Thursday, June 23, 2011

Reader Question on Trail Ride Planning

I received this e-mail from a reader: ”I have been reading your site for a few months now and really enjoy the articles. I have leased a horse and am about to go on my first long trail ride in the National Forest with a group of friends. I am so excited! We are going to trailer in to a place then make a seven mile one way ride, through an old mine area, then onto a small lake then return in the later afternoon. What type of preparations and gear do you think I should take with me?” Lynn, Michigan.

Lynn, good for you. I understand that leasing horses is becoming a cottage industry. In regards to your question, I don’t want to over burden you with possible preparations, but.....

A fourteen mile trip at a leisurely pace is usually not a problem for most horses, but I have seen people over extend their horses. Riding a couple times a week should bring your horse into good enough shape not to be asking too much. Hopefully, at least one of your friends are experienced with trail riding.

Don’t know what the terrain looks like, but if your horse is not shod, then consider bringing some hoof boots in case your horses gets ouchy on his feet or picks up a stone bruise. Easy Boots are good, but kind of bulky. Hoof wraps are not as durable, but are much lighter and compact to carry. I always carry one hoof wrap even with my shod horses in case I have to pull a shoe.

Do you know about the mine you’ll be going by? I have an semi-active mine fairly close to my place that I can’t ride close to because of some toxic materials, like mercury on a ground as a by product of the mining and I don’t want to expose my horse to that. Be sure to know what to look for around mines such as vertical shafts and loose footing.

A first aid kit for both people and horses is a good idea. I carry wound dust, vet wrap, gauze bandage and tape in my saddlebags.

Any possibility of rain? I always carry a slicker. Not just for rain, I have used it to cover up my horses head during a short dust storm where I couldn’t see three feet in front of me. Don’t try and put on your rain coat for the first time when you’re in the saddle. I think maybe a small pocket poncho may work.

You and your group may consider dividing the necessary and emergency supplies. Meaning not everyone needs to carry tools such as a Leatherman or hoof pick,…you can share. I carry a small Plammer fencing tool. It came in handy one day when I had to cut barbed wire away from my horse’s legs.

Hopeful you have cell phones in case of emergencies….and I would suggest you are staying together or at least not violating the two person rule,...even better the three person rule where you are never in groups smaller than three people. This allows one to stay to help an injured person and the other can ride for help if need be. One the ride in, maybe you could check cell phone reception from time to time to know where you have to be to make a emergency call....the ability to describe where you are at would be important.

I would leave a map and trip narrative with someone, friend or family member, who is not going on this trail ride, just in case, …maybe also at any nearby Ranger station where you end up trailering to.

Other things I always carry are: a small fire starting kit; short, fixed blade knife; 2 quart canteen; 48 foot lariat; spare leather ties and Chicago screws.

Have fun and safe journey.

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