Riding alongside the road - Safe? - The Horse Forum

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post #1 of 41 Old 02-28-2014, 12:19 PM Thread Starter
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Riding alongside the road - Safe?

Hi, friends!

I'm finally brinking on being able to ride! Hurray!

I recently started boarding at a new facility (after having hauled my horse back from Texas, after not deciding to go... ugh) and it's awesome. They have space to ride around on the property, plus an indoor and an outdoor arena.

Now, I was sure they would have access to trails; we are very close to a local lake where horses can be ridden. I spoke to a local boarder, however, and they said we don't have close access to it.

It's easily less than a mile away... but you would have to trailer there. OR ride alongside the road.
I really want to toddle out there, and I don't have a trailer (it's not in the budget right now, either, as I would have to also purchase a vehicle to pull it). Is it safe to ride alongside the road? For a little background on the area: they are rural/back roads. The speed limits range from 25-45. These roads are often frequented by cyclists, and people driving are usually very courteous of them. There is a shoulder to ride on. Thoughts?

The sensitivity of the internet baffles me.
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post #2 of 41 Old 02-28-2014, 12:28 PM
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We have to ride a short distance along a gravel road to get to any of the trails, and a short distance along a busy highway to get to the river, although the highway does have a big shoulder on it.

I have ridden extensively on the side of gravel roads over the years.

make sure your horse has been ridden around vehicles and is very controllable before you go. A good one rein stop is a must.
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post #3 of 41 Old 02-28-2014, 12:37 PM
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It really depends on the horse. Dealing with cars is a learned behavior. Some of it can be taught safely by leading them along a road until they learn to accept the cars & trucks. My horses find bicyclists vastly scarier than automobiles and most trucks.

What cannot be learned is how to deal with the occasional idiot who wants to see how close he can come to you without hitting you or who thinks it is funny to honk while passing or who throws something from the car.

I've only had one person do that to me, but with an empty road and me riding on the shoulder toward any opposing traffic, he came across and missed my leg by inches. Oddly enough, Mia, who usually jumps at everything, took a tiny hop to the left to increase our safety and otherwise didn't flick an ear. That little hop may have been what kept my leg attached to the rest of me.

However, if someone is hauling some horses in a trailer - STRANGE horses, how terrifying! - then she might spin around and prance sideways...which is NOT a good thing. At a minimum, I'd lead your horse along the road first to see how it responds. And a good stop - even a GREAT stop - is critical (echoing BlueSpark).
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post #4 of 41 Old 02-28-2014, 12:44 PM
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I think it would be okay to ride on the shoulder of the road, but if you're not sure of your horse, maybe lead him the first trip or two and see.....
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post #5 of 41 Old 02-28-2014, 01:01 PM
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There's always some danger in riding by a road, no matter how well trainer your horse is. As bsms mentioned, you'll get idiots once in a while who think it's funny to try and spook your horse on purpose. Consider how far you can get from the road (is the shoulder decently wide the whole way?) and how steady your horse is. If you decide to go for it, get one of those fluorescent vests that cyclists wear for visibility and try it out when it's sunny and a low-traffic time of day (at least the first few times)
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post #6 of 41 Old 02-28-2014, 01:08 PM
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I just hopped on and rode mine..Which, depending on the horse I'm not sure I'd suggest..we ended up in front of a semi. She was great with cars, trucks and trailers..you name it, but the tractor trailer was too much for her. I doubt you'll encounter a semi on a back road though, I was riding a main route.

I also ride with the flow of traffic, not against it. I agree with a solidly trained horse and leading the first time or two atleast though. If my mare wasn't as trained as she was, I'd never take her out on the road..but I trust her to listen to my cues, even in a panic, not to mention her spooks are just stops/staring/snorting for the most part. She doesn't jump sideways (did happen once though), she doesn't bolt, and she doesn't fly backwards when spooking, she just stops to look.
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post #7 of 41 Old 02-28-2014, 01:23 PM
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I'm with Iseul and I would ride with the traffic. Here in Missouri technically you are considered a vehicle. One other word of caution would be to look for hidden metal culverts that go under the road and are hidden in the grass. I had a friend that had to retire his horse because she caught a culvert just right and cut some tendons in the hoof area. Also, I am leery of bottles in the grass as well. I used to wear a wrap around reflective SMV emblem that I bought at a bike shop when I was road cycling and I was wondering if that would be helpful when on horseback??
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post #8 of 41 Old 03-01-2014, 02:23 AM
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I ride along side of the road all the time, the more you expose your horse too, the better for you both.
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post #9 of 41 Old 03-01-2014, 04:22 AM
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I have spent many, many years riding on roads, from rural to city, and here are my tips.
- First, talk to your state's Department of Transportation (DOT) about any laws/rules/restrictions. You can also talk to your Sheriff's department and Highway Patrol, but in my experience they are not familiar with any horse laws.
- Wear a helmet and a bright vest like many folks wear during hunting season.
- When riding on the shoulder, ride as far from the road as possible and watch out for roadside litter. I've ridden through places that are full of bottles/cans that people toss out their windows.
- If your horse has not seen cyclists, dismount or be extra careful the first time. Many horses are more afraid of cyclists than cars. Bicycles are quiet and "sneak" up on you and your horse.
- Ride WITH the traffic.
- If you need to ride in the road, do NOT hug the shoulder. Just like with bicycles, drivers tend to try and stay in the lane and will come very close to you. Do not be afraid to take up enough space in the lane to stay safe. This also forces drivers to slow down and pass you instead of just zooming by.
- Do not be afraid to signal drivers with your hands to ask them to slow down or stop if your horse is getting excited, and do not feel rushed. At least in NC, you have a right to the road, too. You want to stay calm and keep your horse calm.
- Avoid or be very careful if there are any blind curves. There are some spots around here that have blind curves with a very small shoulder. I will not ride there.
- If the road is asphalt, be aware that your horse does not have the same traction as on dirt/grass, especially if your horse is shod.

Be safe, stay calm, have fun.
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post #10 of 41 Old 03-01-2014, 04:47 AM
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Your horse needs to be used to traffic if you want to ride on roads and obviously it needs to be legal to do so.

In the UK most riders ride on roads (we have to), all my horses are used to tactors, large lorries, double decker buses, but we took a great deal of time to expose them to these things in as safe an environment as we could first.
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