Trail Riding Etiquette for Horse and Rider

Horses October 10, 2013 Print Friendly and PDF

Trail Etiquette Reminders

Here are some trail etiquette reminders:

  • Need to bring negative Coggins/health papers if traveling out of state, in state, negative Coggins needed only
  • Wear an ASTM/SEI approved helmet
  • Check cinch/girth before mounting/during ride
  • Keep kickers in back; identify them
  • Riders should not pass at a different speed than gait you are traveling at
  • Let others know when passing and what side you will pass on; choose a clearing
  • Keep at least a horse length back
  • If passing a branch, do not let it swing back into next rider’s/next rider’s mounts face – can lift it straight up
  • Do not hold onto a branch until you fall off!!
  • If you hear a strange noise, turn your horse to face it when you hear it which will help the horse identify it and may prevent it from running off
  • Hikers and bikers and vehicles should yield to you but may not: be prepared!
  • Put riders with less experience in the middle of the group
  • If you need an equipment adjustment, let lead rider know and stop the horses to fix it
  • Never tie a horse with the bridle reins and tie only to safe/secure items on trail
  • Lead horse should be well-trained
  • Lead rider should be experienced and know where they are going
  • Lead rider should block the trail with mount if in a safety situation or for tack adjustment while backup rider attends to situation
  • Lead rider should alert other riders to gait transition, stops, wildlife, hazards on the trail
  • Stallions, if allowed along, should be ridden in front and by person experienced in riding/handling stallions

 

Advice for crossing a road:

  • If riding on road, ride facing traffic
  • Wear clothing that is visible
  • Consider a reflective vest
  • Have horse acclimated to traffic
  • If riding in a group, have last rider come to front and stand on yellow line, blocking road and stopping traffic for others
  • Have everyone else walk directly across the road
  • Be prepared for honking, stones flying, etc.

 

Advice for crossing streams:

  • Have horse negotiate water in arena prior to going on the trail
  • Sandwich effect – put the horse unfamiliar with water behind a horse that is familiar with water and in front of one that is familiar with water
  • Look straight ahead
  • Allow horse to touch water with hoof, take a drink, encourage it to go forward

 

Advice for riding uphill:

  • Traveling uphill changes the horse’s center of gravity, therefore lean forward slightly to center your weight over the horse
  • Stay out of horse’s way
  • May need to use a breast collar to keep saddle in place

 

Advice for riding downhill:

  • When going downhill the horse’s center of gravity will change, the rider should lean slightly back to center your weight over the horse.
  • Trust horse
  • Look up and ahead

 

Advice for encountering wildlife/other trail users:

  • Sudden emergence of wildlife/other users may cause a horse to spook
  • Horses are prey animals therefore they have a flight instinct
  • Keep a bold horse at the lead of the ride
  • Teach horse to recover rapidly through ground handling and exercises
  • Turn horse toward a noise if you hear it

 

Find out more about trail riding:

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.