For those of you who love to horseback ride and have considered bringing your dog along, the following guest article comes to you from horse enthusiast, Megan Sullivan.
A large part of my love for dogs stems from therapeutic reasons. Studies show that dogs are a great way to reduce stress. Playing with them, feeding them, and just enjoying their company is soothing. Dogs even have an innate ability to communicate with and understand other animals.
Horses are much the same. There are ranches in certain parts of the country that specialize in therapy for disabled children and adults. It only feels natural to bring those two components together.
As far back as ancient times, dogs have been riding companions. Whether it be hunting or herding, dogs have been part of the adventure beside man and horse.
Requirements of Horse, Rider, and Dog
Not every dog can run along on a horseback adventure. Small dogs don’t have the energy or speed to keep up with a horse that’s galloping down the trail. That doesn’t mean the dog cannot still come along, but they can’t run alongside. Using a carrier that can harness to your chest or back gives the smaller dog the ability to ride along with you.
It also takes a certain level of physical and mental stability to ride along. Not only does the dog have to keep up with the horse, but it has to be calm enough around the horse to not cause both the horse and the rider potential problems. If the dog is calm around livestock, taking it out for a ride is probably feasible, but only if the dog can also follow commands from the rider on horseback without making the rider dismount just to get the dog to obey. The horse also needs to be accustomed to being around dogs. The last thing a rider needs is for the horse to get spooked by the dog and cause a number of other potential problems.
Jonathan Soresi, owner of New Jersey based Soresi show stables for horses, instructs riders to learn control of the horse as well: “A rider must learn how to not only manage him or herself on a horse, but how to control an animal that has its own will.” A horse has a mind of its own just like the dog. That’s why it is important to make sure the horse and dog are calm and compatible around each other before setting off on the ride.
Preparing the Dog
If you are thinking of trying a ride-along with your dog while you ride horseback, start training with a few simple commands beforehand.
For instance, the command “get out” can be taught during a morning jog. When the dog gets too close to you or too close to getting underfoot, teach them the command and help them understand to move away. Once the dog understands this command, it will be simpler to get the dog out of the horse’s legs during a ride.
If there is an opportunity to take the dog to a farm with cows, sheep, or horses take the time to do so. It gives you a chance to see how they act around larger animals. Test the command while the dog is in the field with the other animals to see if he responds. If so, the dog may be ready to ride.
There are some great ranches in Texas that offer horseback riding with doggy ride along. If your dog is ready for a new adventure, consider taking them on a horseback ride. It’s a great way to release pent up energy and learn from new experiences.