Most people think of trail riding as going to a public stable and mounting an unenthusiastic horse that will mechanically take you down the same trail that it has takes several times a day for years. Such an experience is nice for beginners, however, if you are an accomplished rider it can be frustrating to say the least!
This article will examine a different type of trail riding: riding with your own horse. We will discuss the pros and cons as well as the precautions that you should take. We will include 20 basic tips that will get you prepared to enjoy trail riding the way it’s supposed to be.
THE BENEFITS OF TRAIL RIDING WITH YOUR HORSE
If you are a true rookie, trail riding at a riding stable is the best way to start out. The horses know the drill and will effortlessly take you down the right trail.
This article, however, will concentrate more on free form trail riding, using your own horse independent of a riding stable.
Many professional riders don’t consider the option of riding their horse out of the arena, however, it is an excellent opportunity to improve your skills! It is an amazing way to bond with your horse and it will take your relationship and communication to a whole new level! This is mostly because it affords a way to overcome new obstacles together and encounter situations that you won’t find in an arena setting.
The same goes for those who, not being professional performers wan tot bond with their “pet” horse.
This having been said, you must remember that you will need to be prepared for the unexpected when you are trail riding. The following tips were put together in order to prepare you for the most common “unexpeted” occurrences.
The following tips assume that you will be riding your personal horse and already have worked together, mastering basic skills, i.e., control, stopping, turning etc.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE
1) Make sure your horse is ready, control tack and put on protection. Polo wraps are great for trails, there are also a great variety of boots out their.
2) It’s a good idea to take a lead halter with you. This is basic, but many leave without it and don’t have a way to tie the horse when resting, or taking care of their needs.
3) Find a friend. It is good practice never to ride alone. If something where to happen out there you will be glad to have help.
4) Even when accompanied, always tell a third party where you are going, when you are leaving and when you plan on coming back.
5) Bring a fully charged cell/satellite phone with you. A trail GPS is also a great idea. You should also have a basic first aid kit and don’t forget to carry ID on you.
6) Warm up your horse. Don’t ever take it straight out on a trail. Stretching and circling for 15-20 minutes will do the trick.
OUT ON THE TRAIL
7) Keep in mind the horses physical fitness level. Don’t travel too far over exerting your horse or taking it beyond its’ limits.
8) Always practice proper following distance. When walking you should leave at least one horse length between you and the horse in front of you. When trotting you should allow two horse lengths between you.
9) If you want to pass, do so on the left. You should also verbally let the rider that you are passing know your intentions.
10) Passing regularly is a good idea when group riding. This helps balance the horses that want to be in the front and keeps them concentrating on the trail rather than the horse in front of them.
11) Pay attention to your horses vital signs. When necessary take a rest and be prepared to apply first aid if necessary. Common reasons would be: snake bites, colic, or cuts. Of course if you are attentive and careful you shouldn’t have these problems.
12) Be attentive and always aware of your surroundings. There are many subtle dangers that can be easily avoided. Such as holes, roots, tree trunks or other obstacles along the trail.
13) Be prepared to calm a spooked horse. The surroundings will not be familiar to your horse and certain horses spook easily. The easiest way to calm a spooked horse is to stay calm yourself and unmount. Caress the horse while speaking calmly. Some horses spook easier than others, however, with time most of them become more accustomed to trails and spook less.
14) Take your time. Let your horse see everything around him, blinders would never work on a trail, because a horse needs to understand and be attentive to its’ surroundings when on a trail.
15) Drink regularly. This especially goes for the horse since it will be doing most of the exercise. There should be plenty of streams, ponds or lakes along the trail. When you approach one let your horse have a sip!
16) At a water crossing remove martingales they will restrict the horses moments and if you hit a deep spot might not allow him to swim properly.
17) Position yourself correctly when traveling on hills. Uphill: Tilt your body forward and position your arms higher up the neck. Downhill: Hold the reins higher than you normally do, push your body backwards keeping pressure forward in the stirrups.
AFTER THE RIDE
18) Walk your horse a bit in order to cool it down. This is important to receive lactic acid buildup, you surly know this, however, many forget that it applies to trail riding as well.
19) Rinse your horse off with fresh water and allow it to drink as much as it needs.
20) Check your horse for any minor injuries that you might have missed. Including swelling and minor cuts.
Trail riding is one of the best bonding experiences that you can have with your horse. When done correctly it is not dangerous and shouldn’t be harmful to either you or your horse.
Some of the above tips might seem intimidating or frighting, but please don’t be discouraged. As with all things in life it is better to be aware and prevent than to find yourself unprepared and in a difficult situation.
For the most part, however, trail riding is a fun and safe pastime.