Over the winter months, making sure both you and your horse are safe whilst at home, out driving is all about being prepared. The British Horse Society has put together this straightforward and essential advice.

The relentless wet and windy weather can present some tricky obstacles, particularly when it comes to staying safe both at home and whilst out driving.

Mud, more mud and even more mud

Extreme mud conditions and poached fields are currently a reality for many of us following the huge quantities of rain we’ve experienced recently. Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to help manage the mud and minimise the disruption it can bring.

Firstly, laying down hardcore, wood chips or similar material in susceptible areas such as gateways can help a great deal. If possible, it’s also recommended that forage and water troughs or buckets are periodically rotated around the field to help reduce poaching around those areas. Try to avoid over-stocking and where possible bring horses in off the pasture into a dry area overnight or for part of the day.

Remember to always be appropriately dressed and prepared for the outdoor conditions. For example, ensure you’ve got appropriate footwear and during non-daylight hours, try to equip yourself with some form of light source. Although it may seem obvious, it’s simple steps such as these that will help to ensure you keep safe.

Keeping yourself safe

Always let someone know where you’re going and what time you expect to be back, regardless of if it’s just to the yard or out driving. Letting someone know where you are will allow them to raise the alarm should you fail to return within a reasonable time. Also make sure to carry a charged mobile phone with you for use in emergencies, whether that be to contact a relative or relation or the emergency services in extreme cases – but remember it’s not safe to use your phone whilst driving.

It’s recommended that you properly plan and familiarise yourself with a route before driving, as if something were to go wrong and you needed someone’s help, you will be better equipped to identify and describe your location.

Many of us will have experienced the frustration of trying to give directions to a location that feels as though it’s in the middle of nowhere, and if you’re in the midst of an emergency, time really is of the essence.

What3words is a mobile app that divides the world into 3m x 3m squares, assigning a unique three-word address to each square. Therefore, anyone else with access to the app will be able to pinpoint your location using just the unique three-word address. Using the app will help friends and relatives find you as well as the emergency services, with 86 emergency services in the UK confirmed to be using the software. An added bonus is that the app works without Wi-Fi or mobile data, so if you do find yourself in a rural location with no access to internet, you will still be able to view the three words.

The app is free and available on iOS and android. Head to what3words.com for more information.

The British Horse Society (BHS) recommends wearing hi-vis clothing all year round regardless of whether you drive on or off the road, the time of day, season, or weather conditions. However, in accordance with Rule 51 of the Highway Code, if it’s dark or visibility is poor then it is not recommended that you drive.

Wearing hi-vis on the roads can give other road users extra time to react, ultimately helping to protect the safety of both you and your horse. As a minimum the BHS recommends a hi-vis jacket or tabard for the rider and leg bands on the horse. The Ministry of Defence conducted research that found helicopter pilots could potentially see a rider in hi-vis clothing up to half a mile sooner, giving them more time to take avoiding action, or in emergency cases allowing them to reach a rider sooner.

Additionally, the BHS commissioned a TRL report to provide a basis for advice regarding the visibility of equestrians when on public roads. Findings from the report stated equestrians should utilise clothing that contains LED lights wherever feasible and ideally this should cover as much of the carriage, rider and horse as possible, prioritising covering width extent above height.

Report incidents If you’re involved in an incident, report it to The British Horse Society via horseaccidents.org. uk. The more incidents reported, the greater the understanding there is of the issue and the stronger the voice the charity has when lobbying for change.

Report any incidents to the BHS via horseaccidents.org.uk - to find out more visit bhs.org.uk/safety