Are there any horse-riding laws in the Valley? Like, am I not allowed to ride a horse in a neighborhood? I want a horse reeeeally bad, and I just wanted to know some horse laws — Want to Ride, Imperial
California Vehicle Code does have horses written into it, and the information has been laid out in a very accessible manner by the California-based Equine Legal Solutions.
Section 21050 of the California Motor Vehicle Code says that “every person riding or driving an animal upon a highway” has all the right and duties of a vehicle driver. That means horseback riders must obey traffic laws, including hand signals for turns. If your horse bolts and causes an accident, you could also be responsible.
And cars and other motorists also have to watch out for horseback riders and horse-drawn carriages, including slowing down or stopping as not to spook the horse or horses (Section 21759).
The letter writer is from Imperial, so we also called the city to ask whether there are any local laws that conflict or enhance the Vehicle Code. City Manager Marlene Best said no, so horses are allowed on the streets of Imperial.
Seeing horses ridden on ditch banks, in fields or on dirt roads outside the normal flow of vehicle traffic is fairly commonplace here. With so much open land, why would you want to ride it on the road? And is it good for your horse?
We spoke with Jennifer Donatt, a longtime horse owner and former manager of equestrian facilities in San Diego, who all but wondered the same thing.
“Your question regarding riding your horse in the neighborhood and within city limits is twofold,” she addressed to the letter writer. “The first concern is the risks for the horse’s safety. Vehicle traffic is very frightening to a horse and riding on asphalt is hard on their legs. Should the horse be frightened and spook they may slip and fall, hurting themselves and the rider. The second concern is the legal aspect. Unfortunately, not knowing exactly where you live in the county I cannot give you the law that would apply to your area.”
In general, Donatt said, horse ownership is a big responsibility.
“A horse takes a great deal of care, clean water, shade, high-quality feed, daily cleaning of their corral,” she said. “Every four to six weeks their hooves need to be trimmed or shod, plus veterinarian costs. But if you love them, it is all worth it.”