Horse and human alike can become bored of the “same old same old”. One option is to take your horse out of the riding ring and on a hack. Hacks can include riding in fields, trails, forest and roads. A few things should be taken into account before you set off on your ride.
Not all riders are ready for riding in open spaces. Working with your coach you can decide if you are ready to get out of the ring. Riders need to have complete control of their horse and know what to do in case of an emergency.
Not all horses are ready for open spaces either. Even if a seasoned, confident rider is ready to hit the road if their horse isn’t they should not be going. Horses need to be well trained before leaving the ring. This doesn’t mean your horse needs to be doing Grand Prix level dressage work. A horse needs to be responsive to your aids including moving off your legs and listening to rein aids while in a more stressful or distracting environment.
If you believe you and your horse are ready for the road there are still things to remember. The road can be busy with vehicular traffic. As rider you need to be able to keep your horse moving as you wish them to go.
A horse that swerves off in front of a car is not a horse that is safe enough for the road yet. Horses need to have had some experience being around cars; parked cars, moving cars, starting cars. This can be done while riding in a riding ring and have a helper bring their car to the rail and go through the paces with you. Once your horse is comfortable with the car and can be beside it without spooking they are ready. This may take many, many tries. Not all horses are trained at the same speed.
On the road a horse is considered a vehicle. This means you must travel in the directions of traffic and obey signs. Horses are to stop at lights and stop signs along with cars. Riders traveling in a group must stay single file except when passing another horse.
When crossing a road the group must all cross at the same time. To make this simple all riders should halt on the side of the road while they wait for the time to cross. Once it is safe, all riders are to turn their horses at the same time and cross the road abreast.
This will shorten the time the horses will take to cross and thus shortening the time the horse is in the path of a potential car. As with cars, Canadian law states there must be no racing on the roadways as much fun as it would be. Racing can make horses hard to handle and may put you in a dangerous situation.
Road ways are also not designed for horses so the speed should be kept to a walk-trot. Roads can be slick due to the pavement or from a bare dirt road for the horses and speed should be adjusted accordingly.
Finally horses and riders should be a visible as possible. This means wearing bright colours and even reflective clothing. Horse and rider apparel can be purchased especially for the road and helps drivers see you; some even ask drivers to slow down while passing.
Riding on the road can be a nice change of scenery from the riding ring and can add a new element to your horse’s training. With a few precautions riders can enjoy the roads with their horses.