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trail etiquette for dummies

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  • trail etiquette for dummies

    Dear experienced trail riders:

    I have recently started half-leasing a nice 8 yr. old OTTB who lives on a property that is adjacent to nice long (a few miles?) trails in both directions from the farm. Yesterday, I went on my first trail ride off the property, and promptly committed a bit of a gaffe, by going ahead at a canter for a short distance w/o consulting w/ my trail companions. It was explained to me that this has the potential to upset the other horses, who think they are being left behind and are apt to want to take off to catch the other horse. Nothing bad happened, and I've learned that lesson, won't make that error again. But afterwards I thought I would post a question here: can anyone list some basic do's and don't's for newbie trail riders? I hope to go out w/ the group once a week or so, and want to be a reasonably safe and welcome companion on the trail. I understand that riding out in the great outdoors is a very different thing than schooling in a ring, and want to do things right and improve my knowledge and skills.
    I tolerate all kinds of animal idiosyncrasies.
    I've found that I don't tolerate people idiosyncrasies as well. - Casey09

  • Original Poster

    #2
    Dear experienced trail riders:

    I have recently started half-leasing a nice 8 yr. old OTTB who lives on a property that is adjacent to nice long (a few miles?) trails in both directions from the farm. Yesterday, I went on my first trail ride off the property, and promptly committed a bit of a gaffe, by going ahead at a canter for a short distance w/o consulting w/ my trail companions. It was explained to me that this has the potential to upset the other horses, who think they are being left behind and are apt to want to take off to catch the other horse. Nothing bad happened, and I've learned that lesson, won't make that error again. But afterwards I thought I would post a question here: can anyone list some basic do's and don't's for newbie trail riders? I hope to go out w/ the group once a week or so, and want to be a reasonably safe and welcome companion on the trail. I understand that riding out in the great outdoors is a very different thing than schooling in a ring, and want to do things right and improve my knowledge and skills.
    I tolerate all kinds of animal idiosyncrasies.
    I've found that I don't tolerate people idiosyncrasies as well. - Casey09

    Comment


    • #3
      I can add another hint or two to your list:

      -If someone dismounts (i.e. to open a gate), move out of the way and wait until he or she is mounted before riding on.

      -If you cross an obstacle (steep bank, creek, etc), pause where you won't get run over until the horses behind you are fairly close, then ride on. Horses are prone to worry about being left behind, and a dangerous section of trail is the last place you want them fretting. Ditto some place you want the horse to drink--the whole group should stay together so horses will relax and actually drink.

      -Be aware of the horses around you, especially when the group is slowing to the walk. Don't let your horse run up the butt of or run past another horse. Both are good ways to get yourself kicked.

      -(Here's the one that cleaned my right off my pony as a little sprout, when someone forgot...) If you're riding through the woods and branches are across the trail, don't hang on and snap them back into the rider behind you.

      -And, finally, if anyone is having trouble with his or her horse, is a novice, or has a green horse, please be extra considerate. Most of the times I've been bucked off have been when I was riding a green horse and another rider did something very thoughtless.
      ---------------------------

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        Thank you both. I'm taking notes.
        I tolerate all kinds of animal idiosyncrasies.
        I've found that I don't tolerate people idiosyncrasies as well. - Casey09

        Comment


        • #5
          The lead rider has the benefit of seeing problems first. For example, if you are riding in forested terrain, it is nice to say for instance, "head" when there is a low branch, "knee" when there is a tree close to the trail. This can be modified by "right knee," etc. "Poison oak on the right" is a good thing to point out. Saying, "hole" if there is one in the trail is also nice to say. Golden rule stuff.

          Comment


          • #6
            I'll add a couple more general ones:

            -Make sure you have permission to ride where ever you are riding. Just because there's a trail that people use doesn't mean it's public access. Landowners are much more cordial to folks who stop and talk to them, rather than assuming.

            -Any trail can be a multi-use trail. That means, keep your eyes and ears open for hikers, bikers, dogs, wildlife, etc. Especially when moving faster than a walk. Mountain bikes can be very scary, especially if they come from behind. Campfire ashes, dogs, deer, even people on foot can cause a spook. It's considered impolite to fly around a corner and run over some hikers on the trail. <grins> DO be sure to thank people who stand aside for you to pass--you are an ambassador, and how politely you act will be a big factor in how many non-riders support horse access to trails in the future. Consider getting off and leading your horse (i.e. past a family with kids) or at least turning its butt away if you can't get off the trail to allow others to pass.

