Night rides aren’t unheard of, but they’re generally discouraged. Horses (and people) see better in the day. It’s easier to avoid safety hazards like a dip in the trail or low branches that could sweep you off your horse. Aside from that, other riders may not see you on the trail due to limited visibility which could result in, you guessed it, collision. But there are times when you get caught on a trail after sundown and a ride under the moonlight sounds so romantic. It’s almost irresistible!
Here are a few tips you may need to stay safe and enjoy your midnight rendezvous:
A flashlight or headlamp should always be in your safety kit regardless of whether you’ll be riding your horse during daytime or night. If you don’t have a headlamp, find a way to attach your flashlight to your horse’s head. You will need two hands to ride at night, no matter how well you know your horse. Don’t be complacent, you have limited visibility with the sun being down and all. Not all parts of the trail will be well lit, so you should come with your own lighting. If your horse isn’t comfortable with you tying a flashlight to its head, then you’ll have to make do and tie it to your own head. Like we said, you’ll need both hands to ride. And funny as it may look, your safety is more important than your get up.
The key to ponying multiple horses is preparation. Don’t get ahead of yourself, go one at a time. Only one horse should lead, and the rest should be followers. You need to teach your horses to be responsive to commands while being linked together. If there are more than just you and your horse on the trail, link your horses together (keeping the information we just mentioned in mind). That way, you can avoid getting lost or straying from the trail. Ponying ensures that the group stays together, and nobody wanders off. But you need to make sure that none of the horses get spooked while you’re walking home because they could set off the other horses. We don’t need to explain how and what will happen when it happens.
Horses have the best navigational system; they can find their way home no matter how far they are from the barn. It’s almost as if they have a GPS wired into their brains. Trust your horses’ instincts and let them guide you home. If you get lost in the woods, drop the reigns and let them figure it out for themselves. The horses linked together will all start walking in the same direction and before you know it, you’re home sweet home. And if all else fails, there’s no harm in asking for help. Call someone to help lead you home.
Now is not the time to be adventurous. If you willingly decide to go on a night ride, stick and stay on the trails you’re familiar with. This is more for you, not so much the horse. Horses practically have an eidetic memory of the trails they run. But it will take some time for people to memorize trails the same way a horse would. You’ll run into less accidents or mishaps on the trail. Sticking to a trail you’re familiar with will ease both you and your horse’s anxiety making the ride smoother overall. Always remember that trails are muscle memory, they need practice. It’s risky to try a new trail even in the daylight, so stray from your adventurous side and stay where you’re comfortable.
There’s a multitude of scenarios that could happen here: vehicular accidents, spooking your horse, getting bucked off, collision, etc. The list goes on and on. Oncoming traffic could potentially spook your horse. Trust us when we say you don’t want that. But if the trail leads to the road, stay at a safe distance from the roadside. One which you and your horse are comfortable with. Riding on the roadside will pose a potential threat to you, your horse, and people on the road. You want to avoid getting into accidents at night at all costs because it’s more difficult to remedy the situation.
High-visibility clothing, more commonly known as high-viz is any clothing worn that has highly reflective properties or a color that is easily discernible from any background. These are normally seen in places like construction sites or industrial zones but are gaining popularity in the local scene because of its safety features. Nowadays, you will find high-viz clothing on hikers, dogs, and even horses!
Convinced? Check out our high-viz riding gear here!
This bright belt is a life saver! It gives you 360 degrees of visibility. It's 100 times safer than any other alternative because it reflects oncoming light AND illuminates. There is no way to overlook anyone wearing this. Vehicles will see you well in advance — all the time.
Protect your horse at night: whether you are riding on the road or a trail in the moonlight, your horse will be highly visible and, most importantly, SAFE from oncoming motor vehicles and hunters (when in season) with this LED horse breastplate collar.
When your horse gets anxious, you need to dismount and step in. Calm your horse down before you travel further down the trail. They will need to be reassured that everything is alright — if not you’re looking at wobbling home with an injured leg because your horse has decided to buck you off and run away without you. Keep in mind how you’re supposed to act around a horse, like never walking behind them because they might accidentally kick you if they get scared. Instead, get a firm grasp of their reigns and walk next to them. Preferably holding them on your dominant side so it’s easier to control your horse when things don’t go as planned. Don’t mount your horse until you’re 100% sure they’re calm; a spooked horse will start to gallop — not run — gallop when they’re scared. And you could be in the middle of mounting your horse, you know what this will lead to.
Always stay where there’s open lighting. Unless you have a torch that’s bright enough to send a blazing light three kilometers ahead of you, you should never ride in pitch black. Yes, your horse has spectacular navigational skills. But no, that doesn’t mean they have night vision and neither do you. Despite the fact that horses have a better center of gravity than you because they walk on four legs instead of two, there are still times when they lose their footing. Travelling in well-lit areas will help you get home faster and safer. Generally, you should just make things easier for your horse.
If you know you won’t be home before nightfall, you should ask someone to come with you on the ride. Two heads are better than one and if you have another rider on the lookout for you, it will take away the anxiety of having to ride the trail at night. If one of you forgets the way home, at least you have another person to rely on to get you home. And bring someone who is just as experienced or a better rider than you. That way, they know what to do in situations like this.
The size of your horse and length of the trail will determine whether or not you should dismount your horse. Smaller horses normally get tired easily. If home is less than an hour away and your horse is visibly tired, it’s time to dismount and walk with them. Larger horses can normally bear more weight and have more energy. But if the trail wears them out, do them a favor and get off their backs. An exhausted horse can’t think properly. If possible, find water to drink and fresh grass to eat. You’ll want to replenish your horse’s energy if there’s still a long way to go. Many cases have been reported of horses collapsing from exhaustion, don’t let this be your horse.
Don’t walk ahead of your horse in search of a trail. It might spook your horse, or they’ll come looking for you and accidentally step on your foot because they don’t see too well in the dark. If you’re looking for a safe path to walk on, at least bring your horse with you. Walk in front of them so they know you’re still there. If you leave your horse alone in the dark, they’ll get anxious and start to panic. Always remember to stay safe while you’re on the trail at night — Trust your instincts and don’t let your adrenaline get the best of you. You and your horse should communicate when things get bumpy, so at least you know you’re on the same page.
We’ve mentioned it before, but we’ll say it again. There’s no harm in asking for help. If you were caught on an unknown trail by sundown and you don’t know how to find your way home, call someone and ask them for help. They will guide you and your horse back to safety. And if you’re out of coverage area, follow the road lights and look for the nearest town.
Remember to stay safe on your rides and try to get back home before sundown. If you follow our tips and stick to the trail, you’ll eventually learn how to gracefully get through the trail even during the darkest night. But be sure to have your high-viz gear on you! Always be cautious, keep alert, and stay calm. Home is just a few minutes away.