Expert advice on exercising your dog and your horse at the same time
Q: I own a six year old Dalmatian bitch who has been brought up around horses. We have recently moved to a yard that has direct hacking into the forest and we would like to start taking our dog out riding with us.
How should we introduce this to the horses and our dog, and are there any issues I should be aware of before setting off?
Liz Bulbrook answers: Dalmatians were traditionally “carriage dogs” and would trot along behind the horse and carriage, so they usually have quite an affinity with horses.
While your dog may be used to horses, it is important that your horses are used to her, so they don’t see her as a predator and try to kick her. Give them time to become accustomed to her at the yard before riding out together, so they aren’t startled if your bitch comes running up behind you.
The most important thing is to maintain discipline, as while it is lovely to take your dog with you, it is no fun if she is forever running off or getting lost. Ensure she knows the basic commands such as wait, sit, stay, heel etc. She must respond to your voice, as it is your only means of control when you are on horseback.
If she responds to a dog whistle, then you could use this but spend some time getting your horse used to its sound, so that he isn’t upset when you blow it while riding him.
Use the whistle around the yard before trying it when riding. You will also need to teach your bitch to run to heel on one side of the horse so there is no risk of her running back and forth and getting caught up in your horse’s legs.
Begin with short rides and take someone with you on foot in case things don’t go according to plan. Remember that your dog is unlikely to be as fit as your horse so build up the length of rides gradually to avoid over-tiring her.
When riding in public places, be courteous to other walkers and riders, and teach your dog to come to heel or to sit and wait when passing others, particularly other horses, which may not be used to dogs.
You will need to check that the forest that you are riding in allows dogs to run free, as some forests request dogs to be on leads due to the presence of wildlife.
Forests are notorious places for dogs to pick up ticks and getthorns or sores in their paws, so always check her over after a ride. By following a few basic training rules you, your horses and your dog should have some great fun together.
Visit the HHO All about Dogs forum to talk about your canine friends with like-minded dog owners.
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