Farming TopicsHorse Topics 16 July 2021

10 Tips for Horse Trail Riding

Each spring when the warm weather returns and horse enthusiasts get excited about riding the trails again, many wind up getting dumped on their first ride of the season. When your horse is well prepared, trail rides go much better.

Are you a new rider and wondering how to get started with trail riding? Here are my 10 favourite tips to help you and your horse get ready this year.

Re-establish the riding routine

If you’ve been off your horse for weeks or months, a trail ride is not the best way to return to the saddle. Horses learn and remember well, but they get rusty just like us when we haven’t done something in a while. 

Establish a regular riding routine to re-train your horse’s responses and respectfulness. Start getting your horse accustomed to riding by reintroducing things slowly. When you’re on the trail, additional distractions like other horses will test your control of your mount. 

Deal with any horse issues

If you run into specific problems in your schooling rides, deal with them in the arena or close to home before you go out on a trail. Is your horse being resistant or bullying you? Take steps to correct their behaviour and don’t make excuses for them.


10 Tips for Horse Trail Riding, Markdale Real Estate, Grey Highlands Real Estate


Practise easy trails

Explore your own area first with a trusted companion or two. Let your horse get used to being next to, in front, and behind another horse. Then practise being a few horse-lengths behind, which is a tough one. Practise crossing water, stepping over logs, and going up and down hills. Work out any problems in a controlled environment before you attempt new trails your horse has never seen before.

Be realistic about your horse’s abilities

Is your horse ready for the type of ride you want to do? Maybe he’s not and he would benefit from more training in the arena and on practice rides.

Gear up with proper equipment

You might want to consider special gear to help your ride go smoother:

  • A breast collar and a back cinch can prevent saddle slippage that might alarm your horse or unseat you

  • A well-adjusted running martingale will help keep your reins in place during a bumpy part of a ride 

  • A mecate-rein setup or a longe line tucked into your saddlebag can help your horse relax 

Pick good riding partners

Ride only with friends who know proper trail manners and can control their horses.


10 Tips for Horse Trail Riding, Markdale Real Estate, Grey Highlands Real Estate


Ride in good weather

A calm, sunny day is the ideal weather for a trail ride. Riding in windy weather can make normally calm, well-mannered horses flighty. Why is this? Wind makes it hard for prey animals (like horses) to tell where scents are coming from. This causes them to feel extra vulnerable and jittery.

Prep right before the ride

Right before you head out on a trail ride, work your horse in a round pen and put them through some groundwork exercises. The “longeing for respect” technique is the ideal method here. You can also ride him in an arena to work any extra energy out and get him paying attention to you.

Stay connected with your horse

Good trail riding is not just taking a relaxing ride. You want to keep your horse’s attention focused on you by continually asking them for small adjustments: speed up a bit here, collect yourself there, sidepass to avoid a rock. If you can keep your horse connected to you at all times, you’ll be able to avoid most problems before they start.

Stay relaxed but in control 

You want to stay alert, but also loose and relaxed. If you hang on the reins very defensively, it’ll just make your horse tense. Sit deep in the saddle, shrug your shoulders back, relax your muscles, and keep your breathing regular. If you need to deal with any nervousness you feel at any point, take a few deep breaths, hum, or talk reassuringly to yourself and your horse.

Happy trails!