Before You Leave the Yard:
- Tell someone where you plan to go and how long you will be.
- Check the weather and dress accordingly.
- You’ll be more comfortable if you have snack and drink before you leave, especially if you plan to be out for more than an hour or so. Pack snacks and drinks along if you’ll be out all afternoon. (Not really a safety issue, but I get light headed if I forget to eat and that takes the fun out of a ride.) Make sure your horse has been fed and watered too.
- Wear your helmet and proper boots or safety stirrups.
The Horse and Equipment:
- Your horse should be calm and traffic safe. Find out before heading out on trail. Ride in a pasture along a road. Invite a dirt bike or ATV driver to ride up and down your driveway.
- Your horse should be reasonably well schooled and obedient.
- Your tack should always be sturdy. A broken rein might be a problem in the ring, but it could be a disaster on the trail.
- If you plan to tie, take along a halter that can be put on over the bridle and a lead rope. Never tie a horse by the reins. Learn to tie safely.
- Take along a hoof pick, a pocket knife (some people recommend wire cutters), and a small first aid kit if you will be far from help.
- If you have the technology use it. Cell phones and GPS are handy to have in an emergency. Thick tree foliage might interfere with reception, so a hilltop or open field might have to be found. Of course an old-fashioned map and compass might help too.
On the Trail:
- Walk the first half-mile (kilometer) or so to warm up muscles
- Ride with awareness. Know where problems might occur—such as a water crossing, passing by a kennel or an unusually painted fence or mailbox.
- Keep two horse distances apart to avoid kicking.
- Go the speed of the greenest horse or the most inexperienced rider.
- Walk up and down steep hills.
- Know the local wildlife. If bears are a concern know how to prevent an encounter.
- Avoid riding along roads if possible, especially at peak traffic times or in darkness.
- Go the same speed. Don’t trot or gallop past someone going a slower pace.
- Warn riders behind you of low branches, stumps, holes or other hazards.
- Hand signals for horseback riders are the same as hand signals used by cyclists. Use them to signal riders at the back of the pack and along roads.
- Ride well-known trails when the light is poor such as nightfall or very early morning.
- Walk your horse the last half-mile home. This will cool him out and prevent him learning to rush back to the barn.