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Observe safety while horseback riding

    “Horses have more sense than most people.” That is what a friend once told me, and he knew a lot about horses. As an avid fan of riding horses, I hope this letter will help to raise awareness about the proper protocol when driving and encountering riders on horseback.
    In this community we recently we had a terrible, terrible tragedy when a 10-year-old child was killed by a car when she fell from a frightened horse. My heart still breaks for this family. How does one ever get over such a terrible loss?
    Bulloch County and the surrounding areas are rural communities, and it is not uncommon to encounter horseback riders on country roads. Despite this situation, there seems to be little knowledge that horses and their riders have the right-of-way. Drivers should stop their cars, if possible, when riders are passing near them. At the very least, drivers should slow down when approaching or driving near people on horseback. 
    Horses have more sense than most people, but they are also flight animals. When they are startled, their first reaction is to flee from anticipated danger. Even the most experienced rider can be knocked off balance and seriously injured by a horse in flight. Bicycles, motorcycles, trucks and cars can frighten even the most seasoned horse. Most equestrians are responsible people who do their best to desensitize their horses to the unexpected, but accidents can and do happen. As a community, we could reduce such tragedies with some forethought about how we drive. 
    Most equestrians do their best to stay away from trafficked areas and to find safe places to ride. However, sometimes it becomes necessary to travel a road. I would like to remind drivers who encounter riders to be aware that while horses do their best to remain calm that you, too, can be a huge help in keeping everyone safe. Please observe the rules of the road and use common sense. Please pass this message on to everyone that you know who drives. 
    I want to believe that our community cares about the animals and the people who share our roads, and that the reckless driving I have often encountered on horseback has more to do with a lack of awareness than by people’s utter disregard of both animal and human life. 
Debra Sabia

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