Horseback Riding in Traffic
 By Emmurr   •   13th Apr 2012   •   3,715 views   •   15 comments
Horseback Riding in TrafficI think a majority of you can relate when I mention worrying about riding a nervous horse through traffic. Most of you know that feeling of “Oh no, there’s a car coming! I hope my horse doesn’t freak out!” and then you tense up, your horse feels it and then he gets worried and reacts, making both of you even more nervous. Well worry no more! In this article I plan to give a few helpful tips to teach you and your horse how to react better upon the event of meeting vehicles while out riding.

First off, some horses will be frightened in traffic because of a traumatic event in their past, which means it will generally be more difficult to help them relax. Others will just be naturally nervous because they are green and just need to learn that they’ll be okay when that funny little growling box on wheels rolls past. Either way, they’ll need a lot of time and patience to get them through this fear.

Now a lot of the horse’s reaction is based upon your reaction and body language as a rider. If you tense up when you see an oncoming vehicle, then your horse is going to think that this is something to worry about and he’s going to tense up and become spooked by the event. If you relax however, he’s not going to think it’s something to be frightened of.

A few tips for relaxing in the saddle:
1. Drop the contact or keep a very light contact, either way, make sure that if anything happens you can get a hold of them and regain control quickly.

2. Sit quietly in the saddle, relax all your muscles. I think of sitting like a sack of potatoes so that there is no tension in my body that could translate as fear to my horse.

3. Always keep your heels down. As long as you’re relaxed throughout, let all your weight drop through your heels so that in the event that the horse may spook, you’ve got a nice secure seat which will help you stay with your horse.

4. Hum a little tune to yourself or control your breathing. Humming a well known tune to yourself can be very comforting in a stressful situation and controlling your breathing, such as breathing in for three seconds and then out for three seconds can make you feel like you’ve got more control over the situation.

Once you have mastered relaxing yourself in quiet situations, which you could try out when riding a quieter horse, you can then focus on getting the horse to relax more. Although your body language in the saddle will affect the way your horse reacts as I stated above, there are two other techniques you can use to help your horse relax:

1. Talk to your horse. Talk in a soothing voice to tell them that it’s okay and assure them further that you’re with them.

2. Make a fuss of them. You can rub your hands up and down the crest of their neck, pat them and stroke down their shoulders to reassure them that again, it’s okay. It also has a calming effect on the horse as they are made a fuss of when in calm situations anyway.

When hacking out the young or nervous horse in traffic, it sometimes helps to have an older, quieter horse going out with them too to start off with as reassurance. They will see how an older horse reacts and realise that there’s nothing to fear.

Another method you can also try is riding them up to the edge of a main road, giving them plenty of distance (At least 5 meters) at the edge if they need to back up a little, to take it all in. Just stand them there and make a big fuss of them, letting them watch the traffic as it flies by. Then, just hack them round quiet lanes with very little traffic. The drivers will usually slow down for you because the lanes are narrow and there aren’t any other vehicles around. This means that they can watch things come past at a nice steady pace and take in what’s happening in a more relaxed atmosphere.

The key to riding in traffic is relax, reassure and be patient. It all takes time, but in the end you should have a confident horse and should feel more able to use these new skills to teach future horses about these odd little creatures on wheels that rumble past while they’re out.

I have used all these techniques on a very young horse of mine, Bella, who used to be terrified in traffic. Now however, she’ll happily walk past enormous tractors with rattling trailers without a bother. I hope that by using these techniques you and your horse will be on the path to a more pleasurable riding experience.
Horse News More In This Category:  General      Horse News More From This Author:  Emmurr
Nice article! I've never ridden by traffic, but I use some of these techniques for those scary tree monsters! XD
  Apr 13, 2012  •  2,705 views
Some people are jerks about driving. The other week we were crossing the road, and three cars were going but they stopped before they crossed. Then after me and Lori were crossed my sister started going, someone drove really fast past her and almost hit her pony! So of course Lori cantered Etch after the car, which had stopped at a red light, and they started yelling at her. It was so funny, and I was cracking up. :P
  Apr 13, 2012  •  2,682 views
Deleted Accounts  
i once was riding a horse who was scared of tractors, thankfully we never passed one on the road but there was one parked at the show we went too!
  Apr 14, 2012  •  2,722 views
Makaela Marie  
I'm lucky that none of my horses have an obvious problem with cars...but they won't go near lorries or tractors, especially not Thunder xD
  Apr 14, 2012  •  2,713 views
Double Spur Ranch  
Great article :)
  Apr 14, 2012  •  2,702 views
Estella Noire  
Very nice article! This helps a lot :3
  Apr 14, 2012  •  2,726 views
Doodles Forever  
Great article! Traffic is a pain when you're out hacking -.-
  Apr 14, 2012  •  2,707 views
Run Free  
Angel used to be so scared if just one car passed when she was young and green but I made a fuss, relaxed and brought the big quiet cob with me at all times and now me and Angel are giving leads to the green horses
  Apr 15, 2012  •  2,781 views
Sapphire Flames  
great article! :) got some awesome tips in there! :)
  Apr 16, 2012  •  2,681 views
Que Sara  

I can't go out on the roads too often :( I actually have to box up and go miles to the moors to do any build up road work. It's a pain.

Our roads are mainly lanes and are too narrow and bendy. In the winter the locals go to fast because they 'know the roads' and in the summer the holiday makers are blocking it all up and are dangerous because they DON'T know the roads.

Now can you do one for drivers and how THEY should act when driving on the country lanes!!
  Apr 16, 2012  •  2,713 views
Dunns DragonFly Stable  
Thanks, will try!
  Apr 16, 2012  •  2,721 views
Ive rode on the road once. Its quite nice having a change of scenery:D
  Apr 19, 2012  •  3,061 views
Very true, and some great tips. Unfortunately, where I live, we've no choice but to ride near traffic (so fortunately, I'm very used to it) but the horses are still learning. They'll get it eventually..!
  Apr 23, 2012  •  2,712 views
RoyalCrownEstates  MOD 
great article! :)
  May 17, 2012  •  2,717 views
Foxchase Farm  
Great tips!!
  Aug 5, 2012  •  2,757 views
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