Horse riders head onto Ditchling roads this weekend to raise awareness for the Pass Wide and Slow Campaign
Sussex horse riders are embarking on a special ride around Ditchling this weekend to encourage cars to drive past them carefully.
They are setting off from Ditchling Recreation Ground at 11am on Saturday (September 18) and so far 12 riders are taking part with five people walking.
The event is part of the Pass Wide and Slow Campaign, which is holding 200 similar rides across the country on Sunday (September 19).
The Ditchling version is taking place a day earlier to avoid clashing with the London to Brighton Cycle Ride.
“It will be going through the village and then towards Notcutts garden centre,” said organiser Rachel Williams, an Equine Ranger who lives in Burgess Hill.
The circuit will go clockwise along Common Lane, before turning right onto Folders Lane and back to Ditchling on Spatham Lane, she said.
Some riders can cut across the cow field from Common Lane to Folders Lane too for ‘a little canter’.
Rachel said the ride aims to raise awareness about vulnerable road users like horse riders, pedestrians and cyclists and the procession will have a banner at the front.
“Horses are flight animals,” she said, adding that the slower cars drive past and the more distance they give, the safer it is for everyone.
“We can see over hedges so we can see whether there’s somebody mowing their lawn or a dog barking,” said Rachel.
“Drivers can’t and a horse will dart sideways if something is upsetting them,” she warned.
“If a car is right next to you you’re going to hit the car,” she added, saying that the speed of a horse darting sideways can be 50mph.
An average horse also weighs about half a ton, she said, and can cause serious damage to a vehicle.
Not only that, but it can have a tragic ending, said Rachel, referring to an incident in September 2017 when a horse had to be put down after an accident in Ditchling.
Rachel advises drivers not to beep their horn or sit directly behind a horse within kicking distance either, and asked drivers to watch for riders’ hand signals.
“A drain, a big leaf, anything like that can spook a horse,” said Rachel.
“As odd as it sounds we know our horses,” she said, adding that it only takes a few seconds of waiting for a horse to go around a drain comfortably.
“We’re not talking about keeping somebody behind us for ten minutes,” she said.
“If we can move off the road to let somebody pass then we will.”
Rachel said most riders do not want to be on the road but it is necessary sometimes for them to get to public bridleways.
The group on Saturday will be noticeable but small, not blocking the road but encouraging drivers to go past slowly, she said.
There will be an officer from the rural crime team on the ride to answer any questions people might have.
To find out more about the Pass Wide and Slow Campaign visit the official Facebook Page.