Recent research has found that self-closing gates are unsafe and difficult to use for horse riders, when they are out hacking.
The trials were commissioned by the British Horse Society (BHS) following reports that horses and their rides have been injured using these types of gate.
The self-closing mechanism has become popular with landowners who are worried about their livestock escaping if a gate is not closed properly. However, they can be difficult to negotiate on horseback and riders have said the gates snap shut on them “like giant mousetraps” and are very difficult to open in windy conditions.
“Once injured or frightened while going through a gate, a horse will remember the experience,” explained Heather Clatworthy, BHS senior executive of Access and Rights of Way. “It may then either refuse to go through gates or panic and rush through them, making it more likely that the rider's leg will be caught against the gatepost and possibly unseated and/or severely injured.”
The trials involved 26 experienced riders who rode through six different self-closing gates to test their reliability, safety and ease of use.
“The trial of these gates demonstrated that self-closing gates are inherently neither as safe nor as easy for horse riders as British Standard compliant non-self-closing gates,” said Heather. “Following the principle of the least restrictive option they should not be used routinely on public rights of way or other land with statutory equestrian access.”
Natural England, Defra, Centrewire, British Standards and local authorities were present at the official launch of the findings and are now working with the BHS to improve the safety of self-closing gates.