Can you Ride a Horse on the Road?
by Parelli Natural Horsemanship on Nov 03, 2022
If you want to explore new areas and don't have access to horse trails, you may consider riding on the roadway. Many areas allow horseback riders to ride on the roads, as long as they abide by local laws. However, these rules are not the only important thing to know when you start riding on public roads.
Before Riding on the Road
Horseback riding on the road takes extra care and planning. Before you hit the road, make sure it is a safe decision for you and your horse by asking the following questions.
Is your horse used to traffic?
Even though you can ride legally in many areas, it doesn't mean you should. You must be ready for noise, traffic, bicycle riders, and pedestrians. It can be very dangerous if your horse has not been prepared. Taking the time to get them used to these new noises and speeds will help them be more confident on the road. Incorporating the Parelli Seven Games, and specifically games 1 and 2, the Friendly Game and Porcupine Game, in your training helps your horse overcome innately fearful, defensive reactions to external stimuli and pressure.
How busy are your roadways?
Not all roads are created equal. Riding on a dirt road in a rural area does not carry the same potential risks as riding on busy streets in the city. The main difference is the traffic volume and drivers not being used to animals on the roadway. While it is not always the case, many drivers in rural areas are used to seeing horseback riders and slow-moving farm vehicles on the road.
Will your horse's feet be comfortable on the pavement?
Pavement is a very unforgiving material for horses. It doesn't give like soil does when weight is applied downward. Compared to barefoot horses, shod horses have extra protection from this type of terrain. This doesn't mean you need to shoe your horse to ride on the road. It is essential to see if your horse is comfortable on this footing. Some horses have tougher soles and move normally, while others get tender quickly. You could also use temporary boots on barefoot horses to provide occasional protection when riding on the road. Pavement can also be quite slippery, so it’s a good idea to play with your horse On Line first to prepare them for the feel of the footing before you get on (in a safe area of course).
Not sure about leaving your horse barefoot? Get the full breakdown in our Should I Leave My Horse Barefoot? article!
Is horseback riding on the road legal where you live?
Wherever you live worldwide, remember to check your local regulations. Most areas in the United States, for example, will allow horseback riders to ride on the right-hand side of the road with traffic flow. Equestrians must follow the rules of the road, obey all posted signage, and avoid riding on designated pedestrian areas, like sidewalks. Use equestrian crossings when possible and avoid busy intersections.
Highways, train pathways, and some bridges are often not accessible for riders. Check your local regulations to ensure you are allowed to ride in the area you are considering.
Tips for Riding Your Horse On The Road
You've reviewed the questions and have decided road riding is a good choice for you and your horse. Here are some safety tips you must follow while riding on public roads.
Use the Parelli Seven Games to build trust and confidence with your horse before riding on the road. As your horse begins to see you as a leader, they will have more trust in you in unfamiliar situations. You must be aware of your surroundings and confident in your ability to read your horse and anticipate reactions.
Remember, horses are prey animals, and the natural response to something scary is flight. Once you've built a strong relationship with your horse, he is more likely to remain calm during unexpected situations. If you don't have confidence in your horse, your current skills, and your relationship, it is probably not a good idea to ride on the road.
Wear Safety Equipment
Many road riders recommend wearing a reflective riding vest or other reflective clothing to help drivers see you quickly. You can also purchase reflective leg wraps for your horse. Consider attaching a tag with your contact information to your saddle or bridle when riding alone. This helps if you fall off and your horse gets loose.
Helmets and sturdy boots are also recommended for road riding.
Saddlebags are a great way to pack gear on the road or trail. There are saddlebag options for English and Western riders. Some items to bring include an extra savvy string, hoof pick, cell phone, identification, water bottle, knife, and a small first aid kit.
Don't go someplace you've never been for your first road ride. Plan your route, and know the traffic patterns, the distance, and the time of day you will be riding. Select quieter streets with wide shoulders and no blind corners whenever possible.
Keep the time of day in mind for several reasons. For example, you might not want to ride by the elementary school when the buses are exiting. It is also never a good idea to ride on roads at night, so be sure to be home before nightfall.
Ride with a Partner
If you have taken the right precautions, riding alone is not a problem, but if you are new to the area, ride with a partner. If you have an accident or need your horse held, the extra set of hands is helpful!
If you are riding with a partner, remember to ride single file and close to the shoulder. This is safer for you and your horse because you can safely create distance if your horse shies away from a vehicle. Stay alert, follow road signs, and be aware of cars and pedestrians, even when riding with a partner.
If you are riding alone, notify someone when you leave, your planned route, and your expected return time. Unfortunately, accidents do happen on the road. Letting someone know your plan could help you sooner in an emergency.
Avoid Dangerous Situations
We mentioned a few dangerous situations to avoid. Be aware of road construction, off-leash dogs, strollers, parades, emergency vehicles, and other riders. Make sure you can create distance when possible and remain alert throughout your ride. Preparing your horse ahead of time and knowing there are safe places to dismount along your route will help keep you both as safe as possible during your ride.
Stay Safe on the Roads
Horseback riding anywhere is an incredible adventure and a great way to experience new things with your horse. With proper care and safety precautions, riding on the road can open up a whole world of areas to play and learn together.