There are more than 500,000 horses in the state of Florida and more than 60% of them are used for competition or recreation. Over 440,000 Florida residents are involved in the horse industry as owners, service providers, employees, or volunteers. In fact, there are over 900 horse farms in Florida with over 104,000 employees. These numbers lead to the Florida horse industry generating product revenue valued at three billion dollars annually. In a more local sense, it should come as no surprise that Marion County is widely regarded as the “Horse Capital of the World,” as acknowledged by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1999. The county alone has over 200 horse farms and training centers.
These numbers and statistics leave no mistake that Marion County and horses go hand in hand together like two peas in a pod. While there is no denying the common day presence of horses in the Ocala community, it is important to keep in mind certain rules and guidelines pertaining to riding horses on roadways and public lands and to the motorists that may come across them on the road.
Riding Horses on Public Lands Rules:
If you are on private property, you may ride a horse wherever you like. Once you step off private property and on to public lands, with your horse, however, Florida has rules and laws. In public lands you may ride your horse only in certain designated areas. These areas include horse trails at state parks and state forests. When visiting these parks and forests, make sure to stay on the designated equestrian trails and observe safe riding habits and sportsmanlike conduct. For a list of public lands horse trails in Florida, visit, Florida Riding Trails.
Roadway Horse Riding Laws and Rules:
In Florida it is legal to ride your horse on a roadway. Florida Statute Chapter 316, states that the provisions of this chapter that apply pedestrians are applicable to any person riding or leading an animal upon a roadway or shoulder. In other words, horse-back riders must follow the same rules as pedestrians. With one exception – if there are sidewalks, the rider is not required to use them; they may ride on the paved portion of the road.
This means that roadway riders must:
• Obey all traffic signs and signals;
• Ride facing the oncoming traffic;
• Not ride on any limited access roadways such as Highways or Freeways, or ramps leading up to them;
• And, that vehicles must yield the right of way in crosswalks.
Click here for more pedestrian rules of the road in Florida
Motorist’s Rules for Sharing the Road with Equestrians:
According to Florida Statute 316.0825, “Every person operating a motor vehicle shall use reasonable care when approaching or passing a person who is riding or leading an animal upon a roadway or the shoulder thereof, and shall not intentionally startle or injure such an animal.”
Motorists must also treat equestrians in accordance with the same rules as pedestrians.
General Safety Tips for Riders on the Roadway or Public Lands:
Here are some quick tips to keep in mind when riding a horse on a designated trail in a responsible manner to minimize the risk of injury, or on the roadway:
1) Ride only in areas open to horse riding, such as designated roads, trails, and other areas.
2) Ride a suitable horse for your riding skill level.
3) Wear an ASTM approved riding helmet. The majority of rider fatalities are caused by head injuries.
4) Always ride out with a buddy. As an extra precaution carry a cell phone or two-way radio.
5) In a group, ride the speed of the least experienced rider.
6) Slow down when sight lines are poor.
7) Comply with all signs and respect barriers.
8) Always ride in complete control.
9) When riding on the roadway, review and follow rules that apply to pedestrians in Florida, and, as summarized above.
I am local accident attorney Jeffrey Meldon and I strongly believe that public education is the first step in the prevention of and/or recovery from a serious accident. My office and I take pride in our work, and the results we get for our clients.
Meldon Law is a regional law firm that is located in Gainesville, Florida. We are personal injury lawyers, litigators and trial lawyers that have been working to get accident victims the justice they deserve for over 40 years throughout North Florida and all over Florida. Accidents involving a car crash, truck wreck, motorcycle, ATVs, bicycle, pedestrian accidents, and dog bites, slip and falls, medical malpractice, and criminal defense are all included in our practice.
For more information on how we can help you, or with any other question you may have, feel free to contact our office at 800-373-8000.