In autumn and winter we can rarely see the sun and days become shorter. Many riders work all day long and when they have time in the evening it already is dark. Only the weekends offer the possibility for a long ride into nature. But winter does not mean that it is impossible to go outside: what about a moonlight ride?
A ride in the darkness can be a great experience. The moon is much brighter than we usually expect and especially a full moon offers much light.
Additionally it is really interesting how horses behave in the darkness. They are much more relaxed than the rider and are able to identify every branch and stone. Even nervous horses become calm and tranquilized. In the darkness there are no shadows and colors so that there are no irritations for the horse. The animal can only concentrate on the way and is relaxed. In opposite to this horses are much more afraid in the twilight: they expect other hunting animals which normally hunt at that time of the day.
In the darkness the eyes of the horses are better than ours
Scientists found out that horses have more receptors on their retina than humans (about 300 % more!). This makes it much easier for them to identify obstacles in the darkness. Additionally they cannot see any colors so that their environment only appears in black and white. Horses have a further biological advantage: behind the retina there is a so called shining carpet (lat.: Tapetum Lucidum). This works as a kind of light amplifier and helps the horse to see more clearly in the darkness.
If you observe horses at night on the pasture you will wonder about their great activity. Besides the normal grazing they play with each other or even canter into the darkness.
Riding in the darkness: never without the right equipment
Before planning a ride in the darkness you need to consider about the right equipment. This especially is important when you are riding along a street. Horse and rider must have the respective lighting and in Germany this even is legal obligation. You always need to consider that drivers can even ignore such a big animal as a horse. The spotlight of the car only shines on the ground. Due to this the light does not include the top of the horse or the rider. Therefore you should put on shining tendon boots on all four legs of the horse or at least at the back legs and the left front leg. The shining effect of the tendon boots is supported by the movement of the legs and it becomes easier for the driver to notice the horse. Moreover you can buy shiners for boots and stirrups. A white lamp should shine to the front and a red one to the back of the horse.
For the rider it is really useful to put on a lamp at the helmet. You can buy this in several designs and with different luminosities. Please be careful if you turn on the light while sitting on the back of the horse: the sudden light in front of the horse can be really frightening and the horse can try to jump away. In general it can be really interesting to ride through a dark forest. There are many other animals and one can see their shining eyes in the middle of the surrounding black. In most cases the rider becomes more scared than the horse which mostly keeps cool and relaxed.
Security at the moonlight ride
For the first moonlight ride you should choose a way you know really well or even by heart. In the end the horse only is relaxed when the rider stays calm and cool. If the rider is nervous or worried the horse will notice and will also start to behave in a squirrely way. In opposite to this you can even canter in the darkness if there is a relaxed atmosphere between horse and rider.
Riding in the full moon
The best condition for a moonlight ride is the full moon. The light can be really bright and there is a romantic and idyllic atmosphere. Additionally it can be really beautiful to ride in the snow because this makes the environment even shine brighter.
It is the perfect situation to relax: only alone with the horse or in a group together with friends.