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Riding With Your Canine Companion: Tips for Safe Horseback Riding with Dogs

Riding With Your Dog and Horse: A Comprehensive Guide

Riding horses with your canine companion by your side might seem like a fairytale fun activity. However, the safe integration of your dog with a horse requires extensive groundwork and training.

Not all dogs are suited for the job, and not all horses will tolerate having a dog around. In this article, we’ll provide you with ways of preparing your dog and horse for riding together, tips on choosing a suitable breed of dog, and safety measures while riding.

By the end of this article, you’ll be well-equipped to safely and comfortably ride your horse with your furry friend by your side.

Preparing Your Dog and Horse for Riding Together

1. Rehearsing Basic Commands

Before hitting the riding arena with both your dog and horse, your dog should have a good grasp of basic commands, such as sit, stay, come, and heel. Reinforcing these commands with a well-behaved pup is critical before introducing the dog to the horse.

Educate your dog on positive commands like “leave it” if it tries to nip at the horse. Train with cues that can communicate with your pup each time it misbehaves.

2. Making Introductions

If you are introducing your dog and horse for the first time, make sure all animals are calm and relaxed. Horses pick up on fear and nervous behavior and may become anxious when introduced to your dog.

Once you have introduced your dog to your horse, be patient with your furry friend so that it can build trust and a solid relationship with your horse. Observe for any territorial behavior that the animal displays that might cause a rift between them.

Ensure you maintain a safe distance between the two animals at first, allowing them to get comfortable with each other’s presence.

3. Developing the Relationship Between Dog and Horse

Your dog and horse’s relationship will depend on the consistency in training to develop a trusting relationship between them. Consider engaging your furry friend in groundwork exercises such as joining up with your horse, circle work, and calm manners around your pony.

Building a strong relationship with your equine yields stable and sustainable obedience from your dog, ensuring enhanced safety for both animals while out riding.

4. Taking Practice Walks With Horse and Dog

As you progress to the riding stage, you can start taking practice walks with both your dog and horse so they can get accustomed to each other’s energy. This can be done in a riding arena that provides enough space for the animals to move around without feeling cramped or nervous.

Stroll calmly alongside your horse with your dog at your side, preferably walking at the horse’s pace.

5. Taking Your First Ride Together

Before taking your first ride, ensure you have your dog appropriately trained by taking it to an obedience school if necessary. You can start your journey by riding your horse in the company of another person willing to help you support your dog and be present in case of any emergencies.

Use positive reinforcement and praise when your dog behaves and follows commands successfully during the ride.

Choosing a Suitable Breed of Dog and Safety While Riding

1. Choosing a Suitable Breed of Dog

As you work to integrate your dog into rides with your horse, it’s essential to pick a breed that is best suited for this kind of activity. Dogs that are too large, have an aggressive personality or are not suited to safely stay in control may make the ride unnecessarily challenging.

Breeds like Australian shepherds, Labrador retrievers, Golden retrievers, and Jack Russell terriers, among others, are known to be good companions and are friendly to horses.

2. Avoiding the Use of a Leash While Riding

While walking your dog on a leash is incredibly critical, it is not recommended when riding horses as it can be dangerous for you, your dog, and your horse. It’s essential to allow your dog off-leash once it has been thoroughly trained to stay at your side and follow basic riding instructions.

3. Ensuring the Dog Can Keep Up With The Horse

It is equally important to make sure that the breed you choose can match the pace of your horse. For instance, the elderly or smaller breeds might not have the energy required to keep up with your horse.

To ascertain if your dog can handle the pace, start with small and slow rides until your dog is comfortable keeping up with your horse’s speed.

Controlling Your Dog and Horse While Riding

1. Dog Obedience

Effective dog obedience is crucial to ensure the safety of both your dog and horse while riding. Your dog should be trained to follow commands like “stay,” “come,” and “heel.

