Roads and Horses

Gen lives in a total horse centric area. How horse centric? There is a big trail system (Gen’s barn connects in the back of the farm) in the area. Correct me if I am wrong locals, but I believe it is 400 acres of marked trails (for those of you out west it might not seem like a lot, but around here that is huge). The picture above is a very common site for me, at least every other week I see horses on the road. Between the local hunt club, trail riders and those on a hunter paces the roads are often shared with horses, cars, bikes and motorcycles.

I could have easily been a part of the picture above. Except that if that were a picture of me I would be the person in the car. You see, the thing is I have a HUGE fear of road riding. It literally is one of my biggest riding fears.

I don’t know if it is because I have seen the horse whisperer too many times, had too many close calls myself, or because I once witnessed a very dangerous situation, but the thought of riding on the road is truly terrifying to me.

Lucky lives literally 3/4 of a mile from the Local Show Grounds. I would rather make the 45 minute drive each way in my truck though just to avoid riding on the road. So what made me think of this? On Sunday I was driving up to the barn and there was a local hunter pace going on. The Finish Line was at a local farm about 1/2 a mile from the start line. That meant that competitors had to ride on the road to get back to their trailers. No big deal right? Except that the road is 45 mph, has no shoulder and is a blind turn. That is exactly the situation between Lucky’s and the Local Show Grounds which is why I won’t do it.

Except that people did do it last weekend. Lots of them. And they all seemed so…calm.

I passed 5 pairs on way to and from the barns. Out of the 10 horses I saw 7 were being ridden on the buckle and only 2 riders total even glanced at me in my car.

How do you do that? How do you calmly ride down the road when cars THAT CAN KILL YOU are zipping along? It was stressing me out just being that close to the horses! Twice in the past few years I have been driving along only to have the hunt coming flying across the road in front of me with not a lot of time to stop (once was a lovely tire screeching stop). The riders and horses never seem phased, but I am terrified and shaken up when that happens.

I know I am not the bravest rider in the world, but I am okay. I love to go out on trail rides and don’t let too much get in my way. Roads though are scary.

How do all you people who ride on the road do it? I know Lucky would’t care because I have gone to the end of the driveway and she never even flinches. She will just look back up at me like I am a moron every time I jump when a tractor trailer or big truck goes by. I would love to ride to the Local Show Grounds, but I just don’t know if I have it in me. I think I would faint from fright on the 3/4 mile trip over!


9 thoughts on “Roads and Horses

  1. I wish more people in their cars paid attention. I’ve had some real assholes come up on me (like the woman who didn’t even slow down as I fell off my horse in front of her) but Ozzy is completely unfazed. I could get hit by a car walking down the street. Being on a traffic-safe horse doesn’t seem that much different to me. Now… teaching horses to be traffic safe can be nerve wracking. I do worry about some people who road ride because they seem OBLIVIOUS to what the traffic around them is doing. Newsflash– having right of way doesn’t keep your horse from dying if you get hit. I dunno… I don’t have a trailer and never have. It has always been ‘ride down the street or don’t ride at all’. *shrug*

    Now… bike riders make me nervous when I drive.

  2. It comes with time. Our horses are good on the road but, even so, it isn’t my favorite thing. We’ve had gravel trucks come flying down the road and that is something the horses will never get used to (me neither).

  3. For me it depends on the horse and the road. I prefer riding on gravel/dirt roads with grassy shoulders/ditches than on paved roads with just a narrow gravel shoulder.

    My old gelding barely flicked an ear at a truck blowing by us pulling a huge trailer of canoes and kayaks, with all kinds of chains rattling…but I wouldn’t trust other horses to do the same…

  4. Maybe it’s because I grew up on a busy street… I just learned to pay extra attention to the cars and always have an escape plan. I also have rules about where I will and won’t ride — like I won’t go down a road I don’t know unless I can see a fair distance ahead, and won’t ride a long way on a road with no shoulder. Even though horses technically have the right of way, I give wide berth to traffic and show appreciation for the folks that ARE courteous.

    It helps to have good horses, but they only get that way with practice!

  5. I found your blog from Mikael’s blog, and I’ve been reading for a while, but I don’t usually comment. I wanted to share my experiences on road riding.

    I grew up on a island and didn’t have a trailer so I had to ride my horse every where. I certainly had bad experiences – semi’s too close, firecracker thrown at my horse, he was terrified of bicycles, but for the most part he was bomb proof. I had a backyard horse. so riding on the road was the only option I had to get to local lessons and shows. Being scared to ride on the road was not an option. The day we decided to buy Ranger, I rode him (2nd time on him) on the road from the barn he was at, to the local ring for a lesson, and then rode him home – probably 8 miles in total.

