Tedd owns a riding horse. One day, Tedd notices that his horse has somehow gotten itself drunk. Tedd has someplace where he needs to be, so he saddles up his drunken horse and rides to his destination.

Has a crime been committed?

Answers are welcome from any jurisdiction where alcohol is legal, but I'm especially interested in how the law stands in .

(Google is unhelpful here, as searches for "is it illegal to ride a drunk horse" or similar make it think I'm trying to ask it whether riding a horse is illegal if the rider is drunk, when what I'm actually interested in is the situation if the horse is drunk.)

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    I'd love to see the cops trying to make the horse puff into an alcohol tester and the rider trying to make an excuse for not having noticed the horse had been drinking all night! This is golden comedy material! :-) Commented May 22, 2022 at 11:32
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    But Can a horse get drunk? A horse will have to take a really large amount of beer before they get intoxicated or to a completely drunken state. Unlike humans, they break down alcohol quickly due to the abundance of alcohol dehydrogenase present in a horse’s liver. Commented May 22, 2022 at 18:46
  • 11
    'On a hot day, the local landowner stopped his pony and trap in front of the inn and called for the landlord. "Fill a bucket with ice, slop in some dry vermouth, throw it away. Fill it up with gin. Give it to the horse". "Certainly your honour. And one for yourself?" "Don;t be silly man, can't you see I'm driving!"' Commented May 22, 2022 at 20:59
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    Is Tedd riding on the road or somewhere on a trail or through the prairie?
    – gerrit
    Commented May 23, 2022 at 9:38
  • 6
    Are you asking for a friend? Commented May 23, 2022 at 16:27

7 Answers 7


169A.20 MN Stat. states that

It is a crime for any person to drive, operate, or be in physical control of any motor vehicle, as defined in section 169A.03, subdivision 15, within this state or on any boundary water of this state when: (1) the person is under the influence of alcohol...

A horse is a motor vehicle under Minnesota law, but the prohibition applies specifically to the person who drives the motor vehicle. It is therefore not even illegal for a drunk horse to drive motor vehicle (including another drunk horse).

You posit that Teddd "notices that his horse has somehow gotten itself drunk", which can only reasonably be interpreted to mean that he did not cause the horse to get intoxicated. §343.21 defines the crime of mistreating animals. Nothing in the statute clearly states that it is a crime to make an animal do ordinary animal-work when the animal is in an impaired state. Subd. 7 requires that

No person shall willfully instigate or in any way further any act of cruelty to any animal or animals, or any act tending to produce cruelty to animals.

We turn to §343.20 to determine what "cruelty" is:

"Torture" or "cruelty" means every act, omission, or neglect which causes or permits unnecessary or unjustifiable pain, suffering, or death.

I assume that the horse did not die from getting ridden. It then depends on whether riding a horse while it is drunk causes, beyond reasonable doubt, the horse to suffer or experience pain. And then the state would have to prove that the suffering was unnecessary.

  • 11
    Interesting answer. Can you elaborate on "A horse is a motor vehicle under Minnesota law"? That sounds weird, since horses have been in Minnesota long before there were cars and obviously were known when that law was written.
    – PMF
    Commented May 22, 2022 at 8:22
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    "A horse is a motor vehicle under Minnesota law," OK, I know laws can end up with lots of weird stuff in them, but this really made me ROFL. Now I can't mentally unsee a whole bunch of hypothetical images about "motorized horses". You made my day! Commented May 22, 2022 at 11:29
  • 12
    Regarding the horse-as-motor-vehicle issue, a quick google for "horse dui minnesota" brings up a whole bunch of results from both lawyers and law enforcement that seem fairly certain that, while horses may count as vehicles under Minnesota law, they do not count as motor vehicles (and, thus, you can't get a DWI for riding one drunk).
    – Vikki
    Commented May 22, 2022 at 14:16
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    A horse is a motor vehicle with a one horsepower (1 hp) motor. Commented May 22, 2022 at 14:41
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    @PresidentJamesK.Polk According to data from the data from the 1925 Iowa State Fair, an average horse can expert up to 14.9 horsepower, with theoretical limits around 24 horsepower. This apparent discrepancy is due to peak power vs. sustained power.
    – gerrit
    Commented May 23, 2022 at 9:46

In Germany, the described situation could lead to a fine up to € 2000.

As the rider of a horse, you are subject to the existing traffic rules and regulations for all vehicle traffic (§28(2) StVO).

As the 'driver' of the vehicle, it is your responsibility to ensure that the vehicle is safe to drive (§23(1) StVO).

The administrative offense for the rider of a horse is defined in §49(2) StVO and the possible fine for this offense in §24(3)(5) StVG.

  • Straßenverkehrs-Ordnung (StVO) 2013
    • Road Traffic Regulations
      • no English version of law text
    • § 23 - Sonstige Pflichten von Fahrzeugführenden

      (1)... Wer ein Fahrzeug führt, hat zudem dafür zu sorgen, dass das Fahrzeug, der Zug, das Gespann sowie die Ladung und die Besetzung vorschriftsmäßig sind und dass die Verkehrssicherheit des Fahrzeugs durch die Ladung oder die Besetzung nicht leidet. ...

