Enjoying the fall colors while on the trail is an ultimate way to relax and bond with your horse. However, there are some things you need to consider while trail riding to remain safe and have an enjoyable trip. Before you head out on the trails, be sure that your horse is conditioned to be out on the trails. Also, ensure your horse has the preparation in training to safely navigate trails and other obstacles before you head out. Riding a level headed horse that is sturdy, well conditioned, and doesn’t fight for his head all day will provide the most enjoyable ride. Be sure to have a Coggins test if you plan on riding at any of the state parks.
Here are some tips and tricks to keep you safe and happy out on the trail:
Check Equipment and Tack
We all have heard that we need to check our equipment and tack before every ride. You need to thoroughly check your tack especially if you will be riding trails far from your trailer. As the weather goes from hot and humid here in the Southeast to dry and chilly, leather tack takes the brunt of the weather change. Ensure your tack is properly oiled and maintained to ensure
Bring Hay String
Tack can break unexpectedly and we need to be prepared to mend it while on the trail. If you bring along some hay string in your saddle bags, it can save you in a pinch. There are several ways you can use it and I have personally used it to keep a headstall together after we lost the screw in the concho.
What to Pack?
Pack a trail riding kit that includes snacks, water for you, a hoof pick, a knife (preferrably one with pliers and other tools all in one) and an extra lead rope. You never know when a rock may get in your horse’s hoof or if you decide to take a longer trail mid-ride. By having these things you will be prepared to get by in most situations. Also, if you are riding during hunting season, you will definitely need to wear blaze orange no matter where you are riding.
Have a plan for your trail ride. Communicate with your family or friends where you will be going and what time you will be back. Be sure this person will reach out if they haven’t heard from you. Whether you are riding alone or with a group, someone at home will be able to send help if you aren’t back at the expected time.
Bring a Cellphone
When you bring your cellphone, always try to have it on your body. It will do no good in your saddle bags if you are chucked off your pony and he takes off running carrying your only communication device with him. There are many products on the market that attach to your hip, leg or ankle that will ensure you have your cellphone in the case of a fall. Your cellphone can also be used if you are lost. It is a good idea to take a picture of the trail map or save a copy on your phone in case you lose cell service.
If you plan to ride in the back country away from cell service, consider getting a satellite phone for emergencies.
Ride with Others
When trail riding, I always ride with others. It is not only safer in the event of an accident, but I love the camaraderie. I know in today’s busy time, it may be hard to schedule times to get together, but in the end it is the safest trail riding option. Plus, it is a great way to unwind and have someone to talk with (other than your horse).
What to Wear?
First and foremost, wear a helmet while on the trail. My husband always says “You’re too smart and too pretty to not wear a helmet.” This is true for everyone. Even the most experienced horse rider can have a trip or fall. When looking at attire, be sure to check the weather for the whole day. You may find that it is warmer in the morning and then it will cool off as the day goes by. Be sure to pack the appropriate clothing to get you through the total trail ride length. It is easier to remove layers than to add (especially if you forgot it at home). Also bring extra clothes to keep in the truck. I learned this from experience. I was allowing my horse to drink from a creek and before you knew it she was rolling and I was soaked and muddy.
Over the years, I have encountered a few situations that I was glad to be prepared for out on the trail. These safety tips will help keep you and your horse safe while out. When you are prepared, you can enjoy the trail ride even more knowing you have a plan. Happy Trails!
Ashley Best, Newton County Extension Coordinator & Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent