Guest post by Raquel from Horses and Heels.
It seems like just yesterday a trailer pulled into the alley behind my house in The Rancho – out walked a three-year-old mare from Texas. Her new home was here with me in Los Angeles.
I broke and trained HH Indys Nu Daisy (aka Fira) how to navigate the city streets with confidence over this past year and a half.
Read on to learn how to safely enjoy riding in the concrete jungle with my simple tips.
Know Your Horse
Before you introduce your horse to an urban environment, make sure you are familiar with your horse and their personality.
Be versed with how they spook and/or react when startled. Do they jump to the side; will they try and bolt, or refuse to move?
If you know how your horse startles, it can help you plan your reaction and get around safely.
Introducing Your Horse to City Elements
Start off by introducing city sights and sounds slowly. First I took Fira out for walks in our quiet neighborhood several times before taking her out to a main road.
I always knew it was impossible to control what would happen while I was out on my rides, but if she started to become nervous or overwhelmed, I knew this was enough for the day and would turn back.
Start off with short rides and increase the duration over time.
Always Be Aware & Alert
A bustling cityscape is not the place to let your guard down. I am always on alert and scanning my surroundings for potential things that might frighten Fira.
If I see a garbage truck coming down the same narrow alley as us, I’ll take a detour.
Keep an eye out for drivers that aren’t paying attention. I am extra careful at cross walks and make sure drivers see me, even when I have the right of way. I’ll put my hand up to grab their attention, city drivers are often very distracted.
I also watch cyclists closely at traffic lights. Bikers can be rule breakers and most don’t know common horse sense. They will quickly ride up behind and cut you off which brings me to my next point, your reaction.
Learn How to React
When a spook does happen, I remain calm. Getting upset will only amplify the problem.
The ultimate riding goal is to teach your horse how to be confident. I don’t anticipate that Fira will spook at an item before she even sees it, that will only send waves of anxiety down to her that she can feel. I am her leader and I must remain fearless.
I always tell novice riders who come out with me; a little confidence goes a long way. Each obstacle I encounter gives me a chance to train my mare something new.
I always give Fira the chance to approach and sniff new objects. In the beginning, she would shy at orange road signs or construction, but now she walks up with curiosity. I let her stop and sniff before moving on.
It’s important not to push your horse into something frightening too quickly.
The Right Gear
Increase your security by wearing a helmet or reflective gear if desired.
I never change bits or introduce Fira to new tack for the first time on the road. It’s essential to make sure she is completely comfortable before stepping out into traffic.
I also double and triple check my girth before getting on.
Remember riding in the city is fun! It’s a place to experience new surroundings and build a bond with your horse.
Use common sense and caution to have a safe ride every time.
Raquel Lynn lives in Los Angeles, California with her husband Adam, Paint mare Fira, and Pomeranian Mango. She loves cowboy boots, sequins, all things sparkly, cowhide, creating, cooking, Pomeranians, Paint horses, a good sale, flowers, wine, goat cheese, photography, flats, Bravo TV, barrel racing, turquoise, palm trees and sunshine. Follow Raquel on Instagram @horsesandheels_