‘Important research’ shows horses can ‘sense’ EVs approaching before they see them

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Equines can sense an electric vehicle approaching before their riders, according to a major research programme into how they respond to the noise – or lack of it – from electric vehicles. Problems only arise when drivers either pass too quickly or too close to the horse and rider.

The study carried out by the British Horse Society (BHS) in collaboration with Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University and the Electric Vehicle Association Scotland showed that low-level noises produced by electrical vehicles can be detected by horses.

The research involved three horses and three different models of electric cars driving at varying speeds.

According to the BHS, the ‘Characterisation of Horse Response to Electric Car Noise’ report provides insight that could help alleviate concerns from riders about how their horses react to electric vehicles due to limited sound levels.

They also believe it could be a vital tool when it comes to encouraging drivers to be more careful when passing horses on the road.

Alan Hiscox, Director of Safety at the British Horse Society said: “With more and more electric cars on Britain’s roads, this report’s new data and analysis provides a significant insight.”

Professor James Njuguna, Research Strategic Lead at Robert Gordon University, added: “The number of horse and electrical vehicle accidents and incidents are on the rise with society’s shift to electric vehicles, bicycles, and scooters.

“A better understanding of horse behaviour in the presence of an electric vehicle is a step forward for the shared road safety of all road users: drivers, riders, and horses alike.

“The findings clearly indicate the horse is cautiously recognising EVs long before the rider does and forms a baseline for detailed studies in future.”

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On UK roads last year, there were almost 3,000 road incidents involving horses reported to the BHS.

Those resulted in 66 horses dying (129 injured); 126 people were injured and 13 percent of riders were victims of road rage or abuse.

Over 84 percent of incidents occurred because a vehicle passed by too closely to the horse and 75 percent of incidents occurred because a vehicle passed by too quickly.

The society has launched a campaign to encourage drivers to cut their speed down to protect the animals.

Tory MP for North Dorset, Simon Hoare, has previously called for more protection for horses from EVs. He said: “The rise of electric vehicles is, of course, environmentally welcome.

“However, their silence often presents a huge problem for riders, horses and, indeed, other road users as a result of the nervousness that is often caused in horses by these silent vehicles either going past or accelerating from a stop.”

Mr Norman said horse riders are recognised in the highway code, with the importance placed on the avoidance of close passing.

“At low speeds, vehicle type approval regulations will mandate sound generators on new electric and hybrid electric vehicles from July this year,” said Mr Norman.

The BHS Dead Slow Campaign tells drivers approaching horses to:
– Slow down to a maximum of 10mph 

– Be patient, don’t sound your horn or rev your engine

– Pass the horse wide and slow, (if safe to do so) at least 2 metres if possible Drive away slowly

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