Can you see me now? Trail Riding in the Dark

With summer in full swing, night riding can be a fun activity to avoid the blistering heat of the day. This is especially true when accompanied by a full moon.

Story originally posted by: by Teresa Spencer

Riding in the open; along streets — dirt or otherwise can be a dangerous undertaking if you and your horse are not visible. Night riding does not go without hazards. In some states horses are considered a vehicle, which means that they have the right to be in traffic lanes. Be sure that you know the laws of your state when riding on roadways.

A few years ago I was driving my car and noticed the Christmas train coming. I wanted to see it up close so I sped up to be close to the crossing when it passed. Out of the corner of my eye I saw something move just as I came around a curve. It was two horses and rider in dark clothing on dark horses. I was lucky enough to be able to move over the center line to avoid them. They were on the pavement and half way in my lane. Unfortunately for them and me it was the only place they could be, there was no dirt shoulder to ride on and it ALMOST ended in disaster.

People often ask, how well can a horse see at night? The experts agree that horses see better than humans at night, so therefore you need to trust your horse. Trail riding on a balmy night can be lots of fun; you and your horse can have an enjoyable ride. Saying this, you may not wish to impede on your horses vision by wearing a helmet light or have a light attached to your breast collar. So instead of a light you may wish carry glow sticks that you can find at a local auto store or other outlet – they are very popular during Halloween. If you feel you must have light, then a helmet light or flashlight will work nicely too.

 Here are some suggestions when riding at night so that drivers of vehicles can see you:

 — Wear light colored clothing

— Put a reflector on the back of your saddle and breast collar

— Yourself should wear a reflective vest of some type

— Carry a flashlight and keep it turned on so people can see you coming

— Put reflective tape around your horses cannon bones

— Stay out of traffic lanes whenever possible

— Cross streets at lit intersections only

 Another suggestion would be to make up a cantle bag or horn bag specifically for your night riding adventure. With that here are some suggestions you might want to have in your bag so that if you plan on riding at night or just get caught out after dark you are not unprepared.

 — Flashlight or glow sticks

— Reflective vest or other form of light clothing

— Helmet light

— Reflective tape

These things and knowing the area in which you ride will greatly improve the fun you have when night riding.

Prepare Before You Ride

You can also prepare your horse for night riding by using a round pen, their corral or pasture. You don’t have to ride to get your horse used to a flashlight. Many horses on rides that I have been on get really bugged out about seeing a flashlight move over the ground. If you are unsure how your horse will react be sure to practice.

Go out after dark in their pasture or corral with a flashlight, get them curious about what it is, how it works etc. Turn it on an off, stand beside your horse and shine it on the ground, then move it over his body, out in front of him, beside him and behind him, over his head, between his ears, in his feeder or even on the barn walls and fences. Use all your desensitizing knowledge just as you would when introducing a new piece of tack or “spooky scary object.” The last thing you want is to be thrown at night because your horse was bugged by a light. Remember they see things differently than you and I do.

Do not go night riding unprepared, and by that I mean you AND your horse. Safety is ALWAYS the number one priority. Be prepared with a reflective safety kit on your saddle so that if you need use it you have it. If you or your horse are not safe or do not feel up to the challenge, be sure that you return home before dark. Do not take that “spur of the moment” night ride because it is a full moon and the weather is great.

 Enjoy your night rides and your summer!


About the Author

Teresa Spencer, horse enthusiast, mom, wife, inventor and entrepreneur who owns her own company California Horse Barns and is co-owner of EquestriSafe. Proud member of ETI – corral 138, CSHA, AQHA and Equestrian Professionals; Speaker at the 2011 Equine Affaire, Pomona, CA. She can be reached at, [email protected] or on Facebook