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Can I ride my horse at night in an unlit outdoor ring?

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  • Can I ride my horse at night in an unlit outdoor ring?

    A little more info. before you all think I am a bit bonkers. I do not have an 'ring' or anything that his able to be lit up with spot lights. I do have a part of my pasture next to the barn that has been fenced off the be about the size of a large dressage arena. It is slanted slightly uphill and was just dug up and reseeded this spring for future turnout.

    I know it is not perfect but it is all I have at the moment. Due to health reasons, I cannot be out in the sunlight nor can I tolerate the heat. Trust me, I am not planning on doing any jumping or anything fancy. Just a couple of spins up and down the straight aways to help strengthen my horses stifles and get me back in the saddle. It is very nice here at night, mid 60 degrees and I know I will not overheat.

    I am most worried about the ability of my horse to see. Currently he spooks at things that don't exist during the daylight but is weirdly calmer at night.

    Should I set spotlights up (these would be portable ones, nothing like a streetlight.). Or I could go happy at the dollar store and purchase a bunch of those solar powered lights you put around your pathways.

    Is more light better or would he be able to adjust to it with limited lighting. Am I crazy to want to ride him at night?
    Keep in mind...normal is just a dryer setting.~anonymous

  • #2
    Horses can see much better than us at night. I would say if you're not doing much and there is at least some moon, you should be fine. I used to put my headlights towards the area where I rode. You oculd always to that the first few times to see. The shadows might make for more spooking though.
    Do not toy with the dragon, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup!

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    • #3
      How about getting those solar yard lights to mark the fence outlines?

      Comment


      • #4
        Once your eyes adjust to the ambient light, you might find it quite pleasant. If it's fairly smooth you should do fine. I would think some spot lights would be worse than no lights. They would accentuate the shadows.

        I love working my mare in very low light. It is calming and accentuates my other senses. I'm more aware of our breathing and the sound of her footfalls, for example.

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        • #5
          I read that horses do not do well adjusting to light and dark, so your horse is likely better off with consistent low light, than with spots of lights. Small lights would, in theory, appear much brighter/larger to the horse, and the surrounding area would seem that much darker.

          My horses seem to be fine galloping around in the dark, so I am thinking you would be just fine riding.
          Freeing worms from cans everywhere!

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          • #6
            When I got back into horses in my early 20's, I bought a 3 year old Appaloosa who was ready to be started under saddle. The place I boarded at did have a lighted ring but it was so far away from the barn I was actually in that I ended up using the unlighted ring near the barn. I couldn't get there before dark during late fall and winter so I would tack up and we would ride in the dark. At first I was a little unsure about it but I discovered that the Appy actually seemed more focused than he did during the day rides. He was skittish the first couple of times and then he got over it and I actually enjoyed those night rides more than I ever thought I would. He never seemed to have trouble with seeing and I am quite sure he saw much better than I did.
            Susan N.

            Don't get confused between my personality & my attitude. My personality is who I am, my attitude depends on who you are.

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            • #7
              As stated, horses see much better in the dark than we do. We use to go for mid-night rides all the time in MI. Through the woods even, never had a problem. As long as there is a little moon light you should be fine. As for putting lights up, I wouldn't. If your horse is spooking at imaginary monsters during the day just think of the things that will be jumping out at him beyond the lighted area that he can not see until his eye's re-adjust. Flat work - Walk, trot, canter with some lateral movements thrown in for good measure should not be a problem. You could put up a perimeter of the little solar lights just so you can see where you are going. Wally world has some right now that are $2 a pop and they work really well. We have had them along the fence, aroung the pond and around the deck for 2 years and they are still working dusk to dawn.

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              • #8
                There was a thread on this last year http://www.chronofhorse.com/forum/sh...light=headlamp
                and I seem to remember some discussion about folks wearing those head lamps from the camping store on their helmets at night. They seemed to work well for them and gave just enough light to see, but not enough to cause deep shadows in odd places.
                Last edited by allpurpose; Jun. 15, 2011, 10:13 PM. Reason: Found the thread
                Riding: The art of keeping a horse between you and the ground.

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                • #9
                  100 mile endurance rides usually start in the dark and end in the dark. These competitions take place out in the woods on winding, twisting trails. The horses do fine.

