Whenever I am at a horse show I can’t help but notice that there are always about as many dogs as there are horses. Every trainer has their trusty companion(s) by their side, or by their stalls, or in their golf carts, or right smack dab in the middle of everything getting in everyone’s way. My dogs have been in all of these places at one point or another. Horse people sure do love their dogs! I am actually one of the few horse persons I know that has only one dog…
Her name is Khloe. She is a fabulous Australian Shepherd, who goes with me to the barn every day and often comes along for horse shows. She loves running, playing fetch, playing with other dogs, guarding her food, riding in the truck, Swimming, walking, exploring, making friends with mice, and so much more. I got her at a pet adoption at Petsmart. I went to “look” at dogs before work (at a tack shop in the same shopping center), and there she was. I held her while people kept coming up to pet her. She was fluffy and had those beautiful blue eyes, so she drew a lot of attention. I wouldn’t put her down. I happened to have the exact amount cash needed to adopt her, so I did. My boss let me bring her into the shop that day. I took her to the vet on the way home, and nearly caused my parents to disown me when I brought her home (I was living with them at the time, and they had not agreed to let me get a dog). But when they saw how precious she was, and how she had been starved, they came around. Her and her brother had been found on the side of the road. She was very underweight, and a little sickly when I got her. She should have been rehabbed longer before being adopted, but I am so thankful she was at the adoption that day. Her poor health caused her to be a little lethargic for a while, so I thought I had the world’s most well-mannered puppy. But after a few weeks of good food and some TLC, she came to life. She was wild. It took three years for her to calm down.
She has always loved going to the barn and being around horses; and I love having a dog that I can take with me on my equestrian adventures. She is so good. However, it took a long time for me to able to trust her to run loose at the farm and behave at horse shows. Bringing dogs around horses can be dangerous for both animals, especially if you have a high energy working dog! But with proper discipline and training, dogs and horses can totally mix.
It is absolutely vital to teach dogs not to chase horses, or get too close to them. Khloe gets too close the horses at the farm, but they are all used to dogs so there is never a problem; many horses are not so tolerant though, so I am more cautious at other farms and horse shows. I will keep her on a leash if I have to. She does not chase the horses much anymore, other than occasionally barking at them in the pasture and of course when I am lunging one. When she was younger, I would tie her up or stick her in a stall while I rode so she wouldn’t get into to too much trouble. Now, however, she stays loose (except when I lunge). She usually comes to the arena to watch me ride, or hangs out the barn. At horse shows, I leave her tied up by the stalls. There are far too many ways she could get into trouble at a horse show!
Tips on how to keep dogs safe around horses:
- Do not allow dogs to chase horses. If they do not respond to commands, keep them tied up or in a stall while at the barn.
- Introduce dogs to horses. Allow horses to sniff dogs. Dogs can desensitize horses, as long as caution is used to ensure they don’t get kicked or stepped on.
- Do not allow dogs in the arena unless you know the horses will not spook at them, and that the dogs will not chase the horses or get in the way. That is, if you know the dogs and horses very well it can be fine. If not, leave the dogs tied up or in a safe fenced area.
- Do not allow dogs in horses stalls, unless you know the horse is tolerant of the dogs (Chance doesn’t care one bit if Khloe goes in his stall, but many horses would).
- At shows, keep dogs tied or on leashes at all times! There are so many horses, other dogs, kids, food, golf carts, trucks and trailers, and other crazy things at shows. It would be very dangerous to let a dog run loose, and most shows will not allow it anyway.
- Train dogs. If dogs know basic commands, and listen well, there is a greater chance that you can prevent any horse/dog accidents.