10 Trail Riding -Safety Tips
By: Beverly Gun-Munro
#1. Condition your horse. Know the condition of your horse. Like us, Horse’s need to get ‘into good athletic condition’. Start out with short rides working up to longer trail rides. And don’t forget to cool your horse’s down after. Hose the lower legs to keep blood flowing through the hoof’s.
#2. Ride with a Guide. If you aren’t familiar with the trails you’re heading out to….. go with someone who knows the trail conditions, water crossings, and potential hazards.
#3. Be a Leader. If your horse resists crossing an obstacle, they may not be looking at you as their leader. Remember, horses are prey, pack animals, and fear for their life. If they question your authority ~ notice, and take action. Gently take the time to show them they are safe and trust you. The more control you have and the more times you safely cross obstacles ~ the more they’ll trust you as their leader.
#4. Be patient. Let your horse investigate obstacles and water crossings. It is important to them to protect themselves. A completely fearful horse won’t show signs of curiosity. If they balk, remain patient. Learn their learning style and teach/show them they are safe. 1″ at a time will get you into ‘feet & yards’ of confidence building.
#5. Ride hills wisely. On hills, stay out of your horse’s way, and make sure your gear is safely adjusted. Going uphill, lean forward. A good-quality breast collar will help secure your saddle. Going downhill, sit back over your horse’s center of gravity. Look ahead where you want to go; trust that your horse knows where his feet are.
#6. Practice Group Etiquette. Be sure that everyone is comfortable with the leader’s chosen gait. Let other riders know ahead of time when there will be a change of gait and give them time to stay up with you. Don’t go riding off at a gallop when other riders with you aren’t able to comfortably stay with the pack.
#7. Show respect. On private property, ask permission before you ride. On public property, stick to marked trails for safely. Staying on marked trails and showing respect for the environment. Also help keep the trails open to equestrian use.
#8. Prepare for trail obstacles. Prepare at home and on the trail to cross obstacles, such as logs, standing water, and streams. Note that on the trail, your horse may have a big reaction to crossing an obstacle or to a bounding deer. Know how to prevent and handle difficult situations before your ride.
#9. Keep your distance. When you ride with groups, keep the proper distance between your horse and the one ahead of you. This will give you time to prepare to stop and room to maneuver in case the horse ahead of you is having trouble.
#10. Watch branches. When riding through wooded trails, make sure branches don’t snap back on the person riding behind you. Be courteous, and warn fellow riders to keep their distance.