As cities grow and development encroaches on many rural areas, urban riding has become increasingly more popular. Many cities have urban trail riding groups and they organize rides sometimes year round. While it can be fun, hitting the trail urban style presents its own set of difficulties. It takes a special horse and some good training to handle the unique set of challenges that are presented in an urban setting. When you are able to do it, though, there is nothing quite like it.
The urban trail is riddled with myriad things to distract and spook your horse. Cars, motorcycles, trucks, and pedestrians are just a few of the potential obstacles and challenges that urban trails present. Others include:
- Barking dogs – on leashes, behind fences, and strays that may charge your horse
- Trash – floating bags, debris, garbage bags on the curb, and old appliances
- Kids’ toys – push cars, Big Wheels, pull toys, and bouncing balls
- People – walkers, runners, baby strollers, bicyclers, and dog walkers
- Construction – road crews, loud equipment, ladders, and workers with signs
- Yard work – lawn mowers, painters, saws, and weed whackers
- Weird noises – basically anything not found in nature
If you’ve never been urban trail riding, it’s important to have an idea of what you and your horse will encounter. Take a walk along the route you’ll be riding if possible and pay attention to all the sights, sounds, and smells that you experience. This is what your horse will be experiencing as well.
State Laws and Local Ordinances
It is worth noting that that not all areas are very accommodating of this type of urban adventure. Before riding, look up a State’s urban trail riding laws to see if there are any restrictions or things you should know. You should also check out any local ordinances in place that affect urban trail rides. Sometimes the State laws allow trail riding in urban areas, but local ordinances prohibit it. While this can be confusing, a simple search of local ordinances or a call to your local government offices should clear it up.
Prepping your Horse
Before you embark on your urban adventure you’ll need to do a little preparation. No matter how calm your horse is, you really don’t know how he’ll react in an urban setting. Take steps to desensitize him in an environment you can control, such as an arena. Introduce him to traffic gradually, starting with traffic during a less busy time of day and working up to rush hour traffic. Expose him to it a little at a time until he becomes more confident.
Make sure that all your gear is comfortable – for both you and your horse. He should be properly shod simply because roadsides often have trash that can injure your horse. Carry a pick with you just in case. Some people use blinders, but that doesn’t replace good training. Don’t rely on it.
Trail rides are particularly fun in a group setting but some people enjoy riding alone. Before you hit the trail, especially if you plan to go alone, make sure you are an experienced, accomplished rider. An inexperienced rider on a trail, especially an urban one, can lead to injuries for horse, rider, or both.
That does not mean an inexperienced rider should not explore this type of trail riding, but be smart about it. Ride with someone who is experienced. Find trail riding groups and spend some time riding with them before striking out on your own. It doesn’t matter how much riding you’ve done in rural or wild settings, urban is a completely different experience.
Have you ever been on an urban trail ride? What was your experience like? What’s your favorite tip for hitting the urban trail? We’d love to hear all about it so share your story in the comments below!