Daylight hours are short during winter, and that means you have less time to ride.
Or does it?
Although you may struggle to see clearly at dusk, your horse will not. Due to the anatomy of their eyes, horses actually see about as well in the dark as they do during the day. With a little bit of planning—and some common sense—you can enjoy safely taking your horse for a ride in the dark when the sun goes down.
Before You Go
First, consider your horse’s temperament. Some horses get upset if they’re taken away from their dinner. Rather than dealing with an angry equine, wait to feed until after your ride.
Next, allow about 15 minutes for your horse’s eyes to adjust to the lower light. This is especially true if you’re leading him outdoors from a well-lit barn. He might seem more alert as he gets used to the twilight. You’ll know you can proceed once he relaxes.
Finally, choose your after-dusk trails carefully. Your horse can see well enough to find his way down a path, but the scenery will look different to you. It’s easier to get lost or turned around, so always ride with a buddy and bring a phone with GPS and carry it on you—not your saddle.
New animals (like bobcats, coyotes and deer) might surprise your horse, too. Stay alert so you don’t end up coming out of the saddle. You don’t want to walk back to the barn without your horse, whether day or night!
Although twilight trails are visible to your horse, you have to make sure you and your horse are visible to other people. That’s especially true if you’re riding next to neighborhood streets. Residents coming and going from their homes don’t expect to see horses and riders after sundown. Also, by using specialized apparel and tack, your riding pals will be less likely to get separated from you—you’ll be easy to spot.
Low-light riding equipment comes in two main varieties. One is high visibility (also known as “high vis”) tack and apparel. High-vis items are brightly colored with silver reflective strips. When the glow from streetlights or headlights strike the silver strips, they become incredibly bright. High-vis equine ear bonnets, leg wraps, saddle pads and riding vests and jackets are widely available.
The other type of tack for nighttime riding comes with rows of LED lights. These lights are battery-operated. Once charged, they’re bright enough to make your horse stand out after dusk. The most popular LED item is an adjustable breastplate that attaches to your saddle. Your horse will not only look fancy, but he’ll also be safe.