Think before you ride over that lovely tempting grass field is the message from The British Horse Society in Scotland to those hacking out this May.
This is because depending on the stage of growth, you could be outside your right of access. Grass is just as valuable a crop as barley or wheat, and rights of access only apply provided no damage is caused.
The Scottish Outdoor Access Code (SOAC) which provides detailed guidance on the responsibilities for those exercising access rights in the countryside and section 3.37 says: “You can exercise your access rights in fields where grass is growing for hay and silage, except when it is at such a late stage of growth that it might be damaged. Such fields will normally have thick long grass and have no animals grazing in them. A late stage of growth is taken to be when the grass is around eight inches or 20cm high.”
But the BHS adds that if ground conditions are unsuitable, or if the field has obviously been prepared for cropping, such as being rolled, then riders should stick to the edge of the field rather than ride across the middle, unless there’s a recognised path or track.
“It is all to do with responsibility,” says BHS Development Officer for Scotland, Helene Mauchlen. “If the grass is short and the ground firm there is no harm in crossing enclosed fields of grass. However, if the ground is soft, the field has been rolled or the grass is long, then riding across grass that is being grown for hay or silage could damage the crop, so riders should take care and remember that just because they can ride across a field at certain times of the year, they may not have the right to do so at other times. It boils down to common sense really and the need for anyone enjoying the countryside to be aware of the effect of what they are doing.”
For further information on your responsibilities while riding out please read the BHS Scotland and SLE Riding and Managing Land Responsibly Guidance which can be down loaded from: www.bhsscotland.org.uk/resources.html.