The A,B,C's of Trail Riding.

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The A,B,C's of Trail Riding.

Morgan Murphy

The A,B,C's of Trail Riding.                           

Exploring your surroundings is an exciting part of horse ownership: trail riding can be among the most exhilarating and rewarding activities you'll ever pursue on horseback. However, before embarking on a trail riding adventure, it's important to be sure that your horse knows how to behave safely in a wide variety of situations and that you know what to do when faced with an unpredictable hazard?
Understanding and anticipating your horse's behavior is critical during your time away from the barn.

There's nothing like the beauty of scenic trails!*



Getting Ready to Go.

If you own a particularly excitable horse, or one who has not been ridden for a few days, and you’re planning a quiet trail ride, it's often a good idea to turn out and/or lunge your horse prior to leaving the barn. This will allow your horse to work off his initial excitement and energy, preparing him for a quieter, longer ride. During turn outs, he should not be chased, though you may cluck at him a bit to encourage him to work off any excess steam. When lunging, work him on the biggest circle possible, going both ways. It's not a good idea to lunge horses excessively, as the inward lean can promote injury, so work your horse just enough to make sure he's calm and ready to focus on the work at hand. Before hitting the trail, always make sure your tack is in good condition, clean and that all buckles are fastened correctly. Make sure you check the girth before mounting, and approximately 5-10 minutes after you've mounted. Almost all horses figure out how to blow, i.e., how to fill their stomach with air before being saddle up, and then releasing the air after you're settled in. A loose girth can be extremely dangerous, so make checking your girth repeatedly a habit. If you're a nervous or new rider, Western saddles are highly recommended. They feel more secure and give you a horn to hold onto.

Confidence is the key

Both horses and riders can be nervous on the trail. Open spaces, unknown obstacles and changing hazards can make even the bravest rider hesitant. Always ride in pairs or groups, riding out on your own isn't really recommended. Horses are herd animals and tend to be braver when they've got pals around. Not only is riding in pairs or groups safer, but, it helps with confidence and riding skill. As a rule, it's a good idea for more experienced horses and riders to ride at the front of a group and less confident or younger horses to stay towards the back. But, be very careful to keep at least half a horse away from the horse in front of you. Horses can kick and if you're too close, you and your horse can get seriously hurt, especially if the horse that kicks is wearing horseshoes. Keeping a positive mindset should you come across a hazard or have to deal with a spooky horse is critical. Stay upright in the saddle and gently nudge the horse in the direction you want to go. If you need help, do not hesitate to ask one of the more advanced riders to assist you.

Keep in control
Before you start trail riding, we seriously advise you to know how to work with your horse in the ring. Asking for halt on cue, slowing down when asked, moving off the leg and responding quickly to leg and seat aids are all important to deal with spooks or unexpected movement when away from the barn. Exercises such as three loop serpentines, trotting poles, bending around cones and lead changes can improve your bond and communication with your horse giving you a great advantage when needed. And, you want to make sure your horse is wearing the right kind of bit. If the horse's mouth is hard and he won't stop in the ring, he could pose a serious danger should he take off on the trail. Conversely, if he's over bitted and you don't have a soft touch, you could antagonize him. Talk to your trainer to make sure your horse is wearing the correct kind of bit before you attempt the open trail.

Trail riding can be romantic as well as exciting!*

Basic Safety Tips
When you are out and about, always let someone know where you are going, how long you will be and when you will be due back. Remember to take your cell phone (fully charged!) and, if riding near roads wear clothes that ensure you are visible to traffic.

Dealing With Spooking
It's inevitable that when out on a trail ride you will come across unexpected situations. It could be a bird leaping from a tree, a raccoon or even other horses running by. Some horses will respond by becoming startled and "spooking," - in other words, moving abruptly away from the source of the spook. The best thing to do is keep looking straight ahead, keep calm and confident and guide your horse away from the object. Use leg aids, without kicking or spurring, to encourage your horse confidence to move forward. Using pressure around your horse with your legs, while remaining upright in the saddle will give your horse the signal that you are not worried about the situation and to carry on as normal. Speak to your horse, in a gentle but firm voice. When your horse calms down, pat him affectionately on the neck and tell him what a good boy he is.

Trail riding is fun, exciting and is a great stress reliever. For more tips about fun on the trail, please visit again soon.

 *Courtesy of Dollar Photo Club
Comments
  • Great advice - I see trail riders past our property a lot and I think a few could do with reading your blog!