For those who have ever wondered, “Can you get a DUI on a horse” or “Is it illegal to ride a horse drunk,” the answer seems to be yes. According to a FoxNews article from earlier this year, a California man was arrested on a DUI charge for riding a horse drunk. The drunk horse riding excursion put the rider and the animal at risk while riding under the influence of alcohol and trying to ride eastbound on freeway 91 outside of Long Beach.
While the situation may seem humorous to a reader, and even the California Highway Patrol, they do note the serious nature of drunk horse riding on their official Twitter page (@CHP_SFS): “So a horse walks onto the 91 freeway…no joke. Rider arrested by CHP for DUI in the greater Long Beach area. Don’t put yourself, your beautiful animal, or others in danger of being killed in traffic.”
This is not the only recent example of someone being cited with a DUI riding a horse drunk. In late 2017, NBC News posted a similar story of a woman in Florida being charged with a DUI riding a horse. In addition to the DUI, the Florida woman was also charged with animal neglect for endangering the horse and failure to provide proper protection for the horse. So, not only can someone be charged with a DUI riding a horse drunk, but other charges may stem from the misadventure as well.
Driving or riding?
Some of the readers of these articles have pointed out that it seems unusual for a person riding a horse to be charged with driving under the influence, stating that the person is not driving the horse so the statute shouldn’t apply. At least in the case of the California man, the California Highway Patrol was kind enough to point out in California, “it’s actually 23152 VC (the normal DUI section) per 21050 VC, which states that a person riding an animal upon the highway is subject to all of the same rights and DUTIES as someone operating a vehicle upon a highway. Drivers have a duty to not drive under the influence.” This does beg the question as to whether or not the man would’ve been charged with DUI if he had not ridden on the highway.
Also, the CHP is referring to a California law, which obviously wouldn’t hold outside California. The illegality and severity depend significantly on which state the rider is in. For example, in Michigan or Texas, a rider would avoid DWI because the horse is not a motor vehicle, but other charges like disorderly conduct, public intoxication, and cruelty to animals may apply. In Colorado, it is actually considered a traffic violation. Kentucky law includes non-motorized vehicles, including horses, in the DUI laws. The wildest response though comes from the Montana Department of Transportation, who released a public service announcement entitled “sober friend” to encourage people to find someone to give them a ride home when intoxicated.
The PSA depicts a horse stopping at a bar to pick up a drunken human, and while intended as a metaphor, does imply that at least in Montana it’s encouraged to ride while intoxicated. While that may not have been their intention in releasing the PSA, it does depict the wide variance in state laws regarding drunken horse riding.
While it is an admirable idea to not get behind the wheel of a car while drunk, the notion of drunk horse riding can be illegal in several different ways depending on local and state laws. Not only are you putting yourself and the horse in danger, especially on highways, but you are still putting other drivers at risk as well. You may not end up with a DUI, but you may end up with other charges, lose your horse, or even lose your life.
Is it illegal to ride a horse drunk? Probably. Can you get a DUI on a horse? Depends on the state. Even if you don’t get a DUI riding a horse, you may end up with other charges that still carry fines and other legal consequences. Rather than risk your life, your horse’s life, and the lives of others, do everyone a favor and call a sober friend, call a cab, or get an Uber or Lyft. You’ll save money, save face, and may even save lives.