Horse riders who "risked their lives" on country roads have welcomed changes to the Highway Code, saying the impact has been immediate.

New rules were added last month to establish a hierarchy of road users, with horse riders, along with cyclists and pedestrians, now classed as the most vulnerable road users.

Christine Nicholls said the changes have made an "unbelievable change".

She said: "People are a lot more considerate.

"They have been slowing down and lorries have been stopping and turning their engines off to wait."

Mrs Nicholls said riding on roads was "awful" before the changes.

The 54-year-old rides around Blundeston and Corton.

She said: "A double decker once put me and my horse in a ditch.

"A horse can spook from a bird flying out of a bush. These are poor innocent animals but drivers would speed past so close I could touch them with my foot.

"I would take my life in my hands anytime I went out on the road.

"I have had abuse shouted at me out of their windows, with people saying we shouldn't be on the road because we don't pay insurance, but any sensible rider has liability insurance for their horses.

"We have got just as much right to be on the road as anyone else."

Lisa Doylend, from Blundeston, refuses to take her horse even short distances on the roads around the village.

The 55-year-old said: "Horse riders do get treated pretty nastily, and it has become nastier and nastier over the years.

"When I would take my horse out when he was young, if a car was going too fast I'd put my hand out and ask them to slow down, but some people would just put their foot on the accelerator.

"I have to take my horse on the road to get him to a track nearby, but it's safer for me to put him in a horsebox for the short trip and get him out there.

"It is too dangerous to ride him on the road with all the traffic."

Fellow rider Clare Hardingham, from Gorleston, agreed the changes to the Highway Code had been noted.

She said: "In the last week it has been better and I'm hoping it stays like that now people are aware.

"The Highway Code has been all over Facebook and TV and people have been slowing down when they see us.

"At the moment it is in people's minds and hopefully it will encourage people to come past horse riders safely and slowly, rather than being so close and at such high speeds."

The 48-year-old has been riding since she was 12.

She said: "You'd think people would drive slower on country roads anyway, especially when they're greasier with mud and rain, but often we see people at least 15mph over the speed limit.

"We have all had some very close calls and very serious near misses, and seen people skidding to avoid you.

"I've often found people just don't want to take those few seconds to slow down and pass safely."