Traffic Desensitization

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Traffic Desensitization

This is a discussion on Traffic Desensitization within the Horse Training forums, part of the Training Horses category
  • Desensitizing a horse to cars
  • Training a horse for traffic

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    10-24-2011, 07:34 AM
Traffic Desensitization

Ok, so I have a question. I was going to go on a trail ride today but to get to the park, I have to go on a good bit of road. Now, my mare is good with traffic, I've never had an issue. We've ridden on the road a few times, nothing happened. The road we'd be riding by (on the side of the road) the speed limit is 40 but people go 50. She's been around at max 30mph, so should I be worried that she'll freak at a car going fast?
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    10-24-2011, 08:05 AM
You should always be cautious while road riding no matter what the speed limit is. Even the most experienced horse could spook at a vehicle.

Things to keep in mind
- vehicles can and will kick up rocks and debris from the roadway and hit you or your horse.
- not all drivers will slow down and move away from a rider & horse.
- if your horse spooks into the roadway, there are not a lot of options for drivers to avoid you.

If you don't have a nice ditch to ride in and must ride the shoulder, you could walk your horse until you can safely mount and ride. A friend of mine has a horse that doesn't like traffic to come up behind him so when something approaches from behind she stops and turns him towards it.

Good luck and have a safe ride!
    10-24-2011, 08:42 AM
This is not an easy issue to advise on - indeed so much depends upon the roads, the nature of the traffic and the character of people in your area,

When considering taking horses onto highways over here we aim to
Acclimatise gradually the horse to traffic. We start with short hacks in the company of other traffic broke horses walking in file and then move upwards towards riding alone.

Luckily many horses know that the car is 'dead' but they seem to ignore that the driver is a living human and as such unpredictable.

Much will depend upon your relationship with the horse - the horse must respond to your commands and trust you not to put it into danger.
It must stand, four square and relax in the presence of noisy vehicles.
It must tolerate a close proximity of a vehicle - by close I mean 2 feet.

A lot will also depend upon the mood of the horse on the day. My mare is calm some days and completely neurotic on others. Likewise the rider must transmit to the horse a spirit of confidence.

But be advised that an immature horse whirling and bolting is a possibility and your coming off and hitting hard tarmac will hurt.

At the end of the day only you the rider can tell if your horse is ready for traffic ie cars, trucks, tractors, motor cycles, push bikes and even other horses. Don't forget dogs, lawn mowers, chain saws and low flying aircraft. Plus pigs, goats, mules, chickens & game birds. The list is endless. I find cyclists to be utterly unaware of what their coming up silently behind a horse does to the horse. Some even ring their bells!!!

Prepare yourself with riding hat, day glo jacket, gloves, whip, running martingale, mobile phone.
Fit a rope halter under the bridle,
Attach a looped lead rope to the saddle,
Fit a name tag and telephone number on the bridle

The most important thing is always the temperament of the horse - after all in days gone by they used to pull delivery carts. But the horses we breed today are neither bred for being stoical nor do we school them to be so.

Neither over here is the attitude of Joe Public to horses as forgiving as once it was.

I'd planned an article on this very subject. The sad fact is that what makes a horse calm in traffic is practice and to get that practice you have to take , literally, your life in your hands - or rather give it to the horse to hold.

Be lucky and pick a nice day - no wind no rain.
    10-24-2011, 09:52 AM
Green Broke
All great advice but one other piece to the formula is the horse's natural inclination to either stand its ground and just "get on with with" or spook/bolt, spook/dip/spin and give you change for a dime.

I happen to have one of each - lol

Once upon a time some moron in an 18-wheeler purposely let his jake brake off right beside my "just get on with it" horse. All Duke did was flip the guy off with his ear and keep going -- he is the horse in my avatar.

He has also gone nose-to-nose with a P.O.'d male llama that spit in his face. I said "get him Duke" and his 14.3H self backed that llama down without blinking an eye. My 16.1H dip & spin horse nearly had heart failure over that llama. I was on a 300+ organized ride both times and ended up having to hand walk the dip & spin guy back to the trailer because he was so blown by the whole chain of llama events

Spook & Bolt and Dip & Spin are both perfectly fine to go down the state highway as long as Duke is with them. They won't miss a beat or flick an ear. Duke is also their strong alpha-dominant leader in the pasture so could probably lead them over the cliff and they would follow

But, alone and under the wrong conditions, one would be side-passing the whole way and the other would plant his hooves on the ground and refuse to move until I get off and lead him.

So, along with the other advice that's been given, it is crucial to know your horse's Level of Common Sense, reaction to things, and of course how to stay seated if she does do some spectacular Airs Above the Ground when a semi or a pack of Harley Davidsons comes whizzing at her.

There's not one thing wrong with getting off and hand-walking as long as it can be done without getting hit by a car:)
    10-24-2011, 11:53 AM
Those are all awesome tips! I went on the ride this morning and rode on the road for about a mile and a half and she wasn't even phased by the traffic - didn't even look! It was as if there wasn't any! A huge tractor trailer and some dump trucks blew by from behind and she kept walking like it was nothing. It was a very uneventful ride up until right at the entrance of the trail, there were tied up dogs across the street and she spooked a little when they barked, but it was only a flinch and a nose snort. I was so happy! She was a pro! :)

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