi, Thanks so much for getting in touch. We have since made an amendment to the article to clarify that the rules regarding restive horses are only in QLD and not in NSW as you’ve mentioned. We apologise for the confusion. Cheers, Paul – NRMA Social

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