The greatest happiness on earth, is sitting in the saddle of a horse. Lovers of horses will certainly agree with this statement. Imagine now, you could multiply this luck times two by having your dog accompany you on a ride. Would you like to make your darling a riding companion dog? The difficulty in training is to satisfy different animal needs. But what are the requirements of dog and horse in advance and how can you avoid possible problems when working together?
Preparations: Dog meets horse
Without appropriate preparation, a consolidation of different animal species can easily get out of control. On the one hand, dogs and horses have different body sizes, on the other hand, they have different body language. If both animals have never had contact with each other before, the encounter should be done step by step, otherwise fear and panic could arise in both.
Before the cooperation, however, both animals should have internalized certain behaviors and signals to facilitate the training as a riding companion dog:
Requirements for the horse:
- Should be friendly towards the dog.
- Be calm towards noises and the environment.
- Quiet walking next to humans should be possible.
- Should be used to being ridden (also one-handed).
- Calmly react to a leash that touches the legs and the rest of the body.
Requirements for the dog:
- Should react calmly to the horse.
- Should be able to walk on a loose leash.
- Wear a muzzle if necessary.
- To be able to walk freely on foot (on both sides).
- Basic signals (seat/place/stay) should be well trained.
- Safe recall must work.
Getting used to the riding companion dog
Patience is very important. Dog and horse should get used to each other very slowly. The initially mysterious and sometimes frightening strange animal should be connected with positive things. For example, you can work with treats and things that are fun for both animals. For example, you can offer treats to both animals at the same time.
Likewise, both animals should learn to wait calmly and also to accept that the attention of humans is partly also with the other animal. This works best when the dog has learned to wait calmly on a blanket.
As soon as the first approaches have worked well in a standing position, it is possible to go for a walk with a second person with dog and horse. In the next step you can then go for a walk alone with both animals.
The riding training
The easiest way to train is with small horses, where you can bend down to reward the dog. With larger horses you should teach the dog to catch treats. It is important that the dog learns to leave the treats that have fallen to the ground, so that they do not get under the horse.
For the first ride you will again need an assistant to secure the horse from the ground. Both persons have a leash to be able to intervene in case of emergency, in case the dog gets too close to the horse. The initial exercises for the riding companion dog include:
- Walking next to the horse on a loose leash
- Dog should sit down as soon as the horse stops
- Change sides
- Possibly jumping on the feet of the rider to be leashed and unleashed
You can always meet strangers or animals on a horseback ride, dogs (who have difficulties with people or strangers) should wear a muzzle that has been positively trained beforehand and preferably work on it with a trainer. Of course you should also inform yourself about the respective legal situation regarding free running.
Horse and Dog Trail
If all these things work out well, nothing stands in the way of a joint excursion into the countryside. There is also the possibility to participate in a “Horse and Dog Trail”. This is a sport in which the goal is to overcome various obstacles together. This sport is a varied way to keep dog and horse occupied and to do something together and strengthen the bond.
Dogs and horses are undoubtedly wonderful creatures that are extremely eager to learn and enjoy any kind of occupation with them. As a riding companion dog, your dog can be present during the rides with the horse. Not only animal friendships develop. It is fun for everyone involved and a wonderful chance to strengthen the bond. Beautiful rides!