I am aware of how dangerous this can be, but sometimes I am tempted to take a ride “around the block” instead of trailering out to a trailhead. Or, consider the fact your rig may break down & you might have to ride home.
First of all, be prepared to deal with road hazards—barking dogs & fenced horses, bizarre moving yard ornaments, creative mailboxes, and trash on the side of the road. Just give your horse a minute to get a grip on the object, then urge him to walk around it. Or, simply lead him on a road walk the first time.
Luckily for me I live in the country, and I can pick a time when I know there will be little traffic. And I also choose my calmest horse. Still, drivers taking the back roads are often traveling at 55 MPR & they aren’t used to seeing horses being ridden on the roads anymore.
It’s my responsibility to educate drivers & keep myself & my horse as safe as possible at the same time. Common sense says to slow down, but some drivers don’t have common sense. When they are not slowing down to pass, signal them by using your traffic-side arm in a slow-down motion. Then wave to thank them for slowing. In case you get caught riding after dark, carry a red flashing safety light that you clip to your horse’s breast collar. We sell them at Trail Pals: FRSL3LED, $3.95.
Always wear boots you can walk in, paired with a bright colored shirt or reflective vest. A red flashing light clipped on the back of your belt won’t bother your horse a bit, but makes you a lot more visible. Put a halter & rope under your bridle, in case you end up having to lead or tie your horse. Carry a cellphone & a multi-use tool. This is a good time to wear a helmet. Carrying an ID is not a bad idea if you are out of your neighborhood.
Teach your mount to face the “thing” he’s afraid of & that may include a big loud truck coming up behind you! Make sure that your horse is comfortable moving off the road--in & out of a muddy ditch, over small bridges & through streams.
My personal rule is “never say never” when it comes to bailing off the horse & pulling him to the side of the road or in the ditch to avoid disaster. If you don’t think you will enjoy your ride---don’t go. Think of riding on paved roads as trail riding, just with different kinds of trail hazards!
Debbie Stice (with Greg Stice), owners
Horse Trailer Accessory Store