Dogs and Horses – Part 2: How to take a ride with horse and dog
Many riders do not only have a big heart for horses but are also enthusiastic dog owners.
Part 1 dealt with the questions how dogs can get used to the horse stable. But what can riders do if they want to take a ride through nature with horse and dog?
Part 2: For many riders it is already a great relief when they can take their dog with them to the horse stable. However, the first warm days and the fresh air in spring invite every rider to take a ride through the beautiful nature and to explore the blooming flowers. But taking a ride with horse and dog requires some training in advance!
Taking a ride with your horse and dog – the dream of many riders
Horseback riding through nature together with your dog running over fields and through the forest – in reality this dream often is hard to realize. The dog runs too far in front of or behind the horse and does not obey to the commandos of the rider. In the end the rider is only concentrated on the dog and neither the rider nor the horse can enjoy the ride.
First training lessons: in the riding arena and during a guided walk with horse and dog
Taking a ride with horse and dog requires some training in advance. The most important prerequisite is that the dog obeys to the commandos “Come”, “Stay”, “Sit” and “Stop” without exception. When the two animals are already used to each other in the stable the owner can start to take the dog with him into the riding arena (only under the condition that the owner informed all other riders in the arena in advance!). Normally the horse needs some time until he gets used to his little friend running around and near his legs. The familiar riding arena can help the horse to feel less anxious and more secure. If the horse however reacts in panic and starts to balk and to run away it is much easier to get the horse back under control in the arena than in unlimited nature. When the horse got used to the small animal running around him the owner can start to take some short guided walks around the stable. At the beginning it is very helpful to take another person with you so that each animal has an individual guidance. The dog has to learn to run on the right side of the horse (facing away from the street). At any time of the training the owner needs to praise the dog: treats, a warm and positive voice and the right body language help the dog to understand what is right and what is wrong. Moreover especially patience and motivation for the dog and the horse help them to understand that the other four-legged animal is no danger but a friend. These training units are the basis for any further rides together with horse and dog. When both animals react relaxed and calm when the other animal starts to move and run the owner can continue the training.
Walk, trot, canter – horses need a good physical fitness
Before starting your first ride through nature the dog needs to get used to all paces of the horse. When the horse starts to trot and especially when the horse canters the dog can easily feel left behind. It can prevent a panic reaction of the dog if he already got used to the fast paces in the well known and therefore safe environment of the riding arena. A ride with both animals is only possible if the dog has a high physical fitness. Especially small dogs who have natural limits through their physical constitution can only accompany short trips in slow paces. In any case the owner needs to avoid an overstrain of the dogs´ body: this can cause painful injuries and in worst case even chronic joint and bone pain. Especially puppies must not move too much as long as they grow.
First rides through cross-country
As soon as horse and dog feel comfortable with each other and do not show any panic or frightened reactions in the riding arena or during a guided walk the owner can take a first ride. During these first rides the rider has a difficult job: he needs to concentrate on the dog and on the horse. The rider should try to remember the successful training in the riding arena and during the guided walks. This can help him to feel more safe and comfortable and also the horse will feel his relaxed body language. Then both, horse and rider, will be a great team.
Never put small dogs into saddlebags or any other similar bags that could be tied to the saddle! This can very easily lead to a dramatic situation: the horse is frightened, balks, the rider falls down and the horse bolts – and the dog is completely helpless in the bag on the horses back!
With or without a dog leash?
The answer completely depends on the dog. If the dog obeys the commandos “Come”, “Stay” and “Stop” without exception the dog owner does not need to make use of the dog leash. If the dog however already showed disobedience and hunting instincts during normal walks in the forest or over fields the leash is necessary. Every dog owner should be aware of the fact that the dog can be in a very dangerous situation if he runs around without control. In some cases angry hunters and landlords shot dogs down! Owners of dogs with hunting instincts should try to contact the respective hunters in the area they normally walk the dog. Then there is a possibility that the hunter identifies the dog and omits a fatal shot.
If the owner uses a leash he must never tie it around the saddle. If the horse bolts and canters away the dog will be in a life-threatening situation! Additionally the rider should not tie the leash around his hand but only hold it in a relaxed way. Then, in a dangerous situation, the rider can just drop the leash and the dog has all possibilities to move the way he wants to.
In the best case the dog runs beside the shoulder of the horse. At this position the rider can see him at any time and the dog can react to the movements of the horse. Some trails however are very narrow so that the dog needs to run in front of or behind the horse (advice: if the dog runs behind the horse it is less probably that the horses´ legs get tied up in the leash). Especially for these narrowed trails the leash has to be long enough.
Road safety – also dogs need reflectors for visibility
If riders want to make a ride with horse and dog in the evening they need to consider safety measures. Not only the horse but also the dog needs special reflectors. Then the dog is visible for the rider and all other traffic members.
Enjoy the time with the animals
Training and discipline is an important base for any work with horses and dogs. However, the most important thing is to enjoy the time with the animals. Together over fields and through the forest, exploring nature and having a great time – dogs and horses can be perfect partners for this!
Read here “Dogs and Horses – Part 1: How dogs get used to the horse stable”
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—All statements without guarantee—