Autumn is the perfect time of year to enjoy a long trail ride with your horse, while taking in the beauty of the season. But before you head out on the trail be sure you’re prepared, to assure you and your horse both enjoy a safe and pleasant ride.
Prepare Your Horse
Before venturing out with your equine companion, be sure his confidence and fitness levels are adequate for the ride you have planned. If he is inexperienced on trails, slowly desensitize him to unique situations such as uneven terrain, water, dogs and traffic by taking short practice rides, slowly increasing to longer rides as his confidence grows.
Pack a Supply Kit
Proper planning goes a long way. Bring along a few essentials to assure you’re prepared for the unknown. Suggested items include: water, duct tape, a sharp knife, string, snacks, hoof pick, first aid kit for horses and humans, sunscreen, insect repellant, your ID, tissues and a whistle.
Always wear a helmet on the trails and consider gloves, chaps and a vest with pockets. Well-fitted splint boots and bell boots will provide proper protection for your horse’s legs as well. Check and double check your tack before heading out to assure it’s adjusted properly on your horse and in good condition.
I.D. Your Horse
It’s wise to attach an I.D. tag to your horse listing your horse’s name, your name, phone number and farm address. If you fall off or your horse gets loose, this will help assure that when your horse is caught, you can easily be reunited.
There’s Safety in Numbers
It’s always best to ride in groups rather than alone, while maintaining one horse length between horses. Pay attention to your horse and those around you at all times, and at stopping points, maintain distance, don’t allow social interaction between horses and position your horse’s hind quarters away from others. Designating an experienced trail leader and knowing ahead of time which horses are prone to aggressive behavior will also help assure the safety of the group.
Stick to the Trail
Stay on designated, well-marked trails. Plan your route ahead of time and consider taking a map and compass. Leave your emergency contact information, planned route and expected time of return with park officials and/or friends and family.
Carry Your Cell Phone
Begin your ride with a fully charged cell phone and consider bringing a portable charger as well. If you will be riding in an area known for unreliable cell service, you may consider long-range, two-way radios to assure you have the ability to contact others in the event of an emergency. These items should remain on you at all times rather than in a saddle bag; if your horse gets loose you will be happy they didn’t escape with him.
A pleasant trail ride through the autumn foliage can be one of the most enjoyable experiences you have with your horse, and with a few preparations and informed decisions you can help assure it’s a safe adventure for all.