04 Aug Riding a Horse in the City: What You Need to Know
Have you ever gotten the itch to try and ride your horse into the city? I have, and I’ve done it! Horseback riding in the city is a great way to get your horse used to new settings and new things. However, there are always things to be aware of before you venture off into a metropolis.
What do you need to know before horseback riding in the city? Here are some questions to ask yourself before you plan your ride:
- By law, can you legally ride your horse in the city?
- Can your horse handle the commotion that the city will offer?
- Do you have the proper gear to help make you visible to passers-by?
- Is your route safe and accommodating to your horse?
- Do you have someone who could ride with you?
Before you ride your horse through the city, it’s important to prepare thoroughly for your journey. Having answers to the previous questions will go a long way in ensuring that you have a safe trip.
By law, can you legally ride your horse in the city?
If you’re a horseback rider, you may be hesitant to try and ride your horse through town simply because you don’t know whether on not it’s actually legal to do. There are a few things to know and tips you can use to learn in order to prepare for your outing.
Horseback Riding Along the Interstate is Illegal
It’s important to know that riding your horse along the interstate is illegal in most states. It may be tempting since some interstates have nice open grassy lanes running parallel to the traffic; however, for your safety and the safety of the drivers passing by, you will get in trouble with the law if you decide to take this route.
Contact Your Local Police Station
If you want to know if you can ride your horse in the city, the best thing to do is to contact the local police station via a non-emergency telephone number. By doing this, you can ask a police officer in-depth questions about the laws in your area that would apply to riding your horse into town. The police offer can even give you advice on the slowest traffic times and the best routes to take.
Be Aware of Signage Around City Trails
Many cities have nice walking trails that would make for a great trail ride for your horse. If one of these trails happens to be your destination, check ahead of time for specific signage that states whether or not horses are welcome. Some trails are limited to walkers and bikers.
Can your horse handle the commotion that the city will offer?
Before you decide to ride your horse into the city, you want to make sure that your horse is ready for some of the new sounds and activities they will be introduced to. I recently took my POA pony on a trek through town and here are some of the things that I noticed could get a horse worked up:
- pedestrians with no horse knowledge
- manhole coverings
- dogs barking
- traffic lights
- flashing lights
- drivers honking and waving
This list is only of the things I could remember off of the top of my head. Anyway, there are many things that could throw your horse for a loop. The worst place to have your horse blow up or start acting out is by busy roads or crowded areas. When you decide to venture into the city with your horse, you have to be aware that the safety of everyone around you is now in your hands.
The first thing I would recommend if you want to ride your horse in the city is to start with some desensitizing training. This specific training is geared towards desensitizing your horse from things it may be afraid of. You can get your horse use to strange objects, loud sounds, cars, and anything else that may freak them out.
This training will help your horse to handle themselves when they’ve been introduced to the commotion the city offers. To learn some desensitizing techniques, check out our article, Bombproof and Desensitize a Horse: Ultimate Guide.
Start Out Slow
When you’re getting your horse used to riding by traffic, seeing bicycles, and the whole shebang, I recommend always starting out slow. See what your horse can and cannot handle. When I went to prepare my horse to ride through town, my first ride I simply took him out to the road to see how he handled the traffic.
Once I saw that my horse could handle the traffic passing by, then I practiced crossing the road. My thought was that I wanted to make sure my horse could handle himself with the small things before I trusted him to go out and ride through town. It also let me see what things I needed to work on when it came to desensitizing.
Have Someone Ride With You
When you’re first introducing your horse to riding in more urban areas, it’s always a great idea to have a friend come along with you on their horse. The other horse will add some comfort and familiarity for your horse. God forbid you were to fall off, your horse will more likely stick around if there’s another horse close by.
Do you have the proper gear to help make you visible to passers-by?
Having proper reflective or noticeable gear will help keep you visible to drivers and other passers-by. All too often, tragic accidents happen because pedestrians weren’t visible enough to drivers. Having reflective gear will give you an extra level of safety when it comes to riding in the city.
The GoxRunx 2 Pack Reflective Running Vest Gear (click the link to see the price on Amazon) is a great reflective vest for horseback riding.
Other ways to help you be visible to drivers and pedestrians is to wear a light-colored shirt and a saddle pad with a color that contrasts your horse’s coat. These things are more noticeable to the eye.
Avoid Riding At Night
While a night ride through the city may sound like fun, your percentage of risk greatly increases once the sun goes down. Darkness, bright lights, sleepiness, and many other things can make it difficult for drivers to stay focused and alert. Being flight animals, horses also tend to be a little more on edge at night.
Is your route safe and accommodating to your horse?
Planning your route can make your city horseback ride much more pleasant. Picking routes that can best accommodate your horse will go a long way for your safety and your horse’s comfort. Here are some things to keep in mind:
What is the footing material?
When you decide to ride your horse in urban areas, the majority of the time, your horse will be walking on asphalt. The constant trauma of your horse’s hoof hitting the rock-hard ground can be hard on your horse’s body.
If you plan on doing a lot of urban riding, horseshoes can benefit your horse greatly. The shoes will add a block between your horse’s hoof and the pavement.
Something to keep in mind is that metal horseshoes offer no traction whatsoever when it comes to riding on asphalt. If your horse is wearing shoes, they have a higher risk of slipping on the surfaces. An alternative that requires no shoeing but offers much more cushion and traction is horse boots.
The Cavallo ELB Regular Sole Hoof Boot (Click to see the price on Amazon) is an example of the horse boot. Horse boots are basically sneakers for your horse! You simply slip them on over your horse’s hooves and velcro them in place.
Is the Path Wide Enough to Share?
Another thing to be aware of when planning your route is whether or not there’s a path or a sidewalk and whether or not it’s wide enough to share with passers-by. The reason I say this is because most passers-by won’t know anything about horses; because of this, they can do some pretty clueless things.
I once saw a bicycler ride right up behind a horse’s hindquarters trying to speed up the rider. Not only was it rude, but this cyclist could’ve easily been kicked sky-high by that horse. Make sure you look for wide paths where pedestrians can easily go around you and your horse if need be.
How Bad is the Traffic?
I love a horse that is trusty around traffic; however, more traffic always equals more risks. I’ve had to ride on the road a few times when it was the peak time for traffic, and I can tell you that it’s just not fun having traffic wiz by you and your horse.
Like most pedestrians, most drivers have no clue about horses or proper etiquette when passing. They’ll usually just speed past you throwing caution to the wind. It’s best to avoid situations where you have a bunch of clueless people driving around you and your horse.
Trail riding is another great way to get your horse ready to ride through the city. Trails offer many new obstacles and situations. To see our list of trail riding tips, click here!
I’m a lifelong horse trainer and horseback rider who’s passionate about teaching others about the things I’ve learned. I grew up competing in numerous English horseback riding disciplines and am now a certified equine massage therapist. I currently own three horses.