When my friends and I go for horseback rides on the trail my dog, a Golden Retriever, loves to come along with us. She has fun running through the woods and it’s also great exercise for her. As soon as I start hooking up the horse trailer and loading up tack, she knows what’s coming and won’t leave the area of the truck door. Heaven forbid I should forget to take her along!
I started adding Tesa to our horseback rides when she was about a year old. She was mature enough to handle being on the run for a number of hours and after some obedience classes I knew she'd stay with us and come when called. I always carry water for her in case there isn't water available along the trail, and I also take along a pocketful of her favorite treats to reward her for coming to me.
Tesa has learned to take advantage of every watering hole, be it a creek or a puddle, and to rest up at breaks we take with the horses - she manages to find any shade she can!
My Golden Retriever isn’t the only dog that goes along on our trail rides, there are times when we have quite a few dogs join us on our rides. One of my daughters has an Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler); my other daughter brings her European German Shepherd; my friend's Australian Shepherd often comes and another friend’s mini Aussie has started joining us too.
We don’t always have all the dogs on the rides with us at the same time but we have had up to 3 at a time. All our dogs seem to get along well together and they seem to like to take up different spots in the line of horses. My Golden loves the front, the German shepherd roves the line, the Aussies stay right with their owners, and the Blue Heeler pulls up the rear.
Every now and again during the ride Hogan, the Blue Heeler, trots up to the front of the line, stops and seems to count all the horses as they go by and then drops contentedly in line behind the horses again. He must be making sure his “herd” is all accounted for! (Also, sometimes he does weird things, as Heelers are prone to do...it's definitely entertaining.)
As much as we enjoy having our dogs with us, we’re always cognizant of the fact that maybe not everyone would like having them along, as not all horses are used to dogs. Therefore if we have someone joining us on our rides that hasn’t gone along with us before, we always make sure to ask if they mind if we let the dogs tag along.
In addition to exercising and stimulating the dogs - as well as letting them have a lot of fun - it is wonderful training for the horses. It’s amazing how quickly they get used to having a dog brushing by them, feeling the dogs right at their heels, or suddenly popping out of the woods.
Another benefit of having dogs on the trail is they're much more likely to flush "game" - such as deer, grouse, or other woodland creatures which create noises when startled - since they're sometimes out front of the horses. This means the "scary" animal bursts out of the woods or flies away farther away from the horses, instead of next to them.
All in all, our horses are far less spooky at sounds and movements in the woods due to having the dogs running in and out near them. And the less spooky my horse is, the more I enjoy the ride!
PS: Please note that dogs on the trail can and WILL find any and all stickers and burs; muddy puddles, and everything else to roll in! We recommend Cowboy Magic to easily remove stickers, burs, tangles...works on dogs as well as horse manes & tails.
Also, before starting to bring your dog/s on trail rides, it's important to have some type of tick repellent in place. Whether you prefer a tick and flea collar or Frontline, there are many types of tick diseases besides Lyme's, so make sure your dog is protected!