Travelling around with your horse and finding great new trails to explore is one of life’s greatest pleasures but there are always potential problems to be aware of. Take dogs, for instance.
You may well have a mare that is used to canines running around the place but what about when you come face to face with an unfamiliar pup who’s inquisitive at best, or at worst, aggressive?
Some dogs may have never encountered a horse before in their lives, which can make them nervous on first meeting. And the last thing you want when you’re out for a peaceful ride is for a dog to start chasing your horse or to spook it so much that it heads for the hills!
A horse that’s spooked can potentially injure riders and animals, not to mention the damage a rogue kick might cause to a horsebox.
In this article, we’ll discover what responsible dog and horse owners can do in order to keep their canine and equine friends safe and sound.
Introducing dogs and horses for the first time
As with all dog training, consistency and building good behaviour patterns is key to maintaining control. And this control is essential if you’re going to have dogs and horses interacting with one another on a regular basis.
Make any interactions gradually. When you take a pup to riding stables for the first time, it might be quite overwhelming for them – all the different sights, smells and sounds may cause them to get over-excited. They may start jumping up at the horses or barking loudly. If this happens lead them away and keep returning until they can approach the stables in a calm and relaxed way.
When you introduce the pair for the first time, make sure the horse is in a paddock or a turnout area where they can move freely but not escape.
Keep a crate nearby
While you’re out grooming or exercising your horse, your pup may need to stay back at the stables. If this is the case, make sure you bring a crate with you – you don’t want your pooch to get stamped on or run over by any stable traffic.
Give clear commands
Any responsible dog owner will already have mastered the basic commands of sit, stay, lie down and come. Brush up on your commands so you're confident you have control over your dog even in an unfamiliar environment.
Make sure your dog knows which areas of the stables are out of bounds. The paddock, for example, may be a horse-only zone, so ensure your dog follows your voice commands and stays away.
Take note of your dog’s body language. If they are getting tired, over-excited or fearful and aggressive, move them away from the horses immediately and try again later.
Note how your horse behaves around the dog, too. If it backs away, if it’s flicking its ears back and forth, if it’s stamping or if it’s snorting or squealing these are all indicators that the horse is anxious or afraid. Try to move the dog away as quickly as possible and have another go at introducing them when both animals have calmed down.
How to avoid your horse bolting away from a dog
As the Blue Cross explains, if a horse gets spooked by a dog and decides to bolt, a dangerous situation can develop very quickly.
The rider may have very little control at this point meaning that the dog, the horse, the rider and any nearby members of the public may be in danger.
In order to avoid your equine getting spooked by dogs, follow the Blue Cross’s top tips when you’re out for your next ride:
- Socialise your horse with dogs as much as possible so they get used to being around them.
- If you’re out on a hack and you see a dog approaching, walk past them slowly and talk to the dog owner as soon as possible, warning them of your presence.
- Give dogs a wide berth, especially if they look nervous or agitated.
- Wear high-visibility clothing so people can see you approaching and call their dog away if necessary.
- If there is more than one rider in your group, pass any dogs in a single file or stop riding in order to let them pass you.
Riding with dogs and horses
Many horse owners like to take their dogs with them when they go out for a ride. It’s a good idea to have another person with you if you do this. They can walk the dog on a lead and make sure it doesn’t get under the horse’s feet or spook the horse when it’s close to a road and so on.
Remember, too, that horses have a blind spot directly in front and directly behind them, so if a dog runs too close and gets under their hooves, they are likely to get trodden on.
Horsebox insurance from Equesure
If you’re heading away for a busy weekend of eventing, it may make more sense to take your canine friends with you instead of leaving them home alone.
Just make sure that you follow our top tips above for keeping your horse, your pup and yourself safe and sound while you’re out and about together.
Horses that are spooked can kick out and cause extensive damage to horseboxes as well as people and other animals.
You’ll also want to make sure the horsebox that you’re all travelling in is protected in case any accidents or incidents occur.
Horsebox insurance from Equesure gives you cover for horseboxes from 3.5 tonnes right up to large HGVs with a value of £750,000.
Some of our policies also cover additional drivers so if something was to happen to you, a friend or relative could take over driving duties instead.
Comprehensive horsebox insurance gives you the most robust protection, with cover for damage caused by either your horse or by vandalism. It also covers any third party vehicle involved in the accident if it’s a valid claim.
Get a quote for horsebox insurance today.