Riding Companion Dog
There is nothing more beautiful than to be on the way with dog and horse jointly, at least in theory.
The very special thing about a riding companion dog is the fact that it has to have a lot of characteristics and abilities that go beyond the normal basic obedience.
An uneven pair:
Primarily, dog and horse must get used to and respect each other. Neither should the dog snap at the horse or even try to herd or hunt it, nor should the horse be nasty about the dog, or kick or snap at it.
Indeed, this is quite a heavy task in the beginning, although we as humans would like to have it differently: considered the biological facts dogs are hunters and horses are flight animals. The two of them are virtually at opposite ends of the food chain and both of them are very aware of this fact.
If both of them are accustomed to each other calmly and in joint training, a wonderful companionship between human, horse and dog can come about.
Nothing works without reliable commands
The youngsters start to exercise with “the most well-behaving horse in the stable”
It is very important that the dog is in basic obedience. One has a serious problem during brushing, saddling, leading the horse or while being on horseback if the dog – in the best case – considers all instructions as basis for discussion. Control at a distance is crucial.
The dog should always stay near his handler and horse. Should the dog have a disposition for hunting, this issue should be worked on first.
May I …?
The next challenges are the special commands that are necessary for a riding companion dog:
First of all, one has to be able to leash and unleash the dog from horseback. Depending on the size of the horse, the rider and the dog, this might be an artistic masterpiece if a particular technique wouldn’t be used! The dog learns to position himself on the hind legs and stabilize himself with the front legs against the rider. By doing so, the ring of the harness or collar is reachable. However, horses are neither very happy when dogs jump up at them nor do they cherish it if dogs hit them with their claws in the flank. Dogs on the other hand indeed show significant respect to get so near to a horse and even stay there. Therefore: know-how and practice, practice, practice…
One has to wait while the other is free to practice
This is the way to do it! Next time we will practice at “the living object”
Moreover, one needs a “heel” command at the horse, that must work on-leash and unleashed. The dog shall walk at a given position like walking at heel. Albeit, with a little more distance and at a somewhat different position.
Reliable “stand”, “stay” or “down and stay” commands are also very helpful!
This all sounds like many rules and little fun, but that is misleading!
As soon as these basics are acquired there is nothing more beautiful than being in the open country together with horse and dog.
We often go on outings with our 4 Fjord horses and 6 dogs. These are indeed wonderful memories. Especially since we never had negative experiences in regards to other riders, walkers, dog handlers, farmers, cyclists, etc. On the contrary! Most of the times there is a “big hello” and we progress slowly as we are often stopped by a chat. The people are enthusiastic about the interaction of dogs and horses! Prerequisite for this, however, is mutual attention and obedience!
Another very appealing challenge one can face as a team is the horse and dog trail.
Tasks from common riding are conducted together with horse and dog. Typical tasks are: send the dog ahead into a square and let him wait – open gates on horseback and call the dog – cross bridges – walking on a lead and off-lead heeling from horseback – joint surmounting of obstacles, etc. At present this discipline is not very well known, but more and more tournaments are offered in this field throughout Germany.
Box: send into box from a distance and hold on
Always have an eye on the rider
Recall from box into heel – heelwork at the horse
My little Charly (Charlotte (Candy) from the Oelmuehle) is just starting with training. It will take more than a year until I will be able to take her with me to a horseback ride or a trail. But she nevertheless already learns the appropriate interaction with horses. She always accompanies me into the riding arena and playfully learns the first small basics.
It’s a girl :-))
Still carried to work…
She can have a look at the poles, learns to wait calmly for a short time and is allowed to accompany mini Shetland ponies on short walks.
On an excursion together with aunt Funny and Lausi
A beautiful rear can also endear!
But most important, she learns to keep enough distance between her and the horses’ hoofs. Sometimes she is allowed to ride with me on horseback in my arms when I calm down my horses after training, but soon she will be too big for this. Oh well, children grow up quickly, don’t they?
Thrilling when the big nose gets too near…
At the very top! Unfortunately, I will be too big soon!!!
text/photos: ©Annabelle Steiger
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