Should Amish horses wear reflectors?

WGAL has a story, viewable above, featuring an interview with a man named Jason McClune. McClune’s sister suffered a serious brain injury when an Amish family’s horse got loose and hit a van she was traveling in, head-on.

In the video McClune suggests that if the horse were wearing a reflective vest, it would have prevented the accident.

We’ve discussed reflectors on buggies many times. Reflectors on the horses themselves is something I’ve haven’t thought much about–probably because horses rarely run free on roads.

So you might consider the accident involving McClune’s sister a freak occurrence. At the same time, an Amish woman also interviewed admits that some horses are simply hard to control. “You still always have wilder horse than some, you know,” she explains, “and some that just don’t like to stop at stop signs.”

I’ve witnessed this myself…and if you ask Amish people, you’ll find that yes, of course some horses are simply more roadworthy than others. Some owners will attempt to train trickier beasts. Others don’t have the patience or time, and simply upgrade to a better, more reliable model, so to speak.

Still, it doesn’t seem that horses running about on their own is something that would happen very often. A wild horse that takes off with a buggy attached, while out of control, is presumably still visible due to the lights and reflectors of the buggy.

It also seems that if you wanted the reflector-on-horse idea to work, they’d have to be wearing vests at all times. After all, no one can predict when a horse might get loose. That raises practical questions concerning the comfort and health of the animal.

I can’t imagine the trauma this young woman and her family have undergone due to this accident. While the spotlight is usually on Amish victims, English people can also be injured and killed in accidents involving horse-drawn vehicles.

But I’m not so sure about reflective vests on the horses, though perhaps other steps could be taken to improve safety. McClune feels that sooner or later, “something should happen” to prevent this sort of accident occurring again.

What do you think?

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    1. Andrea green

      This is very sad for the lady in the car, i know from having horses myself that when you are out on a public road, you and your horse must have reflectors.
      You can neither judge a horses even really calm and well controlled animals, they can be spooked by the simplest thing and you are of there backs before you can blink, thats why they must have reflectors, on coming traffic or even people can see this animal has taken flight.
      This can be a very unnerving thing to see, when a horse takes flight and panics, they have no sence of where they will flee to they just go. I do hope the Amish think this one important and will look at there communitys in putting this in place. I know from experience even well controlled beasts can take of anytime.

    2. City Slicker

      Reflections on reflectors ...

      Not trying to be facetious with the subject line.

      While I can understand the pain this family is feeling and I pray for the young victim and her family as well as the Amish family that owned the horse, I think requiring reflective vests on horses is something of an overreaction.

      We can’t legislate cures for every eventuality.

      Driving in Lancaster I’ve had “close encounters” with cats, coons, cows, deer, dogs, goats, sheep, and sundry other fauna (with the exception of cows, admittedly all smaller than a horse) that wandered onto roadways; thankfully most of these occurred during daylight, and in all cases I saw the animals in plenty of time to avoid a collision. Should reflectors be mandated on these other species as well?

      By law in most States it is incumbent on the vehicle operator to maintain control over the vehicle, but there are and will still be accidents.

      I have noticed that some Lancaster Amish have taken to applying refelctive strips on the shafts of their buggies, and sometimes on the wheels; others have reflective strips on the harnesses worn by the horses.

      I feel requiring reflective vests on the horses themselves is a step too far.

      1. Forest

        I agree with City Slicker here. I have spent most of my life in rural areas, with everything from cows, deer, possums, to wandering neighbors to look out for in the road. You can be as alert as possible, and still hit things now and then. I don’t think reflectors on horses will help all that much.

    3. Confused

      Animals in populated areas accidents happen.

