Trail rides, at any time of the year, can be some of the best times you spend with your horse! You will encounter many fun and amazing things when you hit the trails, however, there are also lots of things out there that your horse will be convinced are going to eat him. You may also encounter some legitimately dangerous things out there as well. Here are my tips and suggestions to help you make the most of your time spent on the trails with you horse.
- ALWAYS wear a helmet that fits well and fastens securely under your chin. Wearing a helmet should be second nature to any rider, no matter their age or skill level, regardless of whether you are on your own horse or a friends. It is doubly important out on the trails as there are many unfamiliar and potentially scary “horsey monsters,” as I like to call them, so safety should always be number one on your list. Not only is a helmet wonderful in a fall but it also protects your head from low hanging branches.
- Always do a quick check of any tack and equipment you plan on using or taking with you, such as your saddle, bridle, girth, and any protective leg wear you put on your horse. This will help to prevent (but not necessarily eliminate) having your tack break on the trail, which is a potentially dangerous situation.
- Make sure you plan your outing and always let someone know where you are going and when you plan to get back. This is important especially if you are going out alone. I always let someone know I am leaving the farm and a rough estimate of when I will be home, that way my barn owner doesn’t worry if I am gone for more than an hour or so. I make sure to always do this when I go out alone or if I go out in a group, just so someone who’s staying home knows.
- Bring at least one bottle of water. This is critical if you are going out in the summer or for a long period of time, but it’s a smart choice any time of year. Hydration is very important when riding but especially so when you are out on the trails. When you become dehydrated you run the risk of becoming dizzy and disoriented, some people may even pass out. I am sure you can see why this can be especially dangerous when you are not in an enclosed arena!
- If you stop at a body of water (pond or river) give your horse a chance to take a drink if he wants it. You bring water for yourself, shouldn’t your horse have some, too? Our four legged companions work very hard on the trails climbing up and down hills, over all kinds of differing terrain-he’s bound to get thirsty sometime.
- Make sure to apply sunscreen and bug spray to both you and your horse. I’m sure everyone knows the importance of sunscreen! But did you know you should also put some on your horse if he has light colored skin or any white markings? Horses can sunburn too!
- A fully charged cell phone is another must for any trail ride whether it’s a long one or a short one. You always want to be able to call for help if you need to. I know a lot of people like to keep their cell phones in their saddle bags. This is never a good idea! You should always have your cell phone in your pocket or in a cell phone case just in case you become separated from your horse during the course of your ride. This is my favorite cell phone case because you can fit most of today’s larger smart phones in it due to its stretchiness.
Trail riding is a nice way to break up the monotony of ring work with your horse. It gives you opportunities to encounter and work through things that you don’t typically encounter in every day life on the farm, such as dirt bikes and ATVs (which are definitely scary to almost all horses to some degree). Whether you are an experienced trail rider, or someone who is just starting out, I hope that you find these hints useful. Happy trails!!