    I read the Horse Whisperer, and saw the movie, but until I read your blog I had never equated that scene with me riding on the roads

    I think you should start small to build your confidence – ride Lucky down to the road and watch the traffic. If you know the traffic patterns you could ride short stretches of It when traffic is light. It sounds like she’s a good level headed horse. Do you have friend to ride with you? It might help your confidence if you were with some who doesn’t share your concerns.

    I’m not saying it’s not dangerous, but in situations like this that scare me, I tell myself that if it was as dangerous as I think it is, there would be stories all over the news about tragic horse vs car accidents, and I don’t think you see that.

    Good Luck

  6. Okay, here’s a silly one – I ride on our dirt roads all the time, but fear riding on paved roads. However, we drive Boomer on paved roads all the time without a worry. How bizzare is that?

  7. For me it would depend on the horse. The one we have now is what I call an “urban trail rider”. He’s a show horse so he’s quite comfortable around trucks, bikes, motorcycles, etc. You can ride him past houses with lawnmowers and leaf blowers and barking dogs and he’s fine. Get him in the woods, into real nature, and a chipmunk can have him in your lap whimpering.

  8. You know, it’s a funny thing… Where I board, we have an outdoor arena and round pen. There is a 1/4 mail trail around a neighbor’s hay field, too – and that is across the street, and a short walk down the road from the other boarding barns.

    The road outside the barn is 25mph, the adjoining roads are all 35mp. People speed – ALL – THE – TIME. I’ve even seen the police speeding up and down the 25mph road for no good reason.

    When I rode (even with my current horse), I was reluctant at best to go out on the road. I’ve never had anything bad happen, but even to get to the little trail across the street I was reluctant. I rode Chewbacca 1 /2 miles from the barn one time and that was enough for me. Riding, I’m talking. With me on his back.

    Both Chewbacca, and the horse before him, Tate, are/were QH’s of the most quiet, calm variety. I had reason to have concern about riding them on the streets, and yet I still did. As I reflect back on it, I believe it was a sub-conscious result of my own confidence issues in the saddle, perhaps balance issues I didn’t even realize I had, and just in general, I really did not have a desire to ride out of the arena. I liked to jump, but yet, I would lock up totally facing off with a 3′ foot – and I’ve never jumped a full course of 3′ fences in my life. So I limited myself whether or not I realized it, or felt I could surpass it.

    For some reason, however, I love driving on the roads. Love it. And the horses seem to love it, too. I think they enjoy the consistency of the footing, whereas our arena is a little uneven and a little rocky. Traffic? They don’t bat an eye. And I no longer do, either. They’ve been passed by “crotch rockets”, gangs of motorcycles, semi-trucks, landscaping vehicles pulling every manner of equipment, and anything else you could possibly see on a road- and of course, bicyclists, joggers, and dog-walkers, too. And speeders, yes, of course, speeders. The ones that blow by us doing 45 in 35’s, and the “creepers” the ones who slow down to 5 so their kids can gawk and bang on the windows of the car.

    I had been driving my miniature horse on the roads, and my hackney pony on the roads. Last year, when I stopped riding permanently and switched to driving, I taught Chewbacca to drive, I could not wait to get him out on the roads. Once he got the gist of pulling the cart in the arena, we headed out on the roads.. I think he had 25 drives on him before we went out into the “open world”.

    I look forward to incorporating my road drives in every week’s work out, and we will do 3-5 miles and be out for 1 – 1 1/2 hours. It’s fantastic to be out driving on the roads, trotting along, or just plodding along at a relaxed walk.

    Perhaps it’s because my horses are relaxed that I enjoy our road work, or perhaps it’s because I enjoy the road work that my horses are relaxed, I’m not sure really, because riding there is no way I would want to do the time and miles on the road that I do driving.

    I also would NEVER in a million years considered doing cross- country eventing riding. No way. Not a chance. Yet, my ultimate driving goal…. ? Marathons. (It’s basically a cross country course with obstacles instead of jumps). Go figure.

    It makes no sense, but I totally understand your ill will towards riding on the roads.

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  9. My horses pasture ran along a road and I rode on the road every winter to condition, since we had no arena. I guess they just got used to it. Even my hyper OTTB walks calmy on the buckle on the road. I’ve even ridden on the grassy parts of highways to get to trails. Nothing bothers them, even semis. Which I think is weird.

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