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Riding on Public Roads


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This segment collects statutes and administrative regulations that deal with riding or driving horses on public roads.  Public roads include the full public right of way from fence to fence, including ditches and shoulders--not just the paved or graveled portion on which motor vehicles travel.

Most of the states that have statutes or regulations dealing with this subject have only one or two--probably left over from the time when public roads were shared by horses and motor vehicles much more than they are today.  Only one state--New York--appears to have a more or less comprehensive set of rules of the road for horses ridden or horse-driven vehicles.

If you are planning a trail ride that uses or crosses public roads or just a pleasure ride out on a country road, it would be worth knowing whether your state has any special laws that deal with that experience.

  (Scroll down to view state statutes.)

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A very common provision requires motorists to exercise special care when near horses to avoid spooking them, sometimes even to the point of coming to a complete stop if necessary.  Several states require that persons riding or driving horses on public roads must follow all of the rules of the road that govern motor vehicles that feasibly can be obeyed.

Provisions requiring illumination or reflection for horses ridden or driven between sundown and dawn are quite common.  Often these provisions go into great detail specifying the requirements for the illumination or reflection.  At least one state prohibits riding horses at all at night on a public road.  Several states require that horse-drawn vehicles must display a special slow moving vehicle sign. A few states require that horses pulling snow sleighs must be equipped with bells on their harnesses. 

Several states prohibit riding or driving horses on the right of way of a limited access highway, such as an Interstate Highway.  One state--Louisiana--prohibits riding a horse on any asphalt road.  There are a number of states that prohibit riding horses on sidewalks built by adjoining property owners.  Several states prohibit riding a horse at a faster pace than a walk over bridges or certain bridges.  A number of states prohibit horse racing or speed testing on public roads.  One state prohibits recklessly riding a horse on a public road.  Kentucky prohibits riding a horse on a public levee.

Several states prohibit permitting a horse to graze grass on the public road right of way or to browse trees or shrubs on the right of way.  A couple of states prohibit horses from being in a rest stop.

Several states, including California, authorize local communities to establish side or bridle paths for use by horses as an alternative to using the public road right of way.  

This page was initially posted on March 10, 2002.
Statutes and/or administrative regulations were found for 38 of  50 states.  If you know the whereabouts of any statutes or regulations on this subject that we were unable to locate, please tell us about them so we can add them to the collection.
These statutes were reviewed in May 2003 and updated as needed.  These changes were posted in August 2003.

 

Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado

Connecticut
Delaware [none found]
Florida [none found]
Georgia [none found]
Hawaii [none found]

Idaho
Illinois

 

Indiana [none found]
Iowa
Kansas 

Kentucky

Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts

Michigan
Minnesota [none found]

Mississippi
Missouri
Montana [none found]

 

Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico

New York
North Carolina

North Dakota [none found]
Ohio
Oklahoma

Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island

 

South Carolina [none found]
South Dakota [none found]
Tennessee

Texas
Utah [none found]

Vermont
Virginia

Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming [none found]