Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Trail Riding

I was at the feed store the other day and over heard a couple of people talking about horses. One asked the other what type of riding she did, and she said, "Just Trail Riding." Quickly the person who asked said, that's cool, and then began to talk about her exploits in competition and eventing.

This made me start to think about recreational trail riding and how it can be considered less serious than competitions.

Nothing could be further from the truth. So I thought to list a few ideas about trail riding; if nothing more, just to get it more clear in my own head.

1. A good trail horse needs to be well trained. Many think that if there is no competition, then training is not that important. Nothing could be further from the truth. In a competition, if your horse does not perform well, you could lose the competition. If you fall, medical attention is often immediate.

However, on a trail, you could be far from any of the modern amenities that keep us safe. Help could be far away, cell phones may not have coverage, and nature can be far less forgiving than a judge who gives low scores.

Nowhere is a well trained, reliable horse more important than when you are far from civilization and from assistance. A trail horse should be calm, compliant, and intelligent. I have met many horses who can fool judges into thinking that they have these qualities, but I have never met a horse who can fool mother nature.

2. A good trail horse needs to be fit. Fitness is imperative for all horses but never more so than for the horse who must haul a rider for hours and miles. A fit trail horse will be far less prone to injuries, and less prone to being trailer sour, or herd bound. Fit horses stumble less, and are generally more willing by virtue of the fact that they are more able.

3. Equipment for trail riding is even more important than for competitions. The primary purpose of equipment is for the comfort and ease of the Horse. And for a horse who will be hauling a rider for hours over many miles, the smallest discomfort can quickly become agony. Furthermore, trails are generally far away from the barn where ill fitting or broken equipment can be easily swapped out, or repaired. Thus, by the time you are ready to take a piece of equipment on the trail, you should be completely sure of its comfort, utility, and reliability.

4. Last but not least are your companions. These guidelines are not just for you, but should be for most of your fellow riders as well. Fellow riders and horses should be compatible in ability and skills. If your fellow riders are very experienced, it is inconsiderate to subject them to a horse who is not well mannered or fully trained. On the other hand, we should also be tolerant of others who are just starting out and give them as much assistance as we can.