Last updated: January 19, 2022
In Louisiana, it’s common to see carriages and horseback riders traveling on the roads. Their presence often prompts someone to ask me if it’s legal for horses to be on the road, so I decided to address this issue.
It is legal to ride a horse on roads in Louisiana. Louisiana Revised Statutes 32:22 states: Every person riding an animal or driving any animal-drawn vehicle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this Chapter,
Horseback riding on the roads in Louisiana is legal and fun, but be aware that your rights on the roadways are not unlimited, horseback riders can be liable for damages caused by their horse.
Perform a pre-ride safety check before each ride.
The first thing to keep in mind is that many drivers are unfamiliar with horses and will pass you too fast or too close. You should only take a horse on the road that doesn’t spook easily. To properly prepare for your trip, follow this pre-ride checklist:
Make sure you are visible to traffic.
Wear clothes that are easy to see and bright, and a reflective vest is the best outwear when horseback riding on the road.
To ensure you’re visible to motor vehicle drivers, your horse should have reflective tack, such as leg wraps, breast collars, and stirrup bars. You can also place reflective tape on the areas most easily seen, and this will increase a driver’s ability to see you on the road even better.
Bicyclists use attachable flashing lights, and you can use them as well. Find a convenient place on your saddle to attach the light that won’t impede your ability to ride safely. The light will add additional visibility during dusk and early morning horseback rides.
Bring emergency gear on your ride.
It’s best to be prepared when horseback riding, so always travel with some emergency gear: Cell phone, identification, hoof pick, and a pocket knife.
Ensure your horse is ready for the road.
Make sure your horse is road-ready, safe around noise, passing cars, has shoes, and is not spooky. If you are not confident in your horse’s temperament, then don’t ride on the road. There will surely be a time when the unexpected will occur.
After saddling your horse ride him for a little while before bringing him on the road. A warm-up ride allows you to get comfortable and confirm he is properly tacked and securely saddled. If you need to make adjustments before getting on the road, you can do so in a safe area before the ride.
Make sure you are ready to ride on the road.
Are you a competent hand with a horse? If not, then skip riding on the road for now because it’s not a safe environment to practice your riding skills. Cars will be traveling past you and falling off a horse into traffic could be fatal.
Plan the route of your ride.
Know the road you intend to take and choose your trip wisely. You want to avoid roads that, have high traffic, little or no shoulders, and sharp curves.
Notify someone where you intend to ride, the route you plan to take, and when you should be back from your ride.
Ride in the daylight.
Don’t ride at dusk or night on the roads;
Be smart when riding a horse on the road.
Follow these tips for horseback riding on roadways
- When riding with other horseback riders, you should form a single file line and ride close to the edge on the right-hand side of the road. Follow the rules of the road.
- Only cross a road from a safe vantage point. Think like you taught your children, stop and look both ways before crossing.
- If you have to ride side by side, always have the more experienced rider closest to the traffic.
- If your horse begins to act skittish, get off, and lead him. It is better to err on the side of caution.
- Keep yourself aware of the dangers and keep the reins in your hands in case you have to respond quickly.
- Be mindful of the area you are taking your horse. Notice the litter on or near the road, potholes, and rocks. Don’t ride over garbage or broken glass. Most horses are not familiar with riding on the streets, so you need to take control and guide your horse appropriately. Sometimes the smallest item can frighten a horse
- Be aware of animals in the area. It’s not uncommon for unleashed dogs to attempt attacks on horses walking on the road.
- Be aware of bicyclists and joggers, because they can approach you without making much noise and possibly spook a horse. Try to engage the person before he gets too close.
- Be knowledgeable of your horse body language when he gets nervous, pricked ears, quickly lifting his head, and fast breathing. If this occurs, try to settle him by bringing him to a stop and turn him away from the road. Give him confidence by letting him know you are in control of the situation.
If your horse gets difficult on the road, don’t panic.
If you ride often enough the unexpected happens, and when it does you need to be ready to take control of the situation. The first thing to remember is to stay calm and not panic.
If you lose control things can spiral quickly out of control. Your horse knows when you are nervous, so you want to convey calm vibes to your horse;
Turn your horse.
Turn your horse, keep him moving helps distract him. Slide one hand down the reins, pull your horse’s head to the side, and push on the same side with your foot.
This combination of actions by you should move his hind end around. This method is most effective when used early before he bolts, but it can be used anytime.
Attempting to get a frightened horse to stop and stand still often worsens the situation. Keep him moving in a circle until his heart rate drops and he is acting normal.
Be patient, if your horse is in new surroundings or near a bunch of strange horses he is understandably excited but there is no threat. So move around, and ask him to stop, stand, and back up.
This brings his focus back to you. But also let him investigate his surroundings. He is a prey animal and thinks often about predators, so his tension is natural.
Don’t take flight.
Don’t turn and run; this will increase the danger of the situation;
Louisiana’s negligence law covers horseback riding.
In Louisiana, a person who suffers injury or damage because of another person’s negligence has the right to file a claim against the person that caused the injury or damages. You have the right to recover all losses you suffered because of the negligent acts.
The rights are established in Louisiana Civil Code Article 2315(A) which states: Every act whatever of man that causes damage to another obliges him by whose fault it happened to repair it.
This statute has been interpreted by case law to mean, if a person causes injury to another person through his fault, the offending person must pay damages to the victim injured. Of course, many variables establish specific damages for specific types of cases that must be met to make a valid claim.
CYRIL PREJEAN, ET AL. VERSUS STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, ET AL.
As stated earlier, Louisiana Revised Statutes 32:22 allows horseback riding on public roadways, however, riders are required to follow the same rules as vehicles and act in a reasonable manner.
In the Prejean case, two people were horseback riding on a road in Calcasieu Parish when they were hit by a car traveling approximately 45 miles per hour.
The riders filed a lawsuit, the case went to trial, and the horseback riders won a money judgment against the driver. The court found the automobile driver 100% at fault. His attorney filed an appeal. Let’s look a little closer at the facts presented at trial.
The horseback riders were riding on the road at dusk, the horse was brown, and did not have any illumination. The riders were wearing dark clothing and did not have any reflective gear.
The driver was not speeding and didn’t notice the horse on the road until it was too late to avoid hitting them. The horse died in the accident. At trial, the defendant argued that the horse should have been equipped with lights to travel on the roads at dusk legally.
Louisiana law does not provide support for this argument. However, the Court of Appeals found that persons riding horses on roads commonly traversed by motor vehicles must bear some responsibility in causing accidents depending on the facts of the case.
The State of Louisiana’s Court of Appeal reviewed the facts and reduced the defendant’s fault allocation from 100% to 50%. The overriding factor for the court was that riding a dark horse in dark clothing at dusk was not smart, and the horseback riders have to take some responsibility for their carelessness. Click here to read the case. https://la3circuit.org/Opinions/f
One other tidbit from the ruling is they determined that a horse is not required to be equipped with lighting, the law only applies to horses pulling a wagon, buggy, or other apparatus.
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Sonja Bradley is a Licensed Attorney in the State of Louisiana. She has been in private practice for 18 years.
1250 SW R.R. Ave.
Hammond LA 70403