How many of you like to hit the trails? Riding your own horse? Renting another horse? Fast paced trails or slow trails?
No matter what discipline, level of riding or age, trail riding can be a fun, relaxing, and enjoyable experience for both the horse and the rider.
I recently went on a trail ride and can't help but look back and smile. I enjoyed myself greatly and can't wait to go back. The saddle was comfy and once I got used to my 15.3hh gelding's stride, the ride was also comfortable. The scenery was beautiful and there were some "challenges".
We went in a group of varying experience on a 2.5 hour ride. A couple of us knew exactly what we were getting into, but some of the others were "blindsided". A 2.5 hour ride for my experienced friend and I was an absolute blast- it was AMAZING to get back into the saddle again.
Now, several of the beginner riders got tuckered out quite quickly and what was a "joyful ride" was now more of a chore as they "couldn't turn back". We rode in Western tack, and one of the riders was mainly an English rider and got quite uncomfortable. In the end, we all enjoyed it, and all said they would go back.
This leads me to the topic of this article. What to know about trail riding.
First off, know your experience. Make sure everyone knows their experience. Don't let anyone "boost" up their experience level. It's better to be safe than sorry.
Sure, saying that you're an advanced beginner even though you've been riding 10+ years might get you a "slower horse", but it is 100% okay. It's better to be on a safe, slow horse than a more "risky" one just because you want to have a good time.
Let the riding place owners/workers know ahead of time what everyone's experience level is. That way they will have the correct horses for you.
Next, don't fudge ages/sizes. Make sure everyone is truthful about their age and size. Some places have helmet rules in place where certain ages have to wear helmets (or maybe everyone does), and some may have weight limits.
Don't take offense to weight limits. As a heavier rider myself, I know it's easier to be upfront and let the owner/worker know. Some places just don't have the funds to buy a larger horse. Some places have 10/15% rules instead of the typical 20%.
It's their horse, their rules. Be upfront and you won't have an issue! If they do enforce either a helmet or size rule, just go with the program. It's the easiest option and in the end, it will work out. Besides, helmets are always safer!
Third, make sure you know how long the ride is. Ask as many questions as possible. Don't feel silly for doing so. The more questions the better! Ask what kinds of "trails" you will be going on, if there's anything along the trail the horse might spook at, if you are going to cross roads, water or bridges. Ask, ask, ask away!
You don't want to be on the ride and realize half way through that this is WAY longer than you anticipated or that the ride is way out of your experience level.
If you bring your own horses trail riding, bring extra! Bring an extra girth, breast collar, sport boots, first aid kit, etc. Make sure you bring an extra halter and lead rope! You can never bring "too much"! Make sure you double and triple check everything.
Get a copy of the maps of the trails you're going to be on. If you stray off the trails, try to mark or remember the way so you can get back easily.
Always let people know when you leave and when they should expect you to be back. It's not bothersome to anyone to make sure you're safe. It's good to keep a list of people in your phone and update them when you leave/when you return. If you know you're going to be later than expected, shoot them a text or a call letting them know.
Bring plenty of water! Make sure you don't run out of water. It's really important to stay hydrated doing physical activity such as horseback riding. You don't want to have to turn back in the middle of the ride because you ran out of water (but don't be afraid to turn back!!)
Make sure your phone is charged in case you have to call out. If you are travelling in a large group, walkie talkies might be a good idea. Especially if the group divides into "slow" and "fast" horses.
Don't be afraid to tie a ribbon in your horse's tail! Easy to identify and understand by other riders.
Make sure you know your limits as well as your horse's limits. Take it easy. Enjoy the ride. Don't push too much or expect too much from your horse. It's easier on both you and your horse if you stay well within your limits!
Most importantly, have fun. Enjoy the scenery, the creaking of the saddle, the smell of fly spray and the whinnies of horses. Soak it in!