Is there a specific law against the racing of horses on public highways?

The route of the A1304 from Newmarket to Six Mile Bottom has a long history of horse racing going back to its probable inclusion in the Long Course, at least as far back as the seventeenth century.

These days, of course, horse racing is more often carried out at dedicated race courses, usually on private land. However, the same route is now part of a regular cycle race.

I know that racing in a car is an explicit offence in UK law (at least I think I know that), but presumably this is only scoped to motor vehicles. A great number of cycle races take place on public roads throughout the country and this is presumably legal, maybe following various licences being granted.

If someone were to race horses along the A1304 from Newmarket to Six Mile Bottom, maybe as a reconstruction of the old Long Course race, would there be any specific law against them doing so?

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    The Cycle Racing on the Highways Regulations 1960 permit cycle racing on the Highway provided notice is given to the local police, who have the power to impose such conditions as they think fit. legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1960/250/made and Road Traffic Act 1988 s.31 legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1988/52/enacted?view=plain
    – Owain
    Jun 29, 2019 at 19:58
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    That's interesting @Owain because along with allowing cycle races with a notice, the 1988 act which you linked also seems to have the law which prevents the racing of cars and it does seem to be restricted to motor vehicles. Which still seems to leave horses in a bit of a limbo.
    – Dannie
    Jun 29, 2019 at 20:29
  • Is it legal for horses to be on that highway at all? Also, from the little I know of horse racing, the track surface seems to be critically important for the safety of the horses, so racing on pavement might constitute cruelty to animals. Jun 29, 2019 at 21:28
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    I imagine racing on a road surface may not be good for the horses (certainly way harder than on courses or gallops) but they're certainly allowed on the highway! Hardly a day goes by when I don't have to give way for a horse or follow behind a string of them. I know from listening in bed in the early morning that they canter down the road sometimes when they think no one is around, but I admit I've never heard a gallop (which would be dangerous for pedestrians for one thing).
    – Dannie
    Jun 29, 2019 at 22:27

2 Answers 2


Racing would likely be commiting an offence under the Town Police Clauses Act 1847, Section 28

Every person who in any street, to the obstruction, annoyance, or danger of the residents or passengers, commits any of the following offences...

[F23] Every person who rides or drives furiously any horse or carriage, or drives furiously any cattle

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    Almost looks like that was worded to deliberately allow the furious riding of a cow in the street! ;-) Thanks for your answer. +1
    – Dannie
    Jul 3, 2019 at 12:36

Probably not explicitly. In 2002 the BBC reported on travellers (gypsies) holding "Trotting" races on roads:


The Hertfordshire Police said "It is not an issue for us here in Hertfordshire. They have a right to use the road as much as anyone else."

Note that the RSPCA was arguing for stopping the races on welfare grounds, and races at a full gallop might well be even worse.

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