Trail riding is a rewarding experience for both horse and rider. Although it may be tempting to hit the trail "running" so to speak, taking your time to familiarize yourself with some noteworthy trail riding do's and don'ts will help keep your ride safe and fun.
Do Remember Safety
Small precautions can save a life whether riding on a familiar trail with friends or alone in the middle of the back country. No matter how bombproof your horse is, always protect your head with certified equestrian headgear. Practice emergency stops and dismounts with your horse at home. Knowing how to stop a horse and get of at all gaits is essential if your horse spooks. Bring the proper safety gear in your saddlebags including; a cell phone, GPS, emergency food, safety whistle, fire starter and extra rope. Never push you or your horse to far. If you feel the terrain is too hard, for you and your horse to navigate, you should stop. Take a short break or just lead your horse for a while.
Don't Ruin the Trails
Each year more and more equestrian trails close down due to misuse. Trail must be faithful stewards of the trails. Always pack out what you pack in. If you bring packaged food or other garbage never leave it on the trail, instead carry it back out with you and dispose of it properly. Dispose of manure, both human and horse, properly. Manure should be buried away from water sources. Don't injure trees by tying your horse improperly. Never tie a horse to a tree trunk for extended periods of time. If a horse circles the tree or paws, roots can be damaged. Tree saver straps should be used if you put your horse on a picket line. Bare rope can dig into the bark of a tree and permanently damage it. Never bring more than needed. Extra pack animals are harder on the environment; avoid their use by packing only the necessities.
Do Prepare Your Horse for the Trail
Don't expect a green, unconditioned horse to carry you for miles and miles down a trail. Proper conditioning will give your horse the stamina it needs to tackle trails. If your horse is out of shape work, with it daily for at least 30 minutes until you notice an improvement. Begin taking the horse on short trail rides to get used to the varying terrain. Set up a small obstacle course with trail obstacles so that your horse becomes familiar with different maneuvers that may be encountered during your ride.
Don't Be Rude on the Trail
Remember your manners. Respect other equestrians, hikers or bikers that you pass. If your horse kicks or bites, tie a ribbon on its tail as a warning to others to keep their distance. Remember to close any gates you open and hold them open if others are behind you. Do not pass other riders at a gallop, as many horses become overly excited. Be polite with your riding distance. If riding with others, allow for ample breathing room in between.