            -Do carry at least basic equipment: cell phone, halter and lead rope, hoof pick, pressure bandage, etc. Plan for *something* to happen (i.e. person too injured to ride, etc) and know what you're going to do, the nearest point you can bring a trailer, car, meet a vet or ambulence, etc. Preplanning helps a lot when something unexpected happens.
            ---------------------------

            Comment


            • #7
              Communicate with your group. *let's canter here* or what ever.

              Do not pass w/o warning, especialy at a faster pace, that could ring the bell for an ugly race!

              Keep a safe disctance from the other horses...stay off of agricutural areas, don't ride through fields or pastures unless you have permission from the owner for that time. Ride slow past lifestock, even cows can get the itch to run and buck!
              Be polite to others on the trail, don't blow past them at high speed (it ruins it for everybody else)

              The FN in Germany has put out a little book that leads up to the *Reiterpass* a little badge to show you know your way around the great outdoors...
              Originally posted by BigMama1
              Facts don't have versions. If they do, they are opinions
              GNU Terry Prachett

              Comment


              • #8
                Recognize the capabilities and limitations of the other horses and riders. You may want to canter for 1/2 a mile straight but some other horses or riders may only be capable of cantering 20 strides. So be sure you talk with all members of your trailride BEFORE you set out. Make sure everyone understands what everybody else is capable of...don't just spring it on them at the last minute.

                Also, if you're the lead horse and are traveling at a fast gait, you need to be able to look over your shoulder and make sure everyone is following. Don't just get in the lead in a canter and turn a deaf ear to those behind you

                Everybody else's suggestions were excellent!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Please, please do not feed your horse treats while mounted. I had a few miserable rides with one woman who had to feed her horse a carrot every mile or so for a 'reward'. Of course all the horses could smell it, and wanted one too!

                  No laughing when your best friend gets hung by her bra on the saddle horn while dismounting

                  Give someone time to navigate an obstacle and make it thru before you start your horse into it.

                  I second the 'no holding back branches' rule. We have a trail called 'slap your boob trail' because of that very thing. We also have a 'poke your eye out trail' too.

                  Keep at least a 1/2 a horse length between you and the horse in front. I don't enjoy feeling your horse breathing on me for 20 miles, neither does my horse, and he might let you know about it!

                  Personally, I think at the start of a group ride everyone should have a frank discussion of how long, how fast, and how rough. Could save a lot a hurt feelings from forming.
                  Facta non verba

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    adding:

                    -don't run where you don't know the footing...gopher holes can be deceptive.

                    -pay attention to the horses near you, especially if they are green/nervous/etc so you are ready for anything

                    -and have water. water is essential. however water FIGHTS are not!

                    Comment

                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      This is all great stuff.

                      The place where my half-lease horse lives is a farm on a reservoir west of Baltimore, and you can walk off the property onto park trails through the woods around the reservoir. Gentle hills, both pine and hardwood, and a number of small streams to cross that feed the reservoir -- some over small wooden bridges, and others to walk / sorta jump through and over. Nice dirt footing on the trail, not too rocky, decently maintained. Deer, fox, and lots of birds are common. So, basically, it's heaven, and I am so psyched to get to ride there. :-) Since it's an eventer barn, we are very happy to get the horses accustomed to water and small drops to water and other distractions. Thank you all again for your very helpful tips, I plan on particularly taking water & my cell phone next time, along w/ a halter & a small first aid kit.
                      I tolerate all kinds of animal idiosyncrasies.
                      I've found that I don't tolerate people idiosyncrasies as well. - Casey09

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        My personal favorite: if you're going to attempt to pass, first make sure the trail is wide enough! and then ask if you can pass. If the trail is reasonably wide, then politely say "Passing on your right/left" when you come upon a horse ahead. I always say this on any trail - no matter if I'm passing a hiker or biker or another rider. This way they're aware of me.

                        Everyone else has contributed great ideas. My personal pet peeve is people leaving a water stop right when my mare drops her head to drink. Once they move off, she refuses to drink.
                        Pictures: http://community.webshots.com/user/ride2endure

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Some more tips:

                          If someone decides to go back, make sure they tell the rest of the group so you're not riding around searching for them.

                          Don't pass the ride leader

                          Red ribbons on the tail of kickers; green ribbons on green horses.

                          No riding double.