                  I have ridden a few times in the dark and my horse did fine. We got caught out one night in an area with steep hills (we were marking trails for an endurance ride), and the horse I was riding negotiated the switchbacks just fine. We were deep in the woods and it was so dark I couldn't see at all, Much to my horror and admiration of the horse, I discovered the next day when I rode that trail that a tree had previously come down across a switchback and my horse had taken me under the part of the tree that had enough room for me to go under safely without bending forward. If he had wanted to, he could have gone under the lower end and scraped me right off.

                  Your horse can see just fine at night without a supplemental, man-made light source. I do chores all the time in the dark, and it is amazing how well even a person can see after you adjust to the dark.

                  It sounds fun! Go for it!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Yes you can. Easily. I used to do limited distance and in the winter the only way to keep my horse legged up was to ride in the dark. By myself. Out on the trails. I had to cross a very busy road to get to the trails. So I plastered glow in the dark safety gear all over ourselves and went out and did it. I think I was around 40 then. No problems whatsoever. You will find, however, that you use your vision to keep your balance much more than you ever realized.

                    Nowadays, I often start riding before dark in my arena and am too lazy to stop in the middle to go turn on the lights. And too cheap to turn them on before I head out. So I keep riding even after it's dark. It really is no big deal.

                    Believe me, your horse can see in the dark just as well as he can see in the daylight.
                    Donerail Farm
                    www.donerailfarm.com
                    http://donerailfarm.wordpress.com/

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by cyndi View Post
                      You will find, however, that you use your vision to keep your balance much more than you ever realized.
                      This is such a true statement. As a former competitive ice skater, I was completely blown away the first time I was told I needed to practice a routine under spotlights to adjust to the dim lighting - my balance was so "off" it was pathetic. When I started riding in the dark (see above post), it wasn't as severe because I wasn't relying on my own two feet to keep me upright, but there was a difference, particularly if I tried to do circling in the ring.
                      Susan N.

                      Don't get confused between my personality & my attitude. My personality is who I am, my attitude depends on who you are.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        The horse can see fine, you on the other hand might not if it is pitch dark. I've used a headlamp before but usually trust my horse to see for us. I used to have to go ride before daylight when I worked in the city, and my horses never had a problem. I on the other hand felt very disoriented -- it is like riding with your eyes shut and made me a little seasick at times! But you've got to do what you've got to do. No jumping, obviously.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          The horses do seem to adjust and enjoy riding at night. We rode last night without lights as there was a full moon so bright, the security lights did not turn on.

                          Night rides have a totally different feel; personally I enjoy them - especially in the summer heat.

                          A battery operated camping lantern could put on the ground next to the barn. The barn would refract the light softly without giving off harsh spotlighting shadows. Even one lantern would be plenty of light. If you put a box or mounting block in front of the lantern, there would be virtually no shadows, more background lighting from the barn wall.

                          Or a string of Christmas lights on the barn roofline? You can get some fun ones in the patio-garden section right now with little flamingos or margarita shapes.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I do it all the time. on the trails as well.

                            Just check your horse's eyes. One of mine (Music) has "lots of tiny cataracts" which affects her night vision. So I do not rider her on dark trails at night, nor on the nights when it is pitch black (no moon, heavy cloud cover, etc.)
                            Janet

                            chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).

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                            • #15
                              I just have a quick funny anecdote about riding in the dark...
                              I started riding at dusk on night and it continued to get darker and darker. Finally it was too dark to see so I clicked my headlamp on. (This was the first time I had ever ridden with one.)
                              Well, the mysterious bright light from above shining on the ground right in front of my mare spooked the $%*# out of her! I stayed on, she finally calmed down, and I had a good laugh! It must have been quite the shock to her to see that light appear from nowhere!

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I do it frequently; in the heat of summer predawn-dawn and twilight-dark are often the most comfortable times to ride. Horses have excellent night vision, so you should be fine. Around the full moon, it hardly qualifies as "dark" at all! One interesting thing I learned about myself is that I ride much better, much more attentively to changes in my horse's balance and tempo, when I cannot see well.

                                One thing I was told by a veterinary opthalmologist was that horses' eyes are slower to adjust to changes in light level than ours are, so it is a good idea to kill your barn lights for a couple of minutes while you do the last-minute tacking up if you are riding in full dark.
                                Equinox Equine Massage

                                In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was in me invincible summer.
                                -Albert Camus

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                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Finnegans Wake View Post
                                  I do have a part of my pasture next to the barn that has been fenced off the be about the size of a large dressage arena. It is slanted slightly uphill and was just dug up and reseeded this spring for future turnout.
                                  My concern would be not being able to see holes (or maybe branches that have fallen) in the dark. Yes, the horse can probably see them better than we can, but I'd still be a bit nervous about holes.

                                  Many small animals can leave a hole large enough to cause problems. Do you have groundhogs in your area?

                                  If you can't be out in the sunlight or heat, is there any way you can do a quick once-over of the pasture regularly once the sun's gone down but it's not yet fully dark? Or maybe take a large flashlight and do a check, especially if you haven't been riding the area for a few days.
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                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by WoofNWhinny* View Post
                                    My concern would be not being able to see holes (or maybe branches that have fallen) in the dark.
                                    Decades ago, when the only time I had to get a horse fit for the Virginia pair races was way past dark, I was fortunate to have access to a large pasture that I knew had no holes. I simply galloped the fence line and all was well. I've even jumped in the dark, usually by moonlight but sometimes just late coming in from hunting, and here I still am.

                                    I admit I was concerned when doing the Pony Express reenactment a few years ago- riding a road full of potholes at 2 in the morning. But I trusted my horse to see them, went with a big road trot instead of gallop (horse could trot a mile in 2.5 minutes) and only had one problem. Which was that the chase vehicle, trying to be helpful, kept trying to light our way with his headlights, which annoyed the heck out of my horse- I think it actually interfered with his vision- so he'd just increase speed to get ahead of the headlights.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Finnegans Wake View Post
                                      A little more info. before you all think I am a bit bonkers. I do not have an 'ring' or anything that his able to be lit up with spot lights. I do have a part of my pasture next to the barn that has been fenced off the be about the size of a large dressage arena. It is slanted slightly uphill and was just dug up and reseeded this spring for future turnout.

                                      I know it is not perfect but it is all I have at the moment. Due to health reasons, I cannot be out in the sunlight nor can I tolerate the heat. Trust me, I am not planning on doing any jumping or anything fancy. Just a couple of spins up and down the straight aways to help strengthen my horses stifles and get me back in the saddle. It is very nice here at night, mid 60 degrees and I know I will not overheat.

                                      I am most worried about the ability of my horse to see. Currently he spooks at things that don't exist during the daylight but is weirdly calmer at night.

                                      Should I set spotlights up (these would be portable ones, nothing like a streetlight.). Or I could go happy at the dollar store and purchase a bunch of those solar powered lights you put around your pathways.

                                      Is more light better or would he be able to adjust to it with limited lighting. Am I crazy to want to ride him at night?
                                      I don't know how old you are, so one comment before I give my opinion.

                                      I no longer ride after dark because at my age I find that there is something about the combination of dark and riding that makes my balance on the horse much less secure. I have no problems walking in the dark or driving at night. But it has affected my riding.

                                      Now that cautionary remark made, to the problem.

                                      If your horse is not more spooky at night, go for it.

                                      Let me tell you what I used to do when I was much much younger.

                                      I would drive home from college, eat supper with the family and then go to the barn and get the horse out.

                                      I would ride cross country, over our hunting country, and school over fences. This when it was so dark I could not see my hand in front of my face.

                                      Now I did start doing it on moonlit nights but as I got more confident, I paid no attention to whether there was a moon or not.

                                      Of course, that was more than 60 years ago. There were very few cars on the road day or night and almost none at night.

                                      I also knew every inch of the territory.

                                      But today I shudder to think about how reckless I was. Today I think about the consequences of some farmer parking his disk harrow on the landing side of a coop or barway and leaving it for the night. Both I and the horse would have been hamburger.

                                      I am not the only one. I well remember the days of the Mickey Walsh family, when they showed horses in the years before he became such a big name in the chaser game, coming to the shows and schooling over 4' outside courses consisting of stone walls, coops, in-and-outs, etc., in the dark.

                                      Mix that with cars entering and exiting the grounds with lights that could potentially blind the horses.....but they did it.

                                      So your horse will do OK. I would rather have it dark than have lights that are not properly set well above and focused down. If they are too low and aimed horizontally, the horse is more likely to be blinded by the light.

                                      Go for it.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Out here in the high desert sometimes nights are the only time it is reasonable to ride....no trees to speak of so no shade in the daytime and the soil is alkali so lots of reflection of both heat and light. Desert rides in the moonlight are really fun...you see more wildlife as most of them hole up in the daytime heat too. Horses do well with it too. At this elevation there may be a 40-50 degree difference between day and night temperatures so you sometimes find you should have brought a jacket or at least worn a sweatshirt.
                                        Colored Cowhorse Ranch
                                        www.coloredcowhorseranch.com
                                        Northern NV

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