Today I am posting a Guest Blog by Gayle Jorgenson of The Fuzzy Fanatic
Gayle writes about dogs, cats, horses, and occasionally humans. Her blog is entertaining and lively. This blog post is essentially a beginners guide to going on a trail ride. I can tell you that knowing horses and trail riding as I do her advice is sound and practical.
10 Things to Avoid on Your First Trail Ride
By Gayle Jorgenson
When I was 11, I rode in my first trail ride. I was assigned a young, brown-and-white horse named Taboo for the ride, which was to be a group outing. Up until that point, I had ridden exclusively in a fenced arena, so I was nervous, and I think maybe Taboo was also.
Whatever the reason, it didn’t end well.
During a stretch of trail through corn fields, Taboo started cantering without my permission (I had almost never cantered before). I quickly tried to half-halt, but he ignored me. I felt like he was running away with me. Someone yelled for me to make a circle to slow him down, so I did, but I made the circle too tiny.
I fell off and hit the dirt.
Fortunately, I wasn’t hurt, just a little shaken. Taboo stopped only a few feet away from me, so I was able to get up and grab his reins. It may seem like a small thing to you, but to me as a little kid, it was scary and embarrassing to lose control in front of all my riding friends.
So here’s how you can avoid repeating my mistakes.
1. Don’t Try Anything New. Galloping and jumping are dangerous, especially if you just began trying them. Cantering is also risky, as I personally can testify, so take it slow. Don’t use any new tack if you can help it, since horses like familiarity.
2. Don’t Ride an Energetic Horse. On that first trail ride, a girl I knew rode a pony who kept trotting when he was supposed to be walking. The little guy was at the back of the pack but obviously didn’t want to be there, and he was a feisty one, so he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Hence, my poor friend spent the whole ride half-halting and pulling her pony in circles, trying to slow him down. So yeah. If you have a choice, don’t ride a spirited horse. If you don’t have a choice, make sure to give him a good workout before starting.
3. Don’t Ride Somewhere Noisy. Roads are a bad idea because many horses are terrified of the metal monsters called “cars”.
4. Don’t Ride Someplace with Dogs Around. Canines will bark and spook your horse; or they might chase you. In a worst-case scenario, they could even attack your horse – but that’s not common, thankfully.
5. Don’t Go Alone. If something happens, you’ll want to have someone there to help you. Try to find a buddy to come with you, preferably one who is a seasoned pro at trail riding.
6. Don’t Ride in a Herd, Either. My ride on Taboo was with a group of about a dozen riders. This meant that not only did I have to learn how to trail ride, but I also had to learn the rules of riding in a crowd. At the time, I was unaware of the “leave one-and-a-half horse lengths when following another horse” concept. Fortunately, nothing bad came of this, but it easily could have.
7. Don’t “Zone Out”. When you’re on the trail, you must be aware of your surroundings. If you tune the world out, your horse could be spooked by something you didn’t notice, and you might fall. Keep an eye out for animals, people, and anything moving – even trash blowing in the breeze is a possible hazard. Ideally, you would also watch your horse’s footing as you ride along.
8. Don’t Go Unprepared. Take some safety precautions, such as wearing a helmet, and carrying a phone with you. Consider what the weather is supposed to be like. You should tell someone where you’re headed, too – just in case.
9. Don’t Be Nervous. I completely understand that this one is easier said than done, but it still should be your goal. Try to relax and have fun. That’s what you’re here for, after all.
10. Don’t Canter in a Tiny Circle While Riding a Horse Named Taboo in a Corn Field. Because you’ll fall off. Clearly.