Can You Ride a Horse in London?

Photo by Stacy Ropati on Unsplash

Nipping into London for a spot of shopping? Thinking of taking the horse? Read on to see if you can, and where else you can ride a horse in London.

Contents

Can you ride a horse on the road in London?

Police horse in London

Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

The Highway Code sets out quite a few rules, but all of them are about safety, none of the rules say you aren't allowed on the road on a horse.

They don't specifically mention London, but after all, you see police all the time on great big enormous beast on London streets, so it must be alright. Or are the police a law unto themselves? A topic for another post perhaps. Back to horses.

There are a few rules that are specifically relevant to riding a horse in the city (numbers in brackets are from the Highway Code).

  • You must not take a horse onto a footpath or pavement and you should not take a horse onto a cycle track. Use a bridleway where possible. (Rule 54).
    As you'll struggle to find a bridleway in London, this means you will need to stay on the road
  • ... motorways must not be used by horse riders ... (Rule 253)
    Although there aren't many motorways in London, you might want to apply the same rule to dual-carriageway - seek a quieter route
  • Never ride more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends. (Rule 53)
    Many roads in London are narrow AND busy
  • Avoid roundabouts where possible. (Rule 55)
    If you are going to follow Rule 54 (not riding on pavements) it might be difficult to avoid roundabouts if you are riding in London. However, if you plan your route carefully you will be able to minimise the number you encounter
  • You should wear ... light-coloured or fluorescent clothing in daylight, and reflective clothing if you have to ride at night or in poor visibility. (Rule 50)
    Especially in London, where traffic can be fierce, it makes sense to ensure you can be seen easily by other road users

Other things you might want to think about before you ride your horse in the city:

  • Make sure your mount is up to the job. It probably isn't sensible to take a young or nervous horse into a busy environment like a city
  • Plan your route carefully. Make sure you limit exposure to busy roads and avoid crowded areas if possible. Horses are not the only nervous mammals - horses make some people nervous
  • If possible, plan your ride so that you are home safe and sound before nightfall. Riding a horse in the city gets more dangerous and stressful in the dark
  • Make sure you carry everything that you need for the trip, both for you and your horse

Can you ride a horse in London parks?

Riding in a park

Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash

This very much depends on the park. If you can see a bridlepath in the park, then by definition you are allowed to ride on that path. However, the existence of the bridlepath doesn't mean that you are allowed to gallop around the whole park; you have to stay on that specific path.

Hyde Park

Hyde Park has two horse riding arenas on North Carriage Drive and South Carriage Drive. The park also has two designated routes for horse riding - North Ride and South Ride.

Riding is available to customers and members of local stables, which include Ross Nye Stables and Hyde Park Stables.

Richmond Park

There are a number of stables in the vicinity of Richmond Park that offer lessons and hacking in Richmond Park:

It isn't clear whether you can just pitch up on your own horse and ride in Richmond Park - if you want to do this, try giving one of the stables above a call, as they probably know.

Wimbledon and Putney Commons

There are 16 miles of bridleways across Wimbledon and Putney Commons that are free for all to use.

There is a handy downloadable map here showing all the allowable routes.

Local stables include Wimbledon Village Stables and Stag Lodge Stables.

Epping Forest

Epping Forest is a little outside of London some would say, but it does have lots and lots of accessible paths and bridleways to ride on.

You do need a license to ride a horse in Epping Forest. Details of how to get a license are here.

Can you drink and ride a horse?

The Licensing Act 1872 says that it is illegal to be "drunk while in charge on any highway or other public place of any carriage, horse, cattle". So if you are going for a big night out, leave the horse at home, or make sure you have a designated rider to get you home safely.

It is gratifying to know that this isn't one of those obscure laws that never gets used. As recently as 2017, a lumberjack was caught drunk, giving kids a ride in his horse and cart after a wedding. He was let off with a warning and had to pay court costs.