      Maybe I am misunderstanding how the accident happened. I understood it to say the horse got away from the people while being harnessed. So a ‘vest’ which I assume they mean blanket would not have made a difference unless the animals are to wear ‘the device’ full time as when pastured or in their stalls. The family is dealing with a horrific accident I am not trying to down play that at all nor find fault. Having grown up in an area settled by Amish and heavily populated with deer you do your best to always be alert to them. Deer vs vehicles are a constant problem. Pets get away from their owners and often get struck by vehicles though not doing nearly the damage a larger animal can. So should all animals over a certain size be required to be ‘vested’?
      It it just me but in the video I saw cars going around a buggy in what looks like a blind curve…

      1. Theresa

        Should horses wear reflectors

        Yes you did see that happen also it was in a no passing zone…Note the double solid yellow lines.

    4. My father’s answer when the issue of moose accidents on the roads in Maine came up: Drive slower. It makes sense when you know there is a possibility that you will encounter an animal that can do a lot of damage. In farm country, that is always a possibility.

      1. AL

        You already said it, but

        Let me confirm that, in moose country, we just take greater care when we are behind the wheel. For the sake of safety, everyone should drive defensively.

    5. Linda

      I feel so sorry for the lady that was hurt in the accident, and that her recovery is so long. I didn’t realize she is still in the hospital. May she have a full and swift recovery. A similar accident happened to a friend of mine.

      I have not seen any horses wearing vests, but they do make reflective safety vests for horse riders. I have seen reflective tape for the horses’ ankles, to improve night-time visibility, known as reflective horse leg bands, reflective horse ankle bands, reflective leg wraps, or High-visibility leg band wrap for horses. Reflective bridle straps, reflective tail guards, and reflective breast collar breastplate loops/straps are also sold.

    6. Margaret

      Just my 2 cents

      I was riding up the canyon I use to live in. This was 40 years ago. The car DELIBERATELY crossed the double yellow line and came onto the horse path in an attempt to spook my horse and of course get me thrown. It didn’t work! My horse was so onto them and steady as a rock.

      Mt dad? He was VERY angry and told me next time to get the license plate cause he’d file charges against the driver.

      In WY my sister wouldn’t allow me to do night driving for years when I visited. I live pretty citified and WY is very rural. Bison pay no mind to cars and moose don’t either. It’s hard to see bears after dark. It’s just VERY different driving than what I’m use to.

      We have bike lanes now and signs that say “SHARE THE ROAD”. Sadly I’ve seen my share of bike riders ride way out in the street hogging the road even though they’ve been given their own lane to ride in. Perhaps when you’re in Amish country you need to understand to slow down and pay more attention. Maybe something similar to share the road could be incorporated.

      Lastly horses see to the sides. They don’t see very well in front of them. And each eye works independently of the other. Maybe removing the blinkers from the bridle would help the horse to see what’s around it. Most are use to wearing blinkers if they’ve raced–so there would be a period of adjustment.

      It’s also EACH persons responsibility to be safe out there. Whether you’re on a bike, buggy or car you have a responsibility to maintain control. If you have a horse that is not well suited for buggies perhaps you need to rehome them. No more auctions like Sugarcreek where Amish ROUTINELY dump their horses for slaughter!

    7. Debbie H

      Going to far

      Accidents happen. I feel sorry for the woman however, this situation was unavoidable. As a teenager we lived across the road from a tobacco farm in Kentucky in an apartment above a bar/restaurant so we had a wide view of the winding road. A few times the two mules owned by the farmer across the road escaped and ran side by side down this well traveled road. However, never were they hit or an accident caused. People drove with caution knowing they were in farm country with horses and mules. Fast forward to Florida 2013. Tourist are hit by cars while crossing the road outside crosswalks because they are wearing dark clothes in dark areas. Locals are hit crossing at night, deer leap across the road causing cars to be totaled and people injuries. Accidents happen, drive with caution, be alert and remember, even when you do everything right, unavoidable accidents do happen.

      PS And give the horse a break. How would you like to wear a vest 24/7?

