Is it legal to ride your personal horse on a busy street? Here’s what NC law says

Juli Leonard/

If you’ve lived in North Carolina long enough, you’ve probably seen someone navigating the city’s streets on horseback.

One of the latest sightings came when a Charlotte resident shared a photo on Reddit of a man riding a horse through uptown Charlotte.

“Did anyone else catch this guy riding his personal horse in uptown last night?” the poster asked. “He was getting angry at drivers and throwing things at cars. Our Uber driver was also in a big rush for no reason and tailgated the horse so badly I had to cover my eyes. I’m just so perplexed and worried about this horse. If the guy riding his horse can let me know his horse has a happy and comfy life or something, I would like that. It just seems so unsafe!”

Riding a horse on the road may be no issue in some situations, but is it illegal in North Carolina?

Can you ride a horse on the road in NC?

Under North Carolina law, horses are considered vehicles and are allowed to be ridden on roads.

However, horses are not allowed to be operated on interstates and highways since the law restricts vehicles from traveling at speeds slower than 40 miles per hour in speed zones of 55 miles per hour and 45 miles per hour in speed zones of 60 miles per hour or greater.

Many cities and towns also have laws that prevent horse owners from reckless riding.

For example, the law in Charlotte says it’s illegal “for any person to run, drive or ride any animal in a reckless, disorderly or careless manner through any street, alley or highway.”

Can you get a DWI on a horse?

North Carolina’s impaired driving law excludes horses, meaning you cannot be charged with a DWI while riding one, according to The Law Offices of J. Scott Smith based in Greensboro.

“North Carolina can’t bust a person who is impaired on a horse,” the firm’s website says. “I guess the folks in Raleigh feel that the horse is probably not stupid enough to let its rider make it do something it knows better than to do.”

While DWIs are out of the question, those on horseback could be charged with other crimes, such as impeding traffic or trespassing, Greensboro police officer J.B. Price told WFMY News in Greensboro.