California Motor Vehicle Code 21805
California Vehicle Code 21805 makes it mandatory for cars to yield to horses and riders crossing in designated horse crossing zones. There will be signs posted at designated crossings letting cars know to watch for horses.
Any intersection may be used as an authorized bridle crossing. It is up to local authorities to determine official horse crossing areas. If there are additional steps drivers must take to ensure safe crossing, the signs should indicate such.
If there is a sign, and you see a horseback rider approaching the intersection, you must yield the right-of-way to the rider. If there is no sign, or the sign is missing, you must still yield to the rider under California law. Horses can spook easily, and it's up to drivers to make sure the horses are not afraid when you pass them. If the rider indicates to you that the horse is having a problem, slow down or stop until the horse has safely passed you.
This law does not relieve horseback riders from liability. If you are a rider, you must still use due care to ensure your own safety and the safety of your horse. Do not dart out in front of approaching traffic. Make sure the driver sees you and is aware of your crossing before safely proceeding into the intersection.
There are basic safety precautions horseback riders can take when sharing the roads with cars.
- When approaching a bike or car, slow down. If you have to, dismount and secure the horse quietly with your riding aids. If the horse is frightened, circle back and calm the animal if possible.
- Wear a helmet and carry a cell phone. The best way to keep yourself and your animal safe is to avoid situations that might scare the horse. In case of injury, keep your phone nearby to call for help.
- Know local schedules. If you know of a bike event or race being held in your area, it's best to stay home and not risk injury to yourself or your horse.
- Know your animal. If your horse spooks easily, try to ride him or her on trails that will not cross busy intersections.