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How to Safely Ride in Low Light

A girl rides her horse in the dark
Photo by Tanhu/Shutterstock

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!

Glow Gear

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.

A reflective ear net
Horze Reflective Ear Net — $12.99;

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.

Safety vests
High Vis Horse Riding Vest — $37.99;

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.

A horse wearing a glow-in-the-dark breastplate
LED Breastplate — $44.99;

This article about how to safely ride your horse in the dark appeared in the February 2021 Mini Digital issue of Young Rider magazine. Click here to subscribe!

Cindy Hale

Cindy Hale’s life with horses has been filled with variety. As a child she rode western and learned to barrel race. Then she worked as a groom for a show barn, and was taught to harness and drive Welsh ponies. But once she’d taken her first lessons aboard American Saddlebreds she was hooked on English riding. Hunters and hunt seat equitation came next, and she spent decades competing in those divisions on the West Coast. Always seeking to improve her horsemanship, she rode in clinics conducted by world-class riders like George Morris, Kathy Kusner and Anne Kursinski. During that time, her family began raising Thoroughbred and warmblood sport horses, and Cindy experienced the thrills and challenges of training and showing the homebred greenies. Now retired from active competition, she’s a popular judge at local and county-rated open and hunter/jumper shows. She rides recreationally both English and western. Her Paint gelding, Wally, lives at home with her and her non-horsey husband, Ron.


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