Does the Highway Code apply to horse riders?

What is the Highway Code?

The Highway Code is the official guide for road users for Great Britain.

Who does the Highway Code apply to?

The Highway Code applies to all road users including horse riders.

What is the legal status of the Highway Code?

Many of the provisions set out in the Highway Code are legal requirements. Such provisions are identified by the words “MUST / MUST NOT”. If a person disobeys one of these provisions they commit a criminal offence.

Failure to comply with the other provisions of the Highway Code is not in itself a criminal offence. However, the Road Traffic Act 1988 provides that the failure on the part of a person to observe a provision of the Highway Code may in any Court proceedings (whether civil or criminal and including proceedings for an offence under the Traffic Acts, the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981 or sections 18 to 23 of the Transport Act 1985) be relied upon by any party to the proceedings as tending to establish or negate any liability which is in question in those proceedings. The advisory provisions are identified with wording such as “should/ should not” or “do/ do not”.

What provisions does the Highway Code contain relating to horse riders?


The Highway Code refers to the legal requirement imposed by the Horses (Protective Headgear for Young Riders) Act 1990 that all children under the age of 14 MUST wear a helmet which complies with the Horses (Protective Headgear for Young Riders Regulations) 1992. The Highway Code also refers to the legal requirement that such helmet MUST be fastened securely.

The Highway Code advises that other riders should follow these requirements.

The requirements do not, however, apply to children who follow the Sikh religion while wearing a turban.

Other clothing

The Highway Code advises riders to wear boots or shoes with hard soles and heels, light-coloured or fluorescent clothing in daylight and reflective clothing when riding at night or in poor visibility.

Riding at night or in poor visibility

The Highway Code advises riders that it is safer not to ride on the road at night or in poor visibility. Where a person does ride on a road at night or in poor visibility the Highway Code advises that reflective clothing be worn by the rider and that the horse wears reflective bands above the fetlock joints.

The Highway Code also advises that a light which shows white to the front and red to the rear should be fitted, with a band to the rider’s right arm and/ or their leg or riding boot.

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For more information on:

  • Preparing a horse for riding
  • Riding a horse on a road
  • Footpaths and pavements
  • Cycle tracks, bridleways and equestrian crossings
  • Roundabouts