A couple of months ago you may remember I wrote an article about how I had written an email of thanks for a highway company who went out of their way for me and the horse I was riding to pass safely. You can read that blog post here.
The idea has been floating around my mind for a while now, and I approached a hi-vis company to see if they would support this idea but as I haven`t heard back I can only assume they think it`s a load of tosh. So I`m going to put this idea to the public, and hope that everyone gets behind it, for the benefit of all of us.
Lets face it, when you`re riding on the roads the bigger vehicles tend to be the scariest, because of air brakes, size, smell, etc. Nothing related to the way they are driven. These vehicles tend to be commercial, so have the company logos scrawled all over them. That means that the driver has some responsibility. He can be traced.
Now we don`t want to hold drivers responsible in a negative way, otherwise that will just tarnish the reputation of equestrians, which is tainted enough as it is by other road users.
What we do want to do, in my humble opinion anyway, is to reward courteous commercial drivers. Publicly thanking them will raise awareness of passing horse riders safely within the company, makes the company appreciate their staff for positive public relations, and setting a good example. Hopefully it will lead to companies incorporating some horse awareness in their driver training, as well as being a good form of advertising. I also hope that a driver who has been recognised by his company will take the same approach forward to their private lives, which should help make the roads safer. I toyed with the idea of giving drivers window stickers or some other form of nomination scheme but that seems very complicated.
I wrote an email to the highways company, but it`s time consuming and a bit excessive if all you experienced was a driver stopping and turning off his engine while you pass. I hadn’t thought of the answer to my predicament yet.
Then one day last month I was riding up a fairly narrow country lane when a large lorry came around the corner. He pulled in close to the hedge, turned off his engine and waited patiently while I walked the two hundred yards to the lorry. I thanked him as I passed; my horse wasn`t at all fazed by the lorry which meant that he had a positive experience – all good for his education. I kept a note of the company name, and on my way home the light bulb came on. I would tweet that company. By adding the location and saying “this morning” I hoped that the driver would be identified and thanked personally by the company.
My tweet was liked and retweeted by the company.
Then a couple of weeks later I met a large recycling lorry which stopped and turned off the engine, giving me plenty of room to pass. I decided to tweet this company. But this time I would add a hashtag – #FriendsOfHorses. Not too long, fairly self explanatory.
It`s happened a few more times since. Everytime I`ve met a lorry or commercial vehicle that has stopped, waited patiently, turned off their engine, reversed, or just shows respect to us horse riders, I`ve tweeted the company a thank you with the hashtag. Each time they have liked or responded to the tweet.
I think if everyone can try to take the same approach we can litter social media with positive messages, promoting horse rider safety, promoting good driving, and improving customer relations for those companies. Hopefully companies will reward their staff and become far more aware of equestrians on the road, and then we will have more positive experiences with larger vehicles.
Does anyone else agree? I think the next stop for taking this idea forward is to speak to some equestrian magazines, such as Horse and Hound, and charities such as the BHS to see if they will get on board…
Watch this space!