With more cars, trucks and bikes on the road it is becoming more and more imperative that you are aware of road safety for both you and your horse. In an ideal world you would be able to ride or take a hack away from roads on trails, tracks or less used roads however this isn’t always the case.
Road safety not only relates to your understanding of road rules and being visible but also how your horse responds to traffic and vehicles. Training and conditioning your horse over time to moving vehicles, noises and other distractions will reduce any spooking and reduce any anxiety that may come with these obstacles. We’ve broken it down into the key items that need to be covered.
Whether or not you are riding on the road you should make sure that both you and your horse have high visibility clothing.This is especially important during inclement weather, or riding at dawn or dusk. The more visible you are to other traffic reduces the chance that you could be involved in an accident from a distracted driver.
For the rider there are high vis covers that can fit your helmet as well as waistcoats that fit over your riding wear. Many manufacturers are now printing additional signage on the back of the waistcoat to identify a young, disabled or learner rider as well as if of the horse is a young or polite horse. These are great as they not only provide great visibility but are also light weight and convey more to the passing traffic.
Your horse is not alone. Reflective leg boots allow great visibility at all heights. For those night time riders an LED breast plate will light your horse up from the front whilst an LED tail guard will ensure traffic behind you are well aware of your location.
High visibility wear is not restricted to rides alone. They also come in ranges for light weight fly sheets and winter wrap arounds. These are great for when you are travelling away from home or better yet it enables you to quickly spot your horse when out the pasture in any light.
Desensitize through training
Training and conditioning your horse to traffic and noises is extremely important for not only your safety but that of your horses and the public around you. Horses that are used in the forces such as the police force are trained to be less sensitive to abrupt noises and movements. They and their riders are put through a number of drills and tests to ensure they are ready for working at crowded events. Fireworks, loud music and noise makers are all used to assist these working horses in shutting out the noise and potential sparks and getting on with the job whilst not getting spooked and stressed by the loud noises. We all know that stress can lead to gastric ulcers in horses.
Start slow with your horse. If you ride alongside roads then practice in an open but secure field having someone toot a car horn from a distance. If your horse remains clam then you can bring the noise closer and the vehicle until your horse is comfortable. There are a number of therapy treatments to assist anxious horses and they may have some great tips if you have an easily spooked horse.
It is important to remember that not every horse is suited to these conditions. You may have a horse that will never be ready to ride in and around traffic without being highly distressed or anxious. That’s ok. Humans are the same. Some people have certain preferences to the environment around them and struggle with change. This doesn’t mean you cannot ride your horse outside of the yard, it just means that you may need to find a quieter trail or dirt track with no traffic to enjoy your ride.
Lastly make sure that you are aware of the local road rules that surround riding. These can sometimes relate to ensuring that you ride with the flow of traffic, that you use clear road signals when stopping or making a turn, wear high visibility clothing for yourself and your horse and that all importantly you are a courteous road user.
If you are riding with someone and there is sufficient space to ride alongside each other then make sure you travel single file around corners or when crossing roads. This gives greater visibility to the motorists around you.
You will need to be super vigilant when it comes to checking behind, ahead and to the side of you for potential problems or changes to the road and traffic. Being able to keep ahead of a situation happening will no doubt avoid an accident or incident.
There are also some key items that you should carry with you when riding on the road. A hoof pick, mobile phone, some money or a money card and some twine in case of emergency. You never know when you will need to tether your horse. Check the weather conditions prior to going out and ensure that someone knows what route you are taking and when you are due back. This can be a lifesaver if you get into trouble and have no way of contacting anyone.
Road safety for you and your horse comes down to common sense and being able to read a situation in a quick and calm manner. If you feel like your horse is having a bad day then don’t push them. This goes the same for novice riders. Wait until they are ready.
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