View Full Version : Desensitizing to Bike and Road Traffic

Apr. 29, 2008, 09:23 PM
Hey everyone, I'm new to the forum.

I've just purchased a lovely young horse, with a GREAT mind. He's already used to hacking out in the fields alone and with others. I'm looking forward to riding all over the nearby conservation area with him, but I know he has never seen bicycles before, nor has he been on the road (which we will need to cross to get where we're going). Does anyone have any tips for getting him used to the presence of bikes and cars? I want to make sure his first few trips are confidence-building ones, so I'll likely do some handwalking out there and see how it goes, but I'd love some other ideas for when the time for under-saddle work comes.

What has worked for you?

Apr. 29, 2008, 09:36 PM
The best method is approach and retreat and lots of treats. First show horsie bike....let him sniff and take bike away...encourage him to follow bike...on ground from a safe distance. When he is calm and sniffing bike...treat...take bike away...let him "chase" bike. (Hire teens or friend to ride bike away from him at first. ) Once he is "chasing" the bike....work on moving closer and closer until he is taking you to it. Then start walking beside it...closer and closer....lots of praise and breaks. Once he is calm and confident, start going from side to side in front of him...he will quickly get confident...

Take the time it takes.

I have never had trouble with traffic. Always able to house horse in field next to road. I would handle traffic same as bike...approach and retreat and lots of treats.

Good Luck.

Apr. 29, 2008, 09:45 PM
If you can get someone with a good stable horse to ride with you it will do wonders for your horse. I have used my horse alot for this and I always get between the scary object and the new horse and it really steadies the youngster.

Apr. 29, 2008, 10:07 PM
I had mine pastured by the road. Worked a treat.

Apr. 29, 2008, 11:29 PM
So much creativity! Thanks guys, I'm so glad I asked!

Apr. 30, 2008, 06:01 AM
If you can get someone with a good stable horse to ride with you it will do wonders for your horse. I have used my horse alot for this and I always get between the scary object and the new horse and it really steadies the youngster.

Absolutely! I've taken about 5 or 6 horses to the beach for their first time and it makes it a lot easier when you ride with a horse buddy of theirs. Some of them at first don't understand that sand can even hold a horse but as soon as horse buddy goes they follow. Same with getting in the water, after they learn that the waves are not horse eating monsters. I got my Perchie mare in the ocean by getting off her back and getting in the water first and showing her it wouldn't eat me and then she was all about getting in.

Also, with traffic...I would hand walk them up the drive to the road and stand back first a good distance to just let them see the cars go by. Gradually we'd take walks and get closer and closer. Never had any problems :)

Apr. 30, 2008, 04:30 PM
hand walk the horse around a vehicle.
hand walk the horse around a vehicle that is running - have people in the vehicle TALK to the horse.
Then do it under saddle.

Then... have vehicle moving... but ALWAYS have the horse chase the bike, dog, vehicle so that the horse learns it can "scare" the thing away.

If you can, pasture the horse in SAFE paddock near a road. Have people ride bikes by the horse.

If riding with a friend - and there is enough room, have the Steady Eddy horse between the scary thing and your horse. This also works well when there are horse-eating mail boxes, discarded appliances, and tree stumps.

Tie some balloons to the fence for a week or so. Then tie balloons near where the horse eats (NOT the water trough though), hang a tarp so that it blows while horses are in pasture. Then work horse near it.

The MOST important thing the horse MUST know - is to stop and stand still. MUST. When I ride with others and we come to a scary place... it makes me crazy (and its happened to me and my horse too) when the horse cannot just stand or swings its butt around to back into whatever is coming.

And... play soccer in the field with your horse. just dribble the ball well away from your horse, then slowly work closer and closer. You eventually want to be able to kick the ball towards your horse without the horse making a big fuss... prepares them for birds popping up. or cats in the deep grass, etc.

May. 3, 2008, 02:01 PM
Good idea about the soccer balls! Never thought of that.

My horse was skittish of cars (not panicked, but would try to swing around or jig past them.) Now she has been in a paddock by a busy multi-house driveway for two weeks. Delivery trucks and cars go by all day, even a bulldozer and dump truck a couple of times. She ran away from the first four or five cars, then decided they were not dangerous and ignored them. Now she'll ignore cars when we ride on the road, too. When it stops raining we'll take our bicycles to the barn and ride up and down the driveway until she ignores those, too.

May. 8, 2008, 09:37 PM
great ideas, what about parades? same principles?

May. 8, 2008, 10:46 PM
great ideas, what about parades? same principles?

IME, the best thing to do for your first parade is to join a parade drill team. Go to a few practices before the actual event. The other horses will be experienced, and the patterns will give you something to occupy the horse's mind. :) Also, an experienced parade team will probably have an established spot in the lineup.

You might be able to find a parade team by calling your local saddle clubs. Most of them are western, but there are some english ones out there, too.

May. 9, 2008, 04:33 PM
get lots of wild children with their bike and have them bike all over where your horse is located at. My daughter does that with her friends at our farm.Every now and then, we'd have huge party with people and their cars coming in. We'd have fireworks, screaming kids,bon fire going on all night, etc. Our horses have become blase to those noises. So, it helps to have people making noises around them where horses are located at.

May. 9, 2008, 06:02 PM
I rode in parades for several years on two different horses. As was said, the key is getting in with a group that practices maneuvers and formations, and the horses will know what they're supposed to do in the middle of all the madness. I'd already ridden my horse in several smaller parades when we went to a really huge one....tens of thousands of spectators, marching bands, huge floats, camera booms, helicopters circling overhead. As we waited to merge into the parade he was a nervous wreck, thinking he was surely going to die. Once we started it was like he went "You're kidding me..this is just a parade???" and I rode the whole thing on the buckle.

He was with his regular buddies, in his regular spot, and he relaxed immediately.

There's no way I could have ridden as a solo entry on either of my horses, but I know people who can do it successfully. It's a lot of work, but a lot of fun, too, if you have the right horse for the job.

May. 10, 2008, 01:34 PM
I've had good experience riding along roads that have brush & hedgerows along them and riding in the inside of them. Kinda puts a visual but not sound barrier and I think makes them feels safer at first. And I'd consider just leading them to a safe road side and hand graze them for awhile. Ask a friend with roadside turnout if you could have your horse turned out in it for a few hours/days whatever. They need to hear motorcycles, sirens, dumptrucks etc. I think bicycles are scarier for horses and the above suggestions would all work IMHO!

May. 10, 2008, 02:56 PM
I saw a demo at the Equine Affarie by Scott Hansen about that very thing. It was really good and would work with all kinds of spooky things. I think he has a DVD. The web site is horsethink.com.

May. 10, 2008, 08:39 PM
Lots of great advice!

I usually will take a new horse with a quiet one, and let the quiet one go first and show the young/inexperienced one that it's okay.

I also pony a lot to get them used to stuff like that.

My favorite thing is to go up where a lot of people ride dirt bikes and quads, and lead the horse up there and let them get used to it. [Worked well at one endurance ride when we were on public land where they were allowed to ride there, and a lot of horses stopped and refused to move on when we came around a corner of 12 bikers. My mare just trotted on by]

I do a lot of road riding to get them used to it, but it can be dangerous, so it's good to lead them up and down the road the first few times.