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Rider lends her support to police’s horse safety campaign

Last modified: 16 October 2018 at 11:24am

A talented rider is backing North Yorkshire Police’s ongoing efforts to keep horses and their riders safe on the roads.

21-year-old event rider Laura Birley, from Selby, North Yorkshire, started riding at the age of three and since then has had a successful career.

Now she has joined police officers in urging riders to be safe and wear hi-viz clothing, particularly when hacking on roads.

In 2012, Laura was first reserve for the British Eventing Pony European Team on her pony, Otto (Ottava Rima). That year she finished fourth in the British Eventing Pony Championship and won the prize for the best home produced pony at the Championships.

Laura is currently studying at Manchester University, but she is still finding time for riding and is captain of the University team. With the team, she represented GB in a Student Riders Nations Cup in Belgium last year.

One of Laura’s current horses is ‘Boxtree And 1’ (pronounced Boxtree and One), who also goes by the name Dan when he’s at home. Dan is a 17 hands high, 14-year-old warmblood gelding.

Laura has owned him for around three-and-a-half years, and during that time they have had a successful career together. After winning Catton Intermediate last season, they have qualified for the Intermediate Championships at Gatcombe this year. They have also qualified for the CIC*** (three-star Concours International Combiné) at Bramham this year, and they are now working hard to get ready for this.

Laura and Dan took time out of their busy schedule to support North Yorkshire Police’s ongoing campaign to promote the importance of rider safety and responsibility, and to try out hi-viz clothing loaned by R&R Country’s Selby store.

Laura said: “In order to get Dan fit for the events, I include some hacking in our schedule. Hacking is great for fitness, especially over in Manchester as the hills are perfect for getting Dan super-fit for the cross country stage. Hacking is also great when we need a break from schooling. Dan can get bored and switch off if we just school all the time, so hacking helps us both have some down time. I have had some very positive experiences when riding on the roads, especially in Manchester where the bus drivers are very considerate.”

Laura said that when she is hacking she wears hi-viz so that drivers can see her. She also makes sure that the she is in control of her horses and doesn’t listen to music or use her phone. She said: “I am always courteous to drivers, and always thank them when they drive past us in a considerate way.”

Laura also advised riders to make sure they know their horse before hacking on the roads, and make sure they have control. She said she would never take a horse on roads that she did not know. Instead, she takes the time to get to know it in a safe environment, then when she feels happy with the horse she will start hacking.

PC Hannah McPeake, of North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Taskforce, said: “We are still seeing people riding on the roads with no hi-viz clothing. Even though we are moving into spring time, and the nights are lighter, hi-viz clothing is still important. Sometimes the days can still be overcast and dull or the shadows from trees and hedges can create dark areas.

“As you can see from our photos, hi-viz clothing is now smart and professional-looking. Bright colours are excellent for making you stand out on the road, and the new reflective material really stands out when lights are on it.”

PCSO Kathryn Bean, from the Neighbourhood Policing Team in Whitby, is also a keen rider. She said: “Other peoples’ actions are out of our control, but we can do everything we can to influence those actions. If wearing hi-viz improves our chances of positively influencing another, then why not wear it?”

Operation Spartan is North Yorkshire Police’s response to vulnerable road users in the county. The scheme seeks to identify vulnerable road users, intervening with a programme of education aimed at helping them to reduce their vulnerability. As part of the operation, people are asked to submit details of instances of dangerous or anti-social driving they have witnessed via an online form at www.northyorkshire.police.uk/opspartan

Motorists should follow four simple steps when passing horses:

  1. Slow down to 15mph
  2. Be patient, don’t sound your horn or rev your engine
  3. Pass wide (at least a car’s width)
  4. Drive slowly away

Inspector Dave Barf, of North Yorkshire Police’s Roads Policing Group, said: “If anyone witnesses driving behaviour which causes concern – such as vehicles passing horses too close, or too fast – I would urge them to report it to us via the online form.

“Every report and piece of footage that is submitted is assessed by experienced traffic officers, and appropriate action taken. This may be the registered owner of the vehicle is contacted by letter to suggest that their driving behaviour be amended to avert possible future collisions. More serious reports may involve a personal visit by police and could ultimately result in prosecution.

“If the anti-social driving behaviour results in an emergency or immediate risk, please use either 999 or 101.”

In addition to Operation Spartan, North Yorkshire Police’s Horse Watch scheme provides security advice and warnings to help equestrians protect their tack and stay safe. To find out more, follow @NYP_HorseWatch on Twitter, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nyphorsewatch

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