More than a year after suffering serious injuries in a crash which killed her horse, journalist Karen Rutherford is marching for road safety.

Unlike several other taking part in today's National Ride for Road Safety, Rutherford will not be on horseback thanks to the trauma of the accident.

"I still have an issue with flashbacks and I didn't feel ready to take to the saddle today," she said.

About 1000 riders around New Zealand are taking part in today's ride, launched following Rutherford's accident, because they are sick of motorists driving dangerously around horses.


Drivers needed to pass quietly, slowly and with a 2-metre berth - something not enough people seemed to realise, organisers said.

Campaigners said more than half of those taking part had experienced a near-miss and others had been hit by vehicles on roads they had to ride on to get to their paddocks.

Despite her reservations about taking the saddle, Rutherford's spirits were high.

"It's going great," she said.

"It's the most amazing shot looking down the road.

"I want to send a message that we are legal road users and it's really important that New Zealand motorists and truckies realise that tooting their horn or yelling out the window or passing so closely you clip our stirrup irons is not okay."

Dairy Flat is where Auckland journalist Karen Rutherford was severely injured and her horse killed after being struck by a driver. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Dairy Flat is where Auckland journalist Karen Rutherford was severely injured and her horse killed after being struck by a driver. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Motorists needed to understand there could be deadly consequences from passing too close to a horse, Rutherford said.

In August last year, Rutherford was hit by a car on Postman Rd in Dairy Flat, north of Auckland.

She suffered a broken leg, a head injury, and broken ribs and toes in the crash, and the horse she was riding, Curious George, was killed.

Peng Wang, a 28-year-old Chinese national, was found guilty of careless driving causing injury in March this year.

Road safety campaigners said 71 per cent of riders responding to a survey they conducted said they no longer feel safe riding on their local rural roads and 66​ ​per cen​t report having had an "incident" or near-miss with a car or truck.

Co-ordinator Simone Frewin said disturbing stories emerged from riders taking part from Northland to South Canterbury.

"The most common complaint is drivers coming so close they've hit riders' stirrup irons, with enough speed to smash the wing mirror of the vehicle," she said.

"Abuse ​from ​drivers ​is ​common ​when ​they ​are ​asked ​to ​slow ​down."

One Auckland rider described how "a car deliberately backfired and my horse got such a shock he fell on to the road and we almost got hit by a truck", and a Nelson woman told of how her horse was hit by a car as she was crossing the road.

"A car drove past too close and fast and hit my horse's back leg. I fell off, was hurt badly and the horse ran injured along the road - the driver did not stop," another rider said.

NZ Horse Network spokesperson Vivien Dostine said horse riders were legal road users and their road safety should be given the same consideration as cyclists or walkers.

Campaigners wanted current laws to match Australian legislation to allow horses on shared paths and verges in rural areas, and for all local authorities to recognise the importance of shared bridle paths for riders, cyclists, and walkers.