One of the best parts of being an equestrian is getting out of the arena and hitting the trails with your favorite horse. Whether it’s to see the first sights of Spring, retreating to the shade of the woods on a hot Summer day, a colorful Autumn trot, or a run through fresh snow, it’s one of the most relaxing and fun things you can do on horseback. But, safety while on the trails should not be relaxed.
Things To Do Before You Hit the Trails
One of the first things you should always do before tacking up is check the weather—be prepared to see what Mother Nature might have for you while you’re on the trails. You don’t want to be stuck in an open field during a sudden deluge of rain, nor do you want to choose the hottest part of the day. Knowing the weather and conditions of your trail location is crucial for safety.
Check your tack for any signs of wear and tear—any slight tears in leather might be exasperated in a stressful situation, so you want to make sure everything is in good working condition for comfort and enjoyment of you and your steed.
Make a plan for your ride, even if it’s only a short 30-minute jaunt from the barn. Knowing where you’re going to go (or general vicinity) and how long you’ll be gone will be helpful if there’s an accident. Inform someone at home or the barn of where you are going and how long you expect to be gone. That way, if something does happen to go wrong, they will at least be able to respond quickly and point help in the right direction.
Make sure your cell phones are charged. Again, if something were to happen you would be able to call for help and most phones are equipped with GPS that can lead first responders to your location quickly. It’s also great to have them on hand to take photos of the view during your ride. If you’re the type who wants to use a trail ride to get away from it all, just silence your phone or turn on “Do Not Disturb,” just don’t go on a ride without one.
It’s best if you can ride with a buddy. Even if you’re planning to take your cell phone with you, you still need to have a companion with you to not only keep an eye on each other, but to share experiences and laughs with.
Things to Pack
Depending on the length and location of your trail ride, you might need to pack a lot or a little. No matter the length of ride, make sure you pack a sharp knife or multi-tool, in case you run into a situation that requires something more than the strength in your arms.
Also, consider packing snacks for you, just in case hunger strikes. If you plan to be on a half-day or longer ride, you might need to pack provisions for more of a meal (or two). Have a canteen or reusable water bottle filled with fresh drinking water for you to stay hydrated.
Depending on the weather and location, you might want to consider packing a raincoat or a jacket to protect yourself from the elements. The Ovation Topaz Jacket (right) is a great lightweight waterproof jacket that can be packed easily. For cooler weather, the waterproof and breathable Ovation Elsa Parka or the Ovation Deluxe Jacket might be a better choice. Remember that riding through the snow can be fun, but it’s important to