Maintaining a safe distance between your dog and horse is also vital to prevent them from getting in each other’s way, leading to accidents or injury. Your dog should accompany you to obedience training or be well-versed in social situations and environmental distractions before they are introduced to horseback riding.

Proper obedience training can enhance the bonding between you and your dog, making the ride more pleasurable for everyone.

2. Horse Obedience

In addition to training your dog, it’s equally important to train your horse to react calmly in unexpected environments. Bomb-proof training is critical to ensuring that your horse is safe to ride alongside your dog.

Your horse should be acclimated to different unpredictable distractions such as low-flying aircraft, barking dogs, and noisy traffic to prevent it from losing focus when out together with your dog. Proper bomb-proofing training is essential to keep your horse in check when in unfamiliar situations.

3. Maintaining Control Over Both Animals

Controlling your dog and horse while riding requires maintaining proper composure and clear direction. Stay alert to any changes in your dog’s behavior, body language, or energy level which can indicate the possibility of any clashes with your horse.

It’s essential to focus while in an environment that is potentially distracting to both your dog and horse to keep your control over them.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Horseback Riding with Dogs


  • Enhanced bonding between you, your horse, and your dog.
  • Provides exercise and mental stimulation for your dog.
  • Creates a unique and memorable outdoor experience.


  • Potential safety concerns due to unpredictable behavior from both animals.
  • Distractions from the dog may cause the horse to react unpredictably.
  • Possibility of aggression from the horse towards the dog.

Tips for Safely Horseback Riding with Dogs

1. Gradual Training

Introduce riding with your dog gradually and follow a systematic approach. Start by getting your dog accustomed to being near horses, introducing your dog to your horse in an enclosed area, and gradually progressing to short, supervised rides.

It’s essential to be patient with your dog, repeating commands consistently, and reinforcing positive behavior. Gradual training will allow the animals to establish trust and build their confidence around each other.

2. Rewarding Calm Behavior

Positive reinforcement is key when training your dog to behave calmly while riding with a horse. Use rewards like treats or praise to reinforce positive calming signals exhibited by your dog, such as keeping distance from the horse or maintaining a calm demeanor when there are distractions around.

Consistent rewards will reinforce positive behavior and make the ride more enjoyable for everyone.

3. Maintaining Situational Awareness

Keep situational awareness while on the ride. Observe your dog and horse closely, paying attention to any signs of anxiety or aggression that may indicate the potential for a dangerous situation.

Beginners in horseback riding with dogs should avoid challenging terrain or excessively busy trails until both the horse and dog build their confidence.

4. Practicing Good Communication

Communication is crucial when safe horseback riding with your dog. Communication between human, horse, and dog can best be achieved using signals and commands.

Teach your dog to respond to your cues, such as voice commands and reins, while also acknowledging calming signals. Applying support when needed is essential to strengthen good communication.

For instance, getting an extra person to help support the dog while teaching your horse to accept a new companion on their ride. By providing your dog with the necessary support, you ensure that they feel secure if unfamiliar or challenging situations arise.


Q: What are some of the preliminary training tips for horseback riding with dogs?

A: Gradual training, positive reinforcement of calm behavior, situational awareness, and effective communication are key.

Q: What are the essential aspects of dog obedience training that make riding with them safe?

A: Basic commands such as “stay,” “come.,” and “heel,” maintaining a safe distance, and staying calm around distractions are fundamental.

Q: What are some of the challenges of horseback riding with dogs?

A: Potential safety concerns, distracting behaviors, and unpredictable behavior from both horses and dogs pose challenges.

Q: How does one maintain situational awareness while horseback riding with dogs?

A: Observing the horse and dog closely, monitoring their behavior, and avoiding challenging terrain or excessively busy trails until they get used to the ride.

Q: What is the best way to communicate effectively while horseback riding with dogs?

A: Signal and command training, supporting your dog with an extra person, and ensuring clear communication channels between the horse and dog make for effective communication.

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