As tis the season, I figured a quick post was in order on the subject of trail or road riding. I love trails and roads not only for conditioning my eventing horses but also as a fun way to relax and enjoy owning horses. Trails especially can take you far from home, so here are some tips!
1. Check your tack! Getting out on the trail with a sliding saddle pad is not only annoying and possibly dangerous or hurtful to your horse, it is also a dangerous liability for you! Make sure everything is set and ready so you don't have to test your own ability to climb back into the tack. Also be aware of things that may be fine for training but won't function well in a trail situation- bits with loose side connections can rub lips and saddles can slide too far back. Boots and especially polo wraps are not very trail friendly- if you do boot (polos just get wet, heavy, muddy and full of plant matter) make sure you apply correctly and tight enough to ensure no slipping when wet and that grit won't get in to cause sores.
2. Take a friend! While some horses go out alone just fine, and you will often find me doing trot sets along gravel roads alone, the key is to ride smart. Going a long ways from home, alone and with no friends can leave you stranded without help or walking a long way home not knowing where your horse ended up. If you do go out alone, take a cell phone (and keep it on your person, not in a saddle bag) and try to let someone know where you are headed and how long you should be. Always wear a helmet and if you're riding roads or on risky surfaces make sure your horse is properly outfitted - and consider a body armor vest (or blaze orange in fall!) to further ensure your safety.
3. Do good training. Grammar aside, don't let your horse get away with behaviors you don't allow in the riding ring. Foxie serves many as a mental and emotional rock in new situations, as she wades right into water and crosses obstacles with ease. When you come to water, do all you can to ensure a safe crossing and go slowly. Save the galloping for nicely footed XC water obstacles!
4. Know your aids. On the trail you can run into about anything- from animals to people who don't like or don't understand horses. Be courteous and ride single file on roads or trails and always be aware. Serve as a gold ambassador to your sport! Always ensure you are in control and keeping the environment around you as safe as possible. Know how to one rein stop, emergency dismount and react when you meet anything from a barking dog to a hostile ATV driver. Always stay calm- your horse can feel your nerves!
5. Use the right trails. This last rule is all about respect: riding is a sport of generally small populations and we need to endorse, use and create positive experiences when ever we can. Don't ride on trails not allocated to horses and be respectful of those around you.
Have a great summer on the trails!
Ashley & Foxie