Trail riding can be a great and rewarding experience for both horse and rider. Getting out of the ring helps horse and rider gain confidence as well as build trust in one another. If you are looking to hit the trails but aren’t sure where to go, there are several ways to find some great trails in your area:
- Ask around the barn- Someone at your barn may know of some trails in the area and is willing to show them to you.
- Ask your local horse club- People at your local horse club will probably know about local trails and will be happy to show you around.
- Look at the U.S. National Park Service website- National parks have plenty of trails for horseback riders! Go to http://www.nps.gov/findapark to find a National Park near you! You can sort by activity as well as location.
Once you find the perfect trail to start out on, you will also want to make sure that your horse is suitable to go out on the trail. You will want to make sure that your horse knows basic commands, such as how to walk, trot, stop, and turn. If your horse can do this, you will then want to make sure that your horse is fit enough to go on the trail ride that you are planning. If the trail is a steep ride that lasts about two hours, if your horse is only used to being ridden lightly once a week for about an hour each time, he will not be fit enough to do the ride.
Before You Go On Your Ride
You will want to check over your tack and make sure that it is sturdy. Check your saddle and bridle looking for any cracking or broken leather. Broken tack on the trail can be even more dangerous than if you were just riding in the ring!
Go over where you plan on riding with someone who is not going with you. Let them know where you plan on going and how long you are expecting to be gone.
Check the weather! You should make sure that you will have a safe ride. The weather can change throughout the day. You don’t want to leave in the morning when the sky is blue and the sun is out, just to have a thunder storm appear in the afternoon.
Things To Take On Your Ride
When you’re out on the trail, any of your normal tack and riding clothes will do. There are some items that you may want to purchase for different situations in order to make your life safer and easier.
Riding On Roads/ Riding In Hunting Areas
If you are riding near a roadway or in an area where someone may be hunting, you will want to make sure that both you and your horse are visible. Wearing an Equisafety jacket or vest is a great way to make sure that you are visible. Equisafety is reflective sportswear that allows you to ride comfortably, but still remain visible to others. These products are available in bright colors such as orange, pink, and yellow to ensure that you don’t blend in with your surroundings.
If you are planning on riding on roads, either paved or gravel, or areas with a lot of rough terrain, and your horse is barefoot, you may want to consider buying some hoof boots for your horse. This is not a replacement for the everyday shoe, but if you need to temporarily protect your horse’s feet, this is a great way to do so. The Cavallo Simple Boot is one example of a hoof boot. This particular boot is made of lightweight, durable materials and rustproof metals in order to keep your horse comfortable, but are still made to last. These boots are waterproof and have built in drainage to avoid holding in moisture for the duration of your ride. The high performance sole absorbs shock and has a great grip to keep your horse from slipping around. The Simple Boot also has a built-in sole relief bar to take pressure off the sole, frog and bars but allows the hoof to expand and contract for improved circulation!
Going On Long Rides
If you are planning on taking a long trail ride, there are a few items that may be beneficial to you. When going on a long ride, you will need some storage to hold a snack or lunch, as well as anything else you may need. If you are in an English saddle, you could use the TuffRider Trail Riding Pad. This pad is an extra large saddle pad with a large pocket for storing the essentials. Another great item for English riders are the Irideon Cadence Cargo Breeches. These breeches have the regular hip pockets as well as cargo pockets, so you can carry extra items on you such as your cell phone and horse treats. This riding staple is comfortable and functional whether you’re out on the trail, in the ring, or doing chores at the barn.
For Western riders, the Noble Outfitter Trail Blazer Saddle Bag is the perfect item to carry any extra items that you will need on the trail. This durable bag is made with 600-denier, 100% Polyester Canvas fabric with a water repellent finish and an interior coating for easy care. These saddle bags also have a 12 can cooler pouch that will not leak, so you can take some sodas on the go for a refreshing treat on your trail ride.
Areas With Lots Of Bugs
If you are riding in a place with tall grass or riding in the woods, you will be likely to encounter a lot of bugs. Luckily, there are some great products for both horse and rider to help get rid of those nuisances and make your ride more enjoyable.
For your horse, Cashel has created the Quiet Ride fly mask that is available in several different options. You can find it in Regular Fly Mask, Long Nose Fly Mask, Fly Mask with Ears, and Long Nose Fly Mask With Ears. The Quiet Ride is a translucent fly mask that allows your horse to see clearly, but is still able to keep the bugs away from his face. These fly masks can also either be worn under or over your bridle.
For people, there is the Cashel Quiet Ride Bug Net. This amazing tool is easy to attach to your helmet, and is made with the same easy-to-see-through netting that is on your horse’s Quiet Ride fly mask! Once the net is on, your face, ears, and neck are protected from annoying gnats and biting insects.