Ask NRMA: Are horses regarded as vehicles?

Horse on Sydney road
are horses regarded as vehicles

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 New South Wales. 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 enough away not to be aggravated. You don’t want to see an aggravated horse, it’s the stuff nightmares are made of.

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!

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

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. 

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