Now the nights are drawing in and with all the fog we have been experiencing, we increasingly find ourselves faced with riding in conditions of low light and poor visibility. This is of course an increased safety concern for horse and rider, making them even more difficult to spot on roads and bridleways, so ensuring you are wearing appropriate hi-vis equipment is all the more vital. Even in good conditions, the use of hi-vis can enable a motorist to spot you three seconds sooner – and when driving at 30mph that is the equivalent to the length of a standard dressage arena.
When riding off-road, research conducted by the Ministry of Defence has shown that helicopter pilots can see a horse and rider in hi-vis up to half a mile sooner, giving them time to avoid flying straight over the top. Additionally, if the worst should happen and a rider is thrown from their horse, rescue services will be able to spot the casualty that much sooner.
Whilst there is no law or regulation which states what hi-vis riders must wear, or that they must use this equipment at all, it’ is clearly in our best interests to do so. As a minimum, the BHS recommend a hi-vis jacket or tabard for the rider and leg bands on the horse, however the more the better and with such a huge range of products available it should be easy to find a combination that works for you.
With such a range of hi vis equipment available on the market, we take a look at the most popular products:
For the Horse
Hi-Vis Exercise Sheets offer excellent visibility for both on and off road riding and come in a variety of styles. Traditional exercise sheets sit under the saddle, whereas wrap-around or competition sheets fit over the saddle. These types of sheets often include a high visibility chest sections which fastens around the front of the horse to offer 360 degree visibility. Exercise sheets come in various sizes from pony to extra full to fit all sizes of horse.
Hi-Vis Saddle Pads don’t offer quite as much visibility as an exercise sheet, as the area on show is much smaller, but are nonetheless a very useful alternative increasing side view visibility.
Boots or Leg Bands are recommended as a minimum for horses. Leg bands fasten around the horse’s lower leg offering increased visibility and are particularly eye catching with the horse’s movement. If you usually ride with brushing boots, there are also a good range of boots available which offer the usual protection for the horse’s legs but also feature hi-vis and reflective panels to aid visibility when riding out.
Bridle Sets easily attach to the horse’s bridle and other bridleway, such as martingales, to give increased visibility from both the front and side. Particularly useful for road riding, as when waiting at a junction or to cross a road it is the horse’s head that is often most visible to oncoming traffic. Hi-Vis Neck Bands & Breastplates are also available to improve head-on visibility.
Tail Sleeves/Bands are good for increasing rear visibility and easily attach to the top horse’s tail without damaging the hair.
For the Rider
Tabards/Vests are the minimum hi-vis a rider should wear when riding out. These are lightweight and so are ideal for using all year. They are affordable, from the basic hi-vis tabard to the more specialist vest designed specifically for equestrian use which will often feature slogans such as “Please Pass Wide & Slow”.
Jackets and Gilets provide a more stylish and technical alternative to the traditional tabard. These are particularly popular during the colder winter months and often benefit from being padded for warmth and/or waterproof and breathable for extra comfort and warmth.
Hat Covers and Hat Bands are designed to fit over most standard riding hats. Again they help increase visibility, and are particularly useful when riding along roads or tracks with high hedges or fences.
Arm/Leg Bands are strips of high visibility material, often with reflective strips or LEDs. These wrap around your arm or leg, and some are also suitable for use on the horse. When riding on the roads, arm bands are particularly useful when signalling to turn, regardless of weather conditions.
Hi-Vis Breeches have also recently become more readily available. These give great side view visibility, and the addition of reflective panels also aid visibility for road riding.
For the Dog
It’s also important to remember it is not only you and your horse that can benefit from the added safety offered from hi-vis equipment and clothing. The same applies when walking your dog at dusk or at night.
Hi-Vis Dog Coats are useful for walking in low light, both for walking along roads to help drivers see you and your dog sooner, but also to help you keep sight of your dog when free-running, particularly in wooded or overgrown areas.
Hi-Vis Collars are also useful, particularly those with flashing LEDs. Whether out waking or just loose on a busy yard, these collars help make sure your dog is seen and safe.
As is clear to see, Hi Vis equipment greatly increases visibility when out and about, reducing accidents and ultimately saving lives. So with such a wide choice of Hi Vis products available, why would you choose not to wear it?