Landowners have increasingly installed self- closing bridle gates in preference to non-self-closing bridle gates; this is in order to reduce the possibility of gates being left open and stock escaping. However the British Horse Society (BHS) became aware of incidents with self-closing gates where horses or riders were injured. The BHS ran a trial of existing self-closing bridle gates in 2011. The trial confirmed that there were problems with self-closing gates when used by horse riders. The published report made a number of recommendations including that a further trial be conducted.
The 2015 trial held at Askham Bryan College was overseen by a working group including Natural England and representatives from landowning and user groups and the British Standard Committee. The trial did not aim to find one gate that was ‘best’ but rather it looked for the elements of the gate that contributed to safe use, ease of use, stock-proofness and to a lesser extent robustness by investigating ten gates with different design features. A range of participants were invited to take part in the trial, these included horse riders, walkers, cyclists, mobility scooter and wheelchair users, the visually impaired and farmers. Information was gathered using questionnaires and the passage of each of the participants passing through the gates was recorded by video. The evidence was then analysed against a set of hypothesis tailored to each user group. In addition, the gates were tested with stock to establish that they were stock-proof; this is the first time that bridlegates have been tested in this way.