Equine Crime

Equine Crime

Many of the measures featured on this site for protecting buildings, vehicles and livestock will assist in preventing equine related crime, along with some of the further measures listed below.

If you want to stay up-to-date and receive local information related to horse ownership and equine crime in Derbyshire you can join Derbyshire Horse Watch. Contact the Rural Crime Team for information on how to join.

Crimes such as theft and burglary should always be reported to Derbyshire Constabulary.

Advice for Horse Owners and Riders

Making the world safer for horses and equestrians is a fundamental part of the British Horse Society’s remit and there is a relentless programme of activity that is implemented by their dedicated Safety team, members and volunteers to this effect.  They work closely with MPs, the police, road safety partnerships and other safety organisations to ensure that equine safety remains a top priority and that all necessary improvements are put onto the appropriate agenda.

All riders and carriage drivers should report every incident they are involved in, regardless of severity, via the British Horse Society’s horse incidents reporting hub online or our Horse i app. This allows them to collate statistics on incidents across the UK, to help better understand the rate of equine-related incidents and, ultimately, to use this data to lobby for change in safety laws. To record an incident with The British Horse Society click HERE.

Dead Slow is an award-winning safety campaign that seeks to educate road users about the correct way to behave around equestrians, and thereby reduce the number of injuries and fatalities caused to horses and riders. Explore this campaign HERE.

Whether road work is your only option for hacking out, or to reach an off-road route, follow these helpful tips to stay safe when on the road with your horse.

Of course, however well-prepared we are for riding or carriage driving on the road, we rely on other road users to take care when encountering horses.

What should you do if you see a horse on the road?

  • Slow down to a maximum of 10mph 
  • Be patient, I won’t sound my horn or rev my engine 
  • Pass the horse wide and slow – at least two metres 
  • Drive slowly away 

Helpful tips to stay safe on the road

  • Familiarise yourself with Highway Code rules to make sure you follow the guidance o how you should behave on the road and interact with other road users
  • Be alert at all times, keep your ears and ears open
  • Be polite – make eye contact with drivers and thank those who make any effort to accommodate you – treat other as you’d want to be treated yourself
  • Wear hi-vis and reflective equipment, ideally on both you and on the horse, which could be seen from above as well a from the front, rear and side. We recommend a minimum of a tabard or jacket for a rider, and leg bands for the horse. Consider wearing LED lights.
  • Remember to use the appropriate hand signals to make other road users aware of your intentions to manoeuvre
  • Be responsible
  • Take a mobile, phone and make sure it is charged up before you go – remember, it’s not safe to use your phone when on the roads, this should be for use in emergencies. Tell somebody where you are going and how long you think you will be out – if you don’t return, they can raise the alarm
  • Report any incidents of dangerous or irresponsible driving to us and to the police

The Highway Code 

The Highway Code was updated on 29 January 2022. The British Horse Society have worked hard over the last three years; lobbying and collaborating with Cycling UK, DVSA, Living Streets and the Department for Transport (DfT) to suggest the much-needed Highway Code improvements and to represent equestrians in the review. 

Visit the Gov.uk website for more information on the changes to the Highway Code.  

Key Changes 

  • Vehicles should now pass horses at no more than 10mph and must allow at least 2 metres of space when passing
  • Hierarchy of road users – pedestrians are listed as the most vulnerable road user, followed by horses and cyclists. This new rule highlights that, irrespective of method of transport, those who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to others.
  • The British Horse Society’s Dead Slow messaging is now incorporated within the Highway Code
  • Feral and semi-feral horses on Exmoor, Dartmoor and the New Forest are now included

Further Advice for Horse Owners 

  • Take colour photographs of your animals in both summer and winter
  • If your animals have scars or other identifiable features ensure these are photographed along with where they are situated on the body
  • Keep passports secure
  • All horses, ponies and donkeys in England, Wales and Scotland must be microchipped by law. This allows local authorities and the police to track the owners of abandoned, lost or stolen horses, so they can be reunited with their owners more easily
  • Consider tagging technology for tack equipment such as saddles
  • Consider tracking technology and tagging for trailers and associated vehicles
  • Lock doors when tack rooms are not in use
  • Keep key holders to a minimum and keep a record of who has a key


Fly grazing and abandonment are where an owner allows their horses to graze on land without the landowner’s permission.

However, various legislation aims to allow enforcement authorities and private landowners to work together to protect the public and the environment from the nuisance caused by abandonment, straying and fly-grazing of horses.

What is the relevant legislation?

In England, the Animals Act 1971 was amended to include the Control of Horses Act 2015, providing landowners with additional rights to deal with horses unlawfully grazing on their land.
The Control of Horses Act 2015 should be viewed in conjunction with the Animals Act 1971.   

Why do we need this legislation?

Fly-grazing, straying, or abandoned horses present numerous difficulties for landowners, the public and the horses themselves. For example:  

  • Horses may present a risk to public safety, particularly when left on public or private land, such as parks or residential property  
  • Horses can negatively impact the land, particularly where grazing is already poor, as the land can become poached, and horses may damage fencing while trying to access better grazing  
  • The cost of dealing with unlawfully grazed horses can be substantial, often running into many thousands of pounds  
  • Horses that are not properly cared for can quickly become a welfare concern  
  • Cases of neglected and starving horses are often due to abandonment

Who does the legislation affect?

The act affects those who, either intentionally or unintentionally, allow their horses to graze on land without the landowner’s permission. This includes abandonment, straying, fly-grazing and situations where the landowner has withdrawn permission for the horse to graze on their land.

This content was provided by The British Horse Society.
For further information and to download the relevant Notices please visit the British Horse Society website by clicking HERE.

Reporting and Getting Support for Equine Crime

Find information on reporting an incident to the British Horse Society HERE.

To report an equine crime contact:
Derbyshire Police on 101 for non-urgent reports or click ‘Report a Rural Crime’ at the side of this page
In an emergency and if a crime is in progress call: 999

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