July 23, 2007
Rules for Riding a Horse on the Road
Years ago, I used to ride along the nice wide shoulder of the country road that ran past my property. It was always mowed and neat. The biggest problem for me then was the railroad tracks. I had a young horse that just freaked at the sound of cars going over them. This little mare got a big case of the heebie-jeebies as soon as we got close to them. She would spin, duck, dive and run backwards. She eventually got over it because as I said, it was a nice wide shoulder on a country road where we had enough room for all her antics.
In a match between a horse and a car, the horse will always lose. Cars, trucks, drivers and roads are dangerous but they are an inescapable part of modern living if you want to ride horses. You need to know the rules for riding a horse on the road. If you or your horse cannot handle roads and traffic, you cannot risk riding on a road.
Rules You Need To Follow
Always keep in mind that drivers are the enemy. It doesn’t matter that it’s illegal to hit a horse with a car intentionally. They will still do it, because there are drivers out there who think it’s funny to kill animals with cars. This might sound paranoid, but this kind of paranoia will save your horse’s life. This is THE most important of the rules for riding a horse on the road.
Drivers, for some reason, think honking at you is good. Could be because they just want to say 'hi' and recognize that you're doing something they wish they were doing. Who knows? Horsie people don't do it because we know better.
Always dress in bright reflective colors. This is one of the most important rules for riding a horse on the road. There are many cheap and cheerful fluorescent colored vests you can buy. If you have to, stick an orange “slow traffic” triangle on your back. Consider that most horses are a shade of brown. This color blends in with the surroundings. Drowsy drivers will not see a brown horse, but will see the bright vest.
Reflective stickers and additions are also available for your horse. You can put them on the saddle blanket, the brow band, or as wraps around the legs. If you have to do any riding at dawn, dusk or evening, these are a good investment.
Always ride your horse facing traffic. This is another of the most important rules for riding a horse on the road. The horse will be less likely to panic if they can see what’s coming.
Rules Your Horse Needs To Follow
Your horse must be road wise. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. It’s hard enough to sit a bucking horse without having to weave around traffic as well. For the first time you ride your horse anywhere near a road, dismount and LEAD the horse until you are assured that he or she is road wise.
The other rules for riding a horse on the road are to keep alert. Also, keep as calm as you can. Horses can pick up your nerves. Don’t ride alone on a road if you can help it, in case of emergency, you have help. Ride with a cell phone for emergencies. And praise your horse when he or she is behaving well. Most horses take it all in stride and eventually become accustomed to the traffic. Others just can't seem to handle it.
Take your time - be patient, but mostly - be safe.