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.
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.