Riding at night
I always viewed riding at night as somewhat taboo. I don't know anyone who does it, so I didn't do it. Unfortunately, I am typically only able to ride very early in the morning or later in the evening and with the onset of DST and the days growing shorter, it is usually dark then. About a month ago I started going on short rides in my neighbor's field right around dusk...eventually building up to riding out farther and staying out later. Most recently I have completed several longer rides in complete darkness. Call me crazy, but it allows me more time in the saddle and it's even fun!
With hunting season now in full swing, I have been sticking close to our country roads and generally staying out of the woods/fields. I usually take 3-4 "emergency" glowsticks, ($3.44 ea in the Sporting Goods section at Walmart), a headlamp ($5 at Walmart) and a reflective vest. Horze.com also has a ton of reflective gear at great prices - including a reflective breast collar, tail/leg wraps, etc. The glowsticks have both a steady glow and flashing mode[s], they emit a good glare and I usually hang them around mine and my horse's neck. I take my saddlebags as well, and throw in an extra jacket, emergency blanket, pocket knife, baling twine, extra glowstick, flashlight, etc.
I admit, I won't take just any horse out at night and my new gelding has been getting neglected a little, since I don't have as many daylight hrs to ride. Instead I take my pony, whom I have a really strong bond with. After all, I don't want to chance falling off and my horse disappearing into the darkness! Riding at night is a whole different ball game, particularly for your horse. Although I am able to see a fair amount with the headlamp, I have gathered that my horse can't see nearly as much. While I am able to spot wildlife from a fair ways off (due to their eyes reflecting back at me), it seems he cannot see them until we are close (and sometimes not at all). My pony is great in that he still freeze or start (but not spook) when deer go crashing into the woods. He does seem to have some trouble discerning depth....I am trying to teach him voice commands such as "step up" and "step down" in order to aid him when we encounter rough ground. I'm fortunate that my pony is very intelligent and tends to stop, look, and feel things out rather than just blindly leaping over every shadow he sees. There are also the headlights from oncoming traffic...my pony isn't bothered by them but I can imagine that some horses might be have a problem when essentially blinded by their brightness.
My only real complaint is that for some reason, people seemed less inclined to slow down/move over at night. I KNOW they can see me, they just don't seem to feel the need to yield. That being said, there is less traffic and at night I am generally able to ride a bit farther off the shoulder, since I don't really have to worry about someone coming out of their house and yelling at me to get out off their property (for real I had someone cuss me out and threaten to call the cops once when I was literally not more than 18 inches off the pavement).
Anyway, sorry for the book here:) Has anyone else done any night riding? I'd love to hear your take on it!
I go on a few moonlight rides (around full moon) each year. The horses I usually ride with, and my horse, are very chill and relaxed with the nightime riding. I actually don't really ever see any wildlife at night, aside from lovely spider webs stretched across in the woods that we end up walking through. And all of our riding that isn't on the road going out and back, is in a State Forest. I try not to use my flashlight unless I absolutely need to (mainly use it in the first section we go through, that is wooded and before the moon really rises), since I'm not sure if the light coming across in front of my horse like that will affect his ability to see. My horse seems to do really well with seeing his footing.
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one of my favorite things to do is ride by the full moon.... it is so peaceful and quiet. my son and i will also ride on the moonless nights and just get out in the open and look at the stars.
When I lived in PA I used to take moonlight rides several times each year during the summer. I avoided riding along roads because drivers just don't seem to pay attention to horses since they don't expect to see them - same as the danger that motorcyclists face.
I'm careful about the route I take and rely on my horse more then I do in daylight since horses have much greater night vision then we do. On the way back, I usually let my horse take the lead but I still maintain the ultimate control especially the speed.
personally if you have permission to be in the woods & fields I would hang out some glow sticks & some reflective wear and go through the woods & fields before I'd ride any distance along a road at night.
most hunting is done by dusk, and a majority of wildlife will not be spooked by a human on horseback so if you see a hunter just nod or wave and keep on going
I can't say I love riding in the dark, but at this time of year I have no choice during the week. I just take things a little slower and my rides are always planned out. I usually tell someone what my plan is so if something happens, they have an idea where I am.
Your headlamp may be affecting your horses night vision. Not sure how bright/far it goes. It has something to do with the contrast, but I believe that depends on the brightness of the head light.
They mention something here about it
Riding Your Horse at Night
Each fall as hunting season arrives, I find myself out riding in the dark. I often get up early and ride my horses to the area we want to hunt. This is all done in the dark so that we can be in position at sunrise. Same can be said for evening, We hunt until dark and then ride back to camp in the dark.
On several occassion we have harvest game animals just before dark, By time we get them cut up and loaded on the horses, We are traveling back to camp in complete darkness. Hunting seasons are prescribed by the state department of wildlife, So I have no choice about full moons, overcast night. Some years there is a bright moon and stars, some years it's black as ink.
I wrote a short story once about my ride up a canyon in the pre-dawn darkness. Kinda of a Mr. Toads Wild Ride. Sparks coming off the horses shoes as they struck rocks, tree branches hitting me on cold skin on my face, eery ice cicles hanging off dripping ledges and of course the horses stopping dead when they came face to face with some black objects that moved. Which I later figured out to be some black angus cattle.
I've been surprised just how well the horses can see and find their way. Onbe fall a friends son shot a moose just before sunset. We rode up the canyon and butchered the moose. By time we got it cut up and loaded on the horses, it was several hours after dark. We had loaded the moose on the two horses my friend and his son had rode up the canyon, So they had to hike out. I rode my horse and lead the other two horses that were packing the meat. It was a very overcast night. Extremely black in the forest with no moon or stars. I couldn't see a thing, And if I turned my light on, I couldn't really tell what was trail and what was just wandering through the forest.
I finally turned off the light and let the horses just head for the trailer. Periodically I would hear their hoof beats going across small wooden foot bridges over boggy areas in the trail, or see the square cut ends of dead falls that the Forest Service had cut out to clear the trail. That was the only way that I knew we were still on the trail. It was about 5 miles back to camp and it took about an hour in the darkness, But the horses did just great with out me directing them at all. They could see the trail in the dark, that I could not see even with my headlamp.
Trail like this just disappear in the darkness. It is really difficult to tell if you are on a trail or just wandering through the forest.
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