                          Don't let your horse bound up hills. Not only is it better conditioning to have your horse walk, it won't leave a green or insecure horse anxious to catch up.

                          Bring your helmet and wear it!

                          If you're at a trail head, clean up your manure and bring it home if there's no manure disposal area. Don't don't don't sweep your manure out of your trailer and leave it at the trail head. Nothing gives a worse impression to other users than piles of manure all over. This can't be stressed enough.
                          Ride Mustangs - An American Original!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by lawndart:
                            No laughing when your best friend gets hung by her bra on the saddle horn while dismounting

                            . </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

                            I had to laugh as this happened to me. Unfortunately, I was dismounting a 17h horse. I got hung up on the horn (I ride English), and as I swung down the bra caught pulling my shirt over my head and leaving me hanging.

                            ...in front of my new, cutie trainer. I haven't ridden western since.
                            One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. - Virginia Woolf

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Just stressing a few things others have said or hinted at --

                              - At the risk of sounding corny: "leave only hoofprints"... no trash, litter, cigarette butts on public land, or ANY land

                              - Leave everything the way you found it, especially gates. Just because you don't see animals in a field doesn't mean there aren't any.

                              - Err on the side of over-zealousness when it comes to picking up manure. If you think there's even a remote possibility that someone will be offended or inconvenienced by where your horse did #2, get it out of there (even just pushed off the trail/walk)

                              - In case it wasn't clear... what everyone has posted about the branches is the OPPOSITE to what you might think is courteous, so read it carefully. Yes, we are actually saying DO NOT try to be nice and hold branches back for someone behind you. It isn't usually possible, and invites more pain and injury. Simply go through the branches watching out for yourself and your horse... there will be much less twanging and snapping for the person behind you to beware of!
                              Shall I tell you what I find beautiful about you? You are at your very best when things are worst.
                              Starman

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                You guys have lots of great tips. I'm also new to trail riding so I'm taking notes, too.

                                Quick question: one one of the public park pamphlets it said that on trails designated for "multi-use", riders must clean up after their horses. Do they really mean the group has to stop, a rider dismounts, and poo is removed every time a horse makes apples? Can you just move the manure off the trail or do they need it put in designated places? (wondering about the practicality of all this) Or maybe I misunderstood and they meant only when horses were going to be standing around (i.e. when tied) and making a large amount of poo ?
                                Veterinarians for Equine Welfare

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I don't recall if this was mentioned yet...

                                  If a rider has to dismount for any reason (intentional or unintentional), wait for the rider to mount again before continueing on. If I'm in a large group and the ride leader is a 1/2 mile up the trail, the call of "rider down" is sent up the line. Once the rider is back up, the call of "Rider up" is sent up the line to signal it is ok to continue on.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    MayS,

                                    You'll get the best answer by calling or stopping by the park office and asking them to clarify the "horse poo" procedures.

                                    I *suspect* that at the very least you'd be expected to kick poo off the trail and spread it out well in the vegetation so it goes away fast.

                                    I worked with horses in Rocky Mtn Nat'l Park a couple of summers. The trails were mainly for horses and DRY. Dry enough that hours-old poo was mummified and pretty inert. (I jogged these same trails, so had a good view. ) BUT. Just about every single group of hikers we met had some comment about the gross poo on the trails.

                                    Out east, where it's wetter, it's a lot harder to keep from grossing out pedestrians with a little 'nature'. Do talk to the people running the trails and try to accomodate whatever they expect--otherwise, there'll probably be enough complaints to get horses removed from the list of trail users.
                                    ---------------------------

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      What, no pictures!!

                                      <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by Fast Alice:
                                      <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by lawndart:
                                      No laughing when your best friend gets hung by her bra on the saddle horn while dismounting

                                      . </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

                                      I had to laugh as this happened to me. Unfortunately, I was dismounting a 17h horse. I got hung up on the horn (I ride English), and as I swung down the bra caught pulling my shirt over my head and leaving me hanging.

                                      ...in front of my new, cutie trainer. I haven't ridden western since. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>
                                      Facta non verba

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Hi, just had to chime in here, add my 2 cents..
                                        - if carrying a cellphone, please have the ringer turned off! Nothing more "fun" on a trailride than a horse that's never heard one ring before.
                                        - carry a shoestring or similar piece of leather in a pocket - I had a rein come off one side of my bit one time, had to ride the rest of the way with one shoestringless boot!
                                        - Better idea - check your tack BEFORE you leave for any potential problems.

                                        Comment

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