      § 23 - Other obligations of vehicle drivers
      (1)... Anyone who drives a vehicle must also ensure that the vehicle, the train, the combination, the load and the occupants are in accordance with the regulations and that the road safety of the vehicle is not impaired by the load or the occupants. ...

    • § 28 - Tiere

      (2) Wer reitet, Pferde oder Vieh führt oder Vieh treibt, unterliegt sinngemäß den für den gesamten Fahrverkehr einheitlich bestehenden Verkehrsregeln und Anordnungen. ...

      § 28 - Animals
      (2) Anyone who rides horses, leads horses or cattle or drives cattle is subject to the existing traffic rules and regulations for all vehicle traffic. ...

    • § 49 - Ordnungswidrigkeiten

      (2) Ordnungswidrig im Sinne des § 24 Absatz 1 des Straßenverkehrsgesetzes handelt auch, wer vorsätzlich oder fahrlässig

      4. Als Reiter, Führer von Pferden, Treiber oder Führer von Vieh entgegen § 28 Absatz 2 einer für den gesamten Fahrverkehr einheitlich bestehenden Verkehrsregel oder Anordnung zuwiderhandelt,

      § 49 - Administrative offenses
      (2) Anyone who acts intentionally or negligently is also an administrative offense within the meaning of Section 24 (1) of the Road Traffic Act

      • [§ 24(3)(5) StVG: Fine up to € 2000]

      4. As a rider, handler of horses, drivers or handlers of cattle, contrary to § 28 paragraph 2, violates a traffic rule or order that applies uniformly to all traffic,

What is a 'vehicle' (Fahrzeug)?

Everything that is not definded in §24 StVO:

(1) Schiebe- und Greifreifenrollstühle, Rodelschlitten, Kinderwagen, Roller, Kinderfahrräder, Inline-Skates, Rollschuhe und ähnliche nicht motorbetriebene Fortbewegungsmittel sind nicht Fahrzeuge im Sinne der Verordnung. Für den Verkehr mit diesen Fortbewegungsmitteln gelten die Vorschriften für den Fußgängerverkehr entsprechend.
(2) Mit Krankenfahrstühlen oder mit anderen als in Absatz 1 genannten Rollstühlen darf dort, wo Fußgängerverkehr zulässig ist, gefahren werden, jedoch nur mit Schrittgeschwindigkeit.

(1) sliding and push rim wheelchairs, toboggans, strollers, scooters, children's bikes, inline skates, roller skates and similar non-motorized means of transportation are not vehicles for the purposes of the regulation. For the marketing of these means of transport regulations for pedestrian traffic apply accordingly.
(2) With wheelchairs or with other as mentioned in paragraph 1 wheelchairs may be driven where pedestrian traffic is allowed, but only at walking speed.

What is a 'Motor vehicle' (Kraftfahrzeug)?

§1 - Zulassung - Straßenverkehrsgesetz (StVG)
(2) Als Kraftfahrzeuge im Sinne dieses Gesetzes gelten Landfahrzeuge, die durch Maschinenkraft bewegt werden, ohne an Bahngleise gebunden zu sein.

(2) Motor vehicles within the meaning of this Act are land vehicles that are moved by machine power without being tied to railway tracks.

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    From your cites I can't see that riding a drunken horse is an offence, unless we assume that a drunken horse is unsafe or that there is a regulation stating that a horse must be sober to be ridden.
    – Pere
    Commented May 22, 2022 at 11:52
  • 18
    @Pere A Pre-condition to recieve and retain a drivers licence is the knowlage that one is required to check the road safety of the vehicle before driving. Two of these conditions, not explicidly stated in this law, is that the steering wheel and brakes must function correctly. If you tell a Judge that because the road safety of a horse is (also) not explicidly cited, then that judge may come to the conclusion that you pose a greater threat to the public saftey than the drunken horse. What then happens is up to the Judge. Commented May 22, 2022 at 13:21
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    @MarkJohnson: Unless the horse being drunk adversely affects its controllability (I don't know if it does or not, just throwing this out there), one could make an argument that the horse being drunk doesn't make it unsafe to ride.
    – Vikki
    Commented May 22, 2022 at 14:47
  • 17
    This answer really puts the cart before the drunken horse. It could very well be the case that some alcohol may make an otherwise skittish horse less skittish, and thus safer. You whole answer is based on the assumption that a drunk horse (presumably over some legal limit calibrated to the human body) is unsafe to ride, or represents an unsafe vehicle. Commented May 23, 2022 at 16:54
  • 3
    @AndrewCoonce The requirement for 'serviceable seat belts and two brake lights' are defined in §§ 35a,53 Straßenverkehrs-Zulassungs-Ordnung (StVZO) for Kraftfahrzeuge (Motor vehicles). Since a horse is not a Motor vehicle by definition in §1(2) StVG ('land vehicles that are moved by machine power without being tied to railway tracks'), this answer does not imply that anything that applies only to a Motor vehicle also applies to a horse. The road safety of the vehicle applies, however, to all vehicles (and thus also to a horse). Commented May 24, 2022 at 20:52

It’s legal to ride a drunk horse:

Drink riding?

It’s possible to be convicted of ‘horse riding under the influence of alcohol’ or ‘horse riding under the influence of drugs’. Strangely, these restrictions only apply to the rider, as there is no law against riding a drunk horse!

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics

  • 1
    I think some more context is needed for this answer... the linked article is not particularly serious (e.g. " Most public servants know from personal experience in pubs and clubs that many people have committed the offence ‘resist government officer’, but none were ever charged. Why is that?") Commented May 30, 2022 at 22:06

For a horse on the road, Oregon law says: (emphasis added)

Every person riding an animal upon a roadway and every person driving or leading any animal is subject to the provisions of the vehicle code concerning vehicle equipment and operation of vehicles except those provisions which by their very nature can have no application.

“[T]he provisions of the vehicle code concerning [...] operation of vehicles” include the offense of operation of unsafe vehicle:

Drives or moves on any highway any vehicle which is in such unsafe condition as to endanger any person.

This is a class B traffic violation.

Another law that the rider might be cited under is failure to perform duties of person in charge of livestock on roadway.

When riding or leading a horse or other livestock on the highway, a person must keep a lookout for vehicles and use caution to keep the animal under control. [...]

This is a class B traffic violation.

More gravely, if this falls below the standard of “minimum care” of the animal, it would constitute animal neglect in the second degree, and if this led to the injury or death of the horse, animal neglect in the first degree.

“Minimum care” means care sufficient to preserve the health and well-being of an animal and, except for emergencies or circumstances beyond the reasonable control of the owner, includes, but is not limited to, [...]

If this recklessly causes an injury to the animal, it could rise to the level of a criminal misdemeanor:

A person commits the crime of animal abuse in the second degree if, except as otherwise authorized by law, the person intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes physical injury to an animal.

“Recklessly,” when used with respect to a result or to a circumstance described by a statute defining an offense, means that a person is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the result will occur or that the circumstance exists. The risk must be of such nature and degree that disregard thereof constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.

It might potentially be considered careless or even reckless driving. The latter is a class A misdemeanor.

A person commits the offense of reckless driving if the person recklessly drives a vehicle upon a highway or other premises described in this section in a manner that endangers the safety of persons or property.

Section 811 of the Oregon Revised Statues is part of Title 59, the Vehicle Code referenced above, and thus applies to riding an animal on a roadway.


The UK's Highway Code states in relation to using horses and horse drawn vehicles:

Rule 52

Before you take a horse or horse drawn vehicle on to the road, you should

  • ensure all tack fits well and is in good condition
  • make sure you can control the horse

Many of the rules of the Highway Code are legal requirements, and if you break those that are not, you may still be charged for using the roads "without due care and attention".

The vehicular equivalent would be "driving an unroadworthy vehicle."

You’re responsible for making sure your vehicle is always safe to drive (‘roadworthy’).

  • 6
    Yes, many of the rules of the highway code are legal requirements, but not the ones introduced with the word "should". Legal requirements use are introduced with the word "must" instead.
    – bdsl
    Commented May 22, 2022 at 10:17
  • 1
    Drunk in charge of a horse - Fined under the Licencing Act; express.co.uk/news/uk/842999/…
    – Richard
    Commented May 22, 2022 at 14:29
  • @Richard: That's a case of the rider being drunk. The question is about the horse being drunk.
    – Vikki
    Commented Jul 31, 2022 at 15:26
  • @Vikki - Gosh, well I'll have to turn that into a comment instead of an answer then.
    – Richard
    Commented Jul 31, 2022 at 16:04

Note there is a wide difference between "riding a drunk horse" and "riding a horse, drunk," whether the rider or the horse is intoxicated. Public intoxication and operating a vehicle while drunk generally have limits understood in most localities.

So far as an intoxicated animal, in the states, with its wild patchwork of law and regulation, it may be very hard to say that there aren't specific statutes that would apply. But under the normal discretion an officer and the courts have, the rider might be charged under more general laws:

  • Public order or public nuisance laws
  • Proper, safe maintenance of a vehicle
  • Animal welfare or animal cruelty statutes

Much would depend on the officer, how amused they might be, and how dangerous the actual situation had been allowed to become.


In Ukraine DUI is a misdemeanor only for driving motor vehicles. That is because the main punishment is suspending driver license and it isn't possible to suspend driver license for horse or bicycle. What about drunk horse. Even if it was forbidden in Ukraine, cop would have to provide horse to vet to get alcohol blood test and this procedure would be too expensive.

  • 3
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