What could be better than combining your two favorite four-legged pals: your dog and your horse? Not much! So it’s important that you prepare them both so that your rides are safe for both your horse and your dog.
By Crystal Wilson
Are you a rider who not only enjoys spending time with your horses, but also wants to bring along your dog on your adventures? Dogs can be strong and energetic, but without proper caution, the wrong interaction between horses and dogs can result in trauma for everyone involved. It may take a bit of preparation and familiarization to get your horse and dog acquainted before having them on the same ride, so it’s important that you get them both acclimated appropriately.
Fortunately, there are a few safety measures that you can take to make sure both Fido and Flicka have a great ride.
Horse riding is beneficial in many ways and can be especially fun when you bring your dog along. However, it can be a challenging experience for you and your horse if your canine pal isn’t appropriately introduced. While some horses have no problem with dogs around them, it can get messy for those that do.
But how do you get your horse and dog to be friends? Socializing the two animals to one another must come first. If it is impossible to do it on your own, consider involving a friend or trainer to assist you.
Introduction may need to be a gradual so that neither animal goes into panic mode. They need to understand each other as friends and riding mates. Begin by introducing them in an environment where they are both comfortable and won’t feel cornered. This may mean that you have to bring your dog to the barn a few times before he meets your horse. Similarly, letting your dog barge into your horse’s stall with no visible means for your horse to move away from him may not end well. Utilize a space such as an arena or round pen so that there is room to move and everyone feels comfortable.
Give It Time
Do not expect magical results when dealing with dogs and horses. In many cases, these two may not necessarily click or hit it off right away. While this is expected, you should not be discouraged. Take time to understand the behaviors of each animal and keep working to help them be comfortable with one another. A worst case scenario would be assuming the animals are fine and taking them out on the trail, only to discover that your horse still is easily spooked by your dog or that your dog still views your horse as a large beast worth chasing.
Patience is crucial throughout this process since it takes a lot of practice and redoing for the animals to understand each other’s patterns. While at it, ensure you teach your dog to respond to commands and enhance its obedience. Such steps will help your dog to understand what is expected of it on a ride. They also come in handy when you meet other animals along the way.
Train With the Horse Before Including Your Dog
Your horse needs to be confident on the trails and know to listen to your hands, seat and legs. Build confidence with the horse first before including your dog on regular trips. You are likely to have better results if you focus on your horse only (and not the horse and the dog) at first. Some horses can be anxious when they meet new distractions along the way. Desensitization and confidence training may be necessary to prepare your horse to ride with your dog.
The idea is to ensure the horse remains calm in nearly all situations. Once it masters this, then you can bring in your dog and train both of them. You will be surprised how enjoyable it gets to ride with your two favorite companions.
Socialize and Hangout With the Two at the Same Time
Use every opportunity available to hang out with your horse and dog at the same time. Once the introduction is done correctly, proceed to have the animals in a safe space. It may be awkward the first time you do this, but keep pressing on. The idea is to have the two animals become friends to a level where they protect each other. How long this familiarization takes depends on how fast the animals warm up to each other.
It is possible to have fun with your dog and horse. All you need to do is to ensure they are friendly with each other first. Take time to train both the animals well and later yield the benefits.