    8. Alice Mary

      No on the vest, but it just seems safer for everyone to have something reflective (like the items Linda mentioned) either on the horse’s bridle or the part of the buggy connected to the horse. People need to pay closer attention to their own & others’ safety and slow down when driving at night in rural or Amish areas where horses and buggies & other slow moving vehicles might be encountered, day or night. Common sense—I think it’s no longer “common” anymore!

      I wish more people out at night in my suburban area would wear reflective clothing—so many jog in the street (sidewalks are available & usually not at all crowded after dark). They just don’t realize how quickly you can come upon them and not see them, even on a clear night. Add precipitation, and drivers might as well be blind to them.

      A horse (from what I’ve learned of the Amish) is at LEAST as important to an Amish family as a mini van to a soccer Mom, so I’d hope they would (be allowed to) protect their “investment” which also happens to be a sentient being.

      Alice Mary

    9. Laura

      I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have reflective bridles and harnesses; after all, a lot of humans wear reflective clothing when out at night, and it really does make them more visible. But the reflective vest idea is pretty far-fetched.

      I’m very sorry that this woman was so badly injured, but as has been pointed out, slowing down while driving a car is the easiest way to avoid accidents. And it’s not like horses are the only animals in this area that could hit a car and cause an accident; there are so many deer in the whole mid-Atlantic region that they’re actually pests, and there are a LOT of car/deer accidents. I don’t see anyone trying to legislate reflective wear for the deer!

      Ultimately, when it comes to cars and horse-and-buggies sharing the road, I think the greater responsibility lies on the car driver to be careful simply because of their much greater speed and *much* greater ability to do harm. I hope this woman recovers fully; but brain injuries do take time.

      My husband worked at Walter Reed hospital until it closed the original campus, and now works at another nearby military hospital that has a new brain injury facility that just opened, so there are great strides being made in the treatment of brain injuries thanks to so many soldiers being so badly hurt in Iraq and Afghanistan. I hope the advances they’re making with the soldiers will cross over and help civilians in this arena, just as they have with prosthetics.

      1. City Slicker


        Thanks to your husband (and you) for his service!

    10. Don Curtis

      Mark's opinion

      I asked my son, Mark, about the horses on the road issue. He feels badly for the lady that got injured. He said that he tries to keep his buggy well lighted at night. He doesn’t feel that horses wearing vests are the answer. If a horse gets away it’s usually because they are able to somehow get through a fence or run off when being hitched up. If they’re out on the road most cars are going to fast to see them, anyway, even with reflectors. Mark says he’s seen all kinds of animals out on the roads. Cows, pigs, goats. You never can tell when an ornery animal will break through or wiggle through a fence or gate. Should they all wear vests? What about all the wild deer. There are way more car accidents with deer than with horses. Should the State capture all the deer and put reflective vests on them? It was a very regrettable accident. But, an accident is an accident. Sometimes they just happen regardless of all the precautions we take. Then we have to trust in the Lord that He knows what is best.

    11. MotherLodeBeth

      Dogs are a bigger problem

      Here in the Sierras dogs are a bigger problem than deer. Yet I cannot see a law requiring animals wear reflective vests. As a pet owner I make sure my cat as an example, has a refective collar.

      Am seeing more and more saddles with reflective tape because the owners are riding their horses to work and it’s getting darker in the evening sooner, and they want to be seen with the reflective stips on their coats, but also want the horse to be seen.

      People should be encouraged whether on a bike, horse or walking to make sure there is some type of reflective gear so one can be seen. And drivers need to sloooooooow down. Period.

    12. Ed

      I agree with all of the above comments. Making a horse wear a reflective vest full time is impractical and over the top. Much as we may try, we can’t control for every possible danger. While there is always a slight chance that a horse might spook and cause an accident, the risk of this actually happening pales in comparison to the risks caused by drunk drivers, distracted drivers texting on cell phones, and the like.

