Thursday, July 7, 2011

Trail Riding Etiquette

I received this e-mail from Collette: ”Thanks for the article on Trail Riding planning. I ride almost every weekend with my friends and we’re all girls. One of the boys from the barn and sometimes two of them will ride with us but they are always doing things to make us nervous. Sometimes without warning they will race ahead of us or they will go off the trail then come back behind us and race towards us. Two of the girls are fairly new and get really nervous and their horses become nervous as well. Are our horses going to get better (less nervous) where they will ignore this? Should we not be accepting this behavior? Or should we talk to the boys about being more careful around the newer riders? None of us are leaders so it sort of hard to figure out what to do.”

Hey Collette, your horses are acting just like horses…and those boys,..well, they should be schooled in trail riding manners. If you are riding in a group, I think the group should be riding at the comfort level at the least experienced rider. Probably best to talk about this and agree on what your group is going to do and not going to do before you ride out. Over time and with a lot of wet saddle blankets your horses will get better as will the riders.

In a trail riding group it is not acceptable to do anything to place the other riders or their horses at risk. The last thing you need or want is a horse and rider suddenly galloping off and possible spooking another horse, and not riding away then coming back at the group, especially from behind, at a high speed.

When you ride in a group it is a good time to help your horse accept being separated from the group. One way is to stop your horse and let the other riders ride a distance away but still in sight,.....say 50 yards to begin with, then stop. The separated horse and rider then moves toward the group. The separated horse may get anxious and want to increase his speed to get to the group, because they are herd animals and see safety in a group. If so, the rider rates him keeping him at a walk. This is where you have to be a leader. You are leading your horse to a conclusion that he can trust you; that he can be away from the herd and be okay.

As your horse becomes sacked out on being away from the herd when he away from the barn, you can increase the distance and even be out of line of sight. The graduation exercise is where you can ride him alone. Although if you ride alone let someone know where you are going, the route you are taking and when you will be back....having a cell phone is good idea too.

To tell you the truth I had a hard time understanding your questions and I hope I did a decent enough job answering them. But to re-cap, your trail group needs to have a group wide understanding and agreement of safety and how you are going to ride. It would be polite to ask everyone, “everyone feel like loping off?” and if someone is uncomfortable,....well then, you ride to the lowest comfortable level. This is just basic communications, communicate with actions to horses and verbally to your fellow riders. Talk to each other as you encounter possible problem spots in the trail and make each other aware of where you are at.

Those boys are also needing to get some manners and maybe you can give them that look, know that look at woman are so good at giving menfolk when we get out of line.

Good luck and Safe Journey.

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