“When you get a little too much to drink, why not ride a horse? It’s safer that way. The horse knows the way home.” These are the words of Louisiana’s drunk cowboy who was pulled over by the police in 2015 (video). But isn’t he right about it in some way? You will probably be laughing and nodding right now.
How dangerous is drinking and riding?
Have you ever wondered why you couldn’t just take your horse to the pub and ride home after a few too many beers? You’re definitely not alone, but it’s a fact that riding can be dangerous even when you’re sober and many horses are quite spooky, which is for sure not advantageous for a drunk rider. However, many riders would lie if they said they have never been drunk or at least hungover while riding. It is also not uncommon to go on a trip with friends on horseback and pack a few beers. It has been tried many times and the resume is usually the same; the horse knows the way home. Nevertheless, riding a horse when you’re drunk is irresponsible, considering that you endanger yourself and other people on the road. The horse won’t be too happy about a drunken cowboy/-girl on its back either and additionally, different laws prohibit drunk riding. So, yeah, we kind of spoiled the fun at that point but read till the end.
Is it illegal to drink and ride a horse?
The question is rather complicated to answer as laws vary by country or, like the U.S., by state. In most countries and states it is illegal to operate a horse/buggy combo since it counts as a vehicle. Therefore, you can be cited for driving under the influence. Except if you live in the state of Montana whose definition of vehicle explicitly notes “except devices moved by animal power”, meaning you cannot get a DUI for driving a horse pulling a cart in Montana but pretty much anywhere else in the world. For example, in Pennsylvania, the police stopped an Amish man who was asleep in his horse-drawn buggy. The horse apparently knew the way and took him home without further instructions. When the man took a breathalyzer test, he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.18, plainly over the legal limit.
But not only driving a horse-drawn vehicle is prohibited, riding under the influence of drugs can also be charged by the police. States with explicit laws on riding while intoxicated are North Carolina, Kansas, Michigan, Florida, Oregon, and California, among others. In Tennessee, Wisconsin, Texas, Washington state, New Jersey, and Montana you would be convicted for violating laws on animal cruelty, public endangerment, or public intoxication but you will not be cited for driving under the influence.
In the UK it is simply prohibited to ride a horse when you are drunk. This has been stated in the Licensing Act of 1872, which says: “Every person… who is drunk while in charge on any highway or other public place of any carriage, horse, cattle or steam engine… shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding forty shillings or in the discretion of the court to imprisonment for any term not exceeding one month.” And yes, this law is still being enforced as it was in January 2009 when Godfrey Blacklin rode his horse “Bart” bareback in Newcastle. He was so drunk he couldn’t even write down his address anymore but claimed he had only had “a couple of cans”. Eventually, he was charged under the Licensing Act of 1872 but paid £150 instead of 40 shillings.
Don’t drink and horse – long story short
To wrap it up, it is not a good idea to ride a horse while you are drunk. There are laws against it, and you and your horse can get seriously injured. However, the police usually don’t expect to see someone riding a horse in public while drunk, and you probably won’t draw any attention to yourself as long as you are not doing anything else illegal, fall asleep on your horse or go on shouting you were John Wayne. So, a trip through the woods on a sunny day with friends and not too many beers can be ok but don’t try to take your horse to the pub instead of your car only to be able to drink. You would certainly end up in the news as the drunk cowboy that you are.
You’re here because of the quote in the beginning and want to see Louisiana’s drunk cowboy? Here’s the video and article by WBRZ-TV.