Most horse owners live in urban areas where open landscapes and forest trail rides are not readily available. As a result, many horses must be walked on the road. Even if you’re lucky enough to live in a rural area, there may be times when you need to walk your horse on the road. Therefore, it is important you get your horses used to road traffic and train them how to walk safely without getting spooked by motor vehicles. In this article we will be looking at the ways in which you can get your horse used to road traffic, to ensure the safety of both riders and drivers on the road.
Begin with the Right Preparations
Getting ready to ride on the road, whether for a few minutes or longer periods of time, is one of the most important aspects of on-road riding. Your safety is just as important as that of your horse and proper preparation can keep you safe on the roads.
Always ensure you prepare by wearing the appropriate riding hat, keeping it fastened at all times. You must also wear high-vis jackets and trousers to ensure you can always be seen on the roads, even when it is late at night. Reflective clothing is mandatory if you’re riding on the road as it ensures cars and passers-by can see you coming, keeping everyone safe.
Start by Walking Your Horse
Your horse likes to know you are nearby, it makes him feel safe and cared for, and that’s why the best place to start is with walking beside your horse down a quiet road. The road must be very quiet to ensure your horse does not get spooked by multiple passing cars at once.
Walk your horse down a quiet road for about 15 minutes, turn around and go back again. Take your time, your horse may want to sniff plants he walks by, stop and look around – let him do this as it will help comfort him if he is nervous and get him used to his surroundings.
Lengthen the Walks Every Week
Every week, it is important to lengthen the time of your walk down quiet roads once a week. The longer the walks become, the less you should let your horse sniff things he passes. He needs to get used to walking down the road without any distractions and lengthening his walk every week, even just by a little, can help him do this.
Walk Your Horse with Tack, Saddle, and Bridle
Your horse needs to get used to wearing his saddle, bridle, and tack while walking on the road, so this should be your next step. Even once you’ve got your horse comfortable with walking on the road and this new environment, some horses can become frightened as soon as the saddle is put on their back. So, take it once step at a time, go slowly, and be sure to follow your horse’s lead.
Let Riding Commence
Every horse develops at their own pace, so I’ve decided not to put time limits on each training step. Instead, I suggest you go at your horse’s set pace. Once you feel your horse is ready, it is time to start riding. Always mount your horse at the spot on the road they are most calm, to reduce the likelihood of a scare. Often, it works to mount your horse right at the place you turn around. Get your horse comfortable with riding and then you can start trying some commands and practising his listening and obedience skills.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Getting your horse used to walking in a new environment can be a little stressful for him and can take time. So, the best thing to do is put in plenty of practice. If you take every step slowly, you will be able to get your horse used to the passing cars, the noise, and all the other distractions that call his attention away from your voice and commands. If you have a particularly skittish horse, it may be best to have another person with you to walk in front of your horse and act as a companion, as this may help keep him calm while on the road.
Ask Drivers to Slow Down
The best way to keep your horse calm while riding on the road is by asking drivers to slow down. You can do this by extending your right arm (the arm nearest to the traffic) and moving it up and down slowly. This will let drivers know they need to slow down or else your horse may become spooked. Slow drivers will help keep your horse calm as it will significantly reduce traffic noise and prevent your horse getting spooked by cars and motorbikes whizzing past.
Always Listen to Your Horse
When riding your horse on a road, even if you’ve been doing it for years, there may be moments when your horse becomes spooked by a new noise or a reckless driver. In these circumstances, it is important to listen to your horse and understand how best to calm him down. And the only way you can know that is by spending lots of time with him and becoming familiar with his habits and responses.
If you think your horse is becoming jittery, get down and walk beside him, stroking his side and letting him know you are there and he’s safe. Find out what works best for your horse by spending time with him on the road, in the stable, and out in the fields as much as possible.
Visit the Prime Stables Blog Today
If you would like to find out more about horse care, stabling advice, training, and so much more, visit the Prime Stables blog today. This is the space where we provide advice, answer your questions, and share our top tips with you. If you would like more information about road safety and horses, you can read our article on the 8 Road Safety Tips for Horse Riders.