    13. Dale

      On reflectors

      Maybe the speed needs to be lowered in the whole county and drivers of automobiles need to be reminded or educated about the need to lower their speed at night and the proper way to drive on a road that also has animals pulling buggies and carts. In the video put up by the news station it appeared the only ones in violation were the people driving the cars.
      I feel very badly for the families involved and I hope the woman makes a full recovery.
      As to reflective vests? No. The use of these would have to be constant, unless they expect all owners of all horses (and I assume there are people who have them for pleasure that are not Amish) in the county to go out at sundown and dress them in their vests for the night on the off chance that they might get out and onto a road.
      It seems more reasonable to have them on the harness, shafts and wheels of the buggy. That way the animal and the rig would be visible to oncoming traffic if were crossing the road. I have a feeling an Amish driver using a rig at night would be stopping at an intersecting when they saw the glow of the lights from an oncoming car lighting up the road whereas a driver coming around a curve too fast would be the one who would be unable to stop and would end up the cause of an accident.
      The halter would be another place I’d put those reflectors as it is the first thing you put on a horse and many owners leave them on to make it easier to catch their animals. Light winking back at her from reflectors on its halter might have given the woman in this case enough warning to react in time to avoid an accident with the horse… But I can’t understand why she couldn’t see something that large coming at her just with the light of her own headlamps. Properly aligned, on low, she should have seen the animal 160 feet away, and if she was using high beams it would have been visible at twice that distance.

    14. Observations

      The title of this news piece/video is “Stricter regulations could be coming for horse and buggies”.

      To me that title gives the impression that changes are in the works, as if there were proposed legislation, or a movement within or outside of the Amish to make some sort of change…but the main thing I could tell that headline was based upon, was the victim’s brother’s idea of having horses wear vests.

      I also noticed that there are a few other issues mixed in to the report (the age/training of drivers, drivers not having licenses like car drivers do, the Amish woman’s familiarity with the buggy handbook) with the general undertone being that Amish drivers are not as regulated or well-trained as they should be. This story seems more like a mashup of an accident plus various general issues some have with Amish drivers.

    15. Linda

      Amanda’s story can be followed at

    16. Ed

      "Amish" horses?

      OK I have to ask…what is an “Amish” horse? Didn’t know they’re accepting converts of the equestrian variety!

      1. Just read “Amish-owned” there Ed 🙂 No I don’t think they’ve gotten any religious interest from horsekind.

        1. Slightly-Handled-Order-Man

          Good one, Erik

          tehe. 🙂

    17. Barb

      To compare driving a buggy attached to a powerful and independent minded animal to pedaling a bicycle and implying that since a bike rider doesn’t need a license so a buggy driver shouldn’t need one is ridiculous, in my mind. Driving a horse and buggy should require licensing and a minimum age, just as driving a horseless buggy (car or motorcycle) requires training and a license. The fact that the woman was unaware of the existence of the training manual for driving a horse and buggy was very revealing, to me, about their attitude and behavior on the road. Requiring a license would mean all drivers knew the laws of the road.

    18. Judy

      We need to regulate Amish buggies/drivers

      There needs to be better regulation of Amish buggies/drivers. Amish buggies and the drivers of those buggies should be licensed just as anyone else who uses our roads. Drivers should have to pass a test to obtain a license and buggies should have to meet certain safety standards.

    19. MotherLodeBeth

      Maybe I simply sit and observe more than the average person, but I see more automobile drivers who seem to fail to see they are driving a heavy weapon.

      We have had horse back riders, bicycle riders and even people walking down a rural road, hit and either maimed or killed by an automobile driver who simply was driving to fast or not paying attention.

      And sadly, all to often these days its a teen or youngish adult who is texting/talking while driving. The very same people who have a legal drivers license. EACH driver was found to be at fault.

      If drivers would slowwww down when someone on a horse/buggy, bicycle, or walking was on or near the highway things would be so much better. Leave a bit earlier, plan better so you are not in such a hurry.

    20. Nice to see the victim left the hospital last week and is expected to make a full recovery: