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McDonald’s is building its first restaurant in our small community, and we decided to ride our horses to its opening day. Our route brings us through the city limits, so I decided to research if we can ride our horses in the city.
Generally, most communities forbid horseback riding in the city limits because of the inherent dangers of mixing horses and vehicles. However, some cities allow for horseback riding. To find out if your city permits horseback riding, call, or visit their official website. That’s what I did.
Traveling through a city while sitting high on the back of the horse gives you a unique perspective on your surroundings; it’s a lot of fun. But before you head out, be sure you and your horse are prepared for this new adventure.
Is it legal to ride a horse in the city?
Federal law governs interstate travel restrictions, and they forbid riding horses on these roadways. In cities, local municipalities govern the rules of the road.
You need to check their websites or call the local government office to determine if horseback riding is legal in your city. Here are some major cities that allow horseback riding with restrictions.
Horse riding in New York City.
You can ride a horse in the Big Apple. However, you can’t bring your horse; you have to rent one. But that’s ok because riding in Central Park would be a fantastic experience.
We visited New York City many times, and Central Park is magical. I’ve never ridden a horse through the park but imagine it would be an unforgettable experience.
The park is over 800 acres and 2.5 miles long. There are plenty of interesting things in the park, streams, an outdoor theater, and even an ice skating rink. The cost to rent a horse is $125 for an hour and fifteen minutes. You can click here to get more information.
Horse riding in Chicago, Illinois
It’s legal to ride a horse in Chicago so long as you obey the traffic rules. Chicago used to have city-run horse stables for citizens to house their animals. However, the last one, which was in the Old Town district, was demolished to make way for apartments.
During the Covid crisis, one man spent his free time traveling horseback around Chicago. He seemed to really enjoy showing off his horse and spreading joy with his horse. Click here to read more about this interesting man and his horse.
Horse riding in Los Angeles, California.
Yes, you can ride a horse in Los Angeles. There are stables and bridle paths with the city limits. But before you ride or board your horse in Los Angeles, you are required to get it licensed.
Licensing a horse sounded like a stupid idea to me when I first read about it, but the more I learned, it started to make sense. The city uses the licenses to keep track of the number of horses in the city and the fees to maintain the horse riding paths.
The licensing fee is only currently on 14 dollars, a small price to pay to be able to enjoy city maintained paths. You can read more about riding in Los Angeles here.
Horse riding in Austin, or Dallas Texas
Texas treats horses as vehicles and permits their use on roadways and in cities. Horse riders must obey the general rules of the road, follow road signs, and use hand signals.
Many horse owners take advantage of the liberal riding laws and can be seen strolling horseback through the town. Interestingly Austin forbids horses in parks, I assume because of overgrazing or maybe manure. Here is a link to Austin’s municipal code if you’re interested in more detailed regulations.
In Dallas, there are restrictions on horse riding on the streets. In some locations, streets are designated high volume, and these don’t permit horse riding.
In Allen, Texas, a northern suburb of Dallas, a man rode his horse to Taco Bell for eleven years before he finally was ticketed under the statute forbidding horses on high volume roadways. You can click here to read the story; it looks at how the population explosion is changing Texas.
Tips for city horse riding.
Just because it’s legal to ride in a city doesn’t mean you should. You and your horse have to be ready for the noise and traffic. Riding an inexperienced horse on a busy city street is dangerous.
Here are some essential tips you need to follow before riding a horse in the city:
Be confident in your horse.
Build trust and confidence with your horse before riding it in the city. Ensure the horse respects you and understands you are the leader. You have to stay in control and be able to read its body language to understand its emotions and predict its actions.
Horses let you know when they are nervous; they prick ears and quickly lift its head, and may start breathing fast; if your horse reacts like this, turn him to occupy his mind while you try to recognize the cause of his concern.
Most of the time, the items are harmless, like a piece of trash blowing in the wind. But your goal is to remain calm and instill confidence that you have the situation under control.
Horses are prey animals, and one of their survival instincts is to bolt when they sense danger. But they are also herd animals and respect the herd leader, that is you.
If you’ve built a stable relationship with your animal, it will remain calm and follow your instructions even during hectic times. If you don’t have confidence in your horse, you shouldn’t ride in the city.
Wear proper riding gear.
When riding on roadways always wear bright-colored clothing or a reflective riding vest. You could also buy some reflective tape and put on your tack.
Besides gear to make you visible, it’s also best to wear protective equipment. Horseback riding is dangerous, so wear riding boots and a helmet in case you get thrown from the saddle.
Also, make sure your horse is appropriately equipped to ride on roads; most horses need shoes to protect their feet. However, some horses can ride barefoot on roads. You can click here to read an article I wrote about riding horses barefoot on the road.
Ride with saddlebags.
Saddlebags are great for packing gear you might need during the ride. They don’t hinder you or your horses movement. Some things to pack for the ride are a hoof pick, cell phone, identification, water bottle, and a knife.
Amazon sells some saddlebags if you don’t have any. Here is a link to their site. Most are either made of vinyl or leather, my preference is leather to match my saddle, but both are acceptable.
Plan your route.
It’s essential to be familiar with the route you plan to travel. How many intersections do you have to cross, what’s the traffic like in the area, are you passing schools with children. These are a few of the questions you should know the answers to.
It’s also essential to understand the path so you can estimate the time it will take to complete your trip. You don’t want to take a route that has you on the road after the sun goes down. It’s never a good idea to be on the road with your horse at night.
Ride with a buddy.
There’s nothing wrong with riding alone in a city if you’re already familiar with the area and have ridden it before. But if it’s new to you, it’s best to ride with someone.
If you have an accident or need your horse held, you’ll appreciate having an extra set of hands with you. But remember when you ride to follow the road rules, which might mean riding a single file in some locations.
Don’t get so wrapped up talking to your riding buddy that you forget you are in a city. Remain on guard, acknowledge roadsigns, be aware of vehicles, crosswalks, and pedestrians.
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