FIRST it was a secret cyclist. Now Dorset Police are preparing to send out undercover horseriders to educate road users who overtake too closely. And they want the public to tell them where to operate.

Operation Close Pass - Horse Safe will operate in the same manner as the Cycle Safe initiative, which will see a police rider reporting to supporting patrol colleagues if a vehicle has passed too closely, and then colleagues re-direct any drivers to a safe stopping place where that distance is very clearly represented on a specially produced mat.

As with Cycle Safe drivers will be given the option to receive education at the roadside there and then, as opposed to a penalty notice for careless and inconsiderate driving.

Dorset Police say they will be supporting more vulnerable road users, including pedestrians, farm workers, dog walkers and motorcyclists.

"It is suggested that the minimum passing distance when passing a cyclist is at least 1.5m when it is safe to do so," said a spokesman. "Most drivers opt for roadside education and also have the option to view video evidence recorded on cameras fixed to the police officer’s cycle. Drivers do agree that it has made them think more about the gap to leave cyclists and how vulnerable they are."

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, Martyn Underhill, said: “Horse riders are a common sight on Dorset’s roads, and the equestrian community plays a really important role in rural life across our county.

“Anyone who knows about horses will realise they can be easily spooked when a car passes too close, so this campaign is about educating motorists to show respect for all road users, and reminding them about the importance of leaving the right amount of space when passing a horse rider – just as they should do when they pass a cyclist.”

A leaflet on the initiative is available from the Road Casualty Reduction Officer in Poole as well as local businesses and pony clubs, and it reminds the public that road users have equal rights to use the highway safely, he said.

The Dorset Police spokesman said: "It is packed full of tips for both drivers and horse riders alike. ‘Horse Safe’ will be intelligence led policing and we encourage the public to monitor and notify us of areas of concern where we could potentially visit and run an operation."