The Basics of Trail Riding
You have spent your time riding in the round pen and hundreds of hours with your horse in the arena. You are no longer a bare bones beginner and know how to handle your horse, now it is finally time to have fun on your horse, it is time for you are your friends to take a trail ride.
No matter if you ride typically Western style or if English riding is your passion, you will eventually want to pleasure ride or trail ride with your friends and your horse. Now that you know your horse and have spent time on your abilities, you and your horse are ready and it is time to learn a few rules of the road.
Your first trail ride may start at your barn and end up just passing through your neighborhood or you might haul your horse to some senic spot to enjoy a day or two trailriding at its best. No matter which you choose you will have to give some thought to safety. Having a good set of rules of the road will keep everyone on the same page and these rules will make sure all the riders and all the horse return to the barn with out incident. This is where all your practice and training with our horse to be put to the test. Some of the best times you will ever have with your horse will be out on the road and on a trail ride. An experienced trail rider is the ultimate goal and here are a few suggestions.
1. Before you and your horse can trailride your horse will have to be confident under saddle. You will have spent appropriate time teaching him to give to the bit, relax and stay in control. The first mistake many people make is taking a horse that is not ready. Your bucking or out of control horse could cause other horses to act up.
2. Pre plan your trail course and make sure your group has permission from any land owners that may be needed. Do not ride on property that you do not have permission.
3. Stay on the main trail where you and your horse should be safe, you do not want your horse to step in a hole or bog down in a mud hole.
4. If your trailride is larger be aware that at the start of the trail ride there may be that one green horse that is not confident, and explodes. If his rider is also green, he may start bucking. Keep your horse under control in the ruckus.
5. If you are riding near a paved road you must stay out of the ditch and tall grass. This is where all the broken bottles and other hazards end up. You do not want to lope your horse over some jagged glass bottle bottom.
6. You may have to share the trail with other activities. Be on the watch for joggers, mountain bikes and other users.
7. When riding around traffic never assume any driver knows what to do when they see a pack of horses. They may just be half blind, from New York or they may be texting their babies mama. Try to signal to cars to slow down. This is mostly the job of the scout.
8. Keep a close eye on your horses senses. he will be able to perceive trouble way before you will. so watch his ears and be aware of what he may be watching.
9. You may have hours with your horse, but he may still be spooked by something new on the trail. Do not relax too much and always be prepared to get your horse calmed back down and under control. This is also no time to lose your temper.
10. During most trailrides you will come in contact with some folks on the trail that want to pat and touch your horse, keep this to a minimum.
11. Keep your trailride speed down to a solid walk, and occasional lope, blind corners are to be approached with caution.
12. Passing is best done at a walk or off the trail where you do not disrupt the others.
13. If the trail narrows- always ride in a single file line. Ride a breast only when the trail permits.
14. Once out on the trail each horse may approach the ride at different speeds, or they may have a best buddy they like to walk next to. let the lead horses lead and let the slow ones fall where they may.
15. Keep your horse from running up on a slower horse. If your horse or any horse on the ride is prone to kick place a red ribbon on the tail of the kicker.
16. When on the trail passing should be done at appropriate places with plenty of trail room.
17. If any inclines or drop offs keep a larger distance between horses in case any horses lose their footing.
18. If there are enough riders you should always have a “scout” go ahead of the group. This becomes more important if the trail is unknown to the riders.
19. Keep your horse under control, you do not want your horse to affect the other horses and riders. This could cause a beginner rider to lose control of their horse.
20. Be aware that most riders are best accomplished at a walk. There may be times when the group may have to jog for a distance. make sure the lead horses do not cause a runaway situation.
21. If your group carries drinks, beverages or food make arrangements to take all of your trash and empties with you. Do not give anyone a good reason to single your trail ride or group out.
22. Once the ride is over there may be a horse that is hard to load. If you know of a horse that is prone to this, load him before everyone else loads up and leaves.
23. Many trail rides like to take their younger children with them, these children should have several horse back lessons and should know how to get their horse stopped and under control before they are safe with the group.
24. Before the ride begins your horse may need a short warm up period and as the ride comes to an end allow enough time to walk the last of the ride to keep your horse on the cool down side.
25. In your area there may be a group that has the same love for trail riding as you do. These trail riding groups are a perfect place to start finding rides in your area. Have fun on the trail and always stay safe.