“Can you get cited for DWI if you’re riding a horse instead of driving a car?”
The answer is, “It depends.” It depends on what country you live in. In some countries, like the United States, it also depends on which state or province you live in.
It also depends on if you’re actually riding the horse or using it to pull a cart. Most places define a “vehicle” as anything that has wheels, barring some exceptions like wheelchairs. Such areas will thus define any kind of horse-and-buggy as a vehicle and will issue a DWI citation if you’re driving one while under the influence.
A few exceptions, like Montana, define a vehicle as a wheeled device that has a motor or isn’t pulled by an animal. The police in most places, however, will still pull someone over if they’re driving a cart while visibly drunk. In December 2009, a young Amish man named Elmer Stoltzfoos in Lancaster County Pennsylvania was pulled over for driving a horse-and-buggy while drunk. Actually, he had fallen asleep, and his horse apparently knew the way home. When the police administered a breathalyzer test, they found that he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.18 – which is about two times over the limit.
As for actually riding the horse while soused, that is illegal in some countries. The UK, for example, explicitly made riding while drunk illegal in the Licensing Act of 1872 and went so far as to say that violators could be fined as much as 40 shillings or sentenced to prison for up to one month.
In the United States, several states actually define horses as vehicles when they are being used for transportation along a road. In such states, riding one while drunk is against the law. Other states simply prohibit riding a horse while under the influence even if they don’t define the horse as a vehicle. Riding a horse while drunk is not illegal in a few states like Wisconsin, Washington, Texas, Tennessee, New Jersey, and Montana.
It is still possible to get arrested for riding a horse while intoxicated in even these states because you could run afoul of other laws. For example, a police officer could arrest you for cruelty to animals if you were drunkenly riding your horse along a busy highway and thus endangering the animal. You could also be arrested for “public endangerment due to reckless behavior.” If you were accompanied by a child or riding near children, you could be arrested for child endangerment.
In most cases, a person riding a horse while drunk would be arrested for public drunkenness. That happened to two men in Texas in January 2011. Jose Rios and Samuel Olivo were arrested while riding a mule and a horse respectively in Austin. They were also trying to get people to take pictures with them, which means they were probably also making nuisances of themselves. Jose was soon found to be so drunk that he couldn’t even complete the breathalyzer. He wound up being treated for alcohol poisoning at the local hospital.
In sum, it is illegal in most places to ride a horse while intoxicated. However, most police officers are not watching for drunk people on horseback, so most perpetrators either have to be very obviously drunk or they have to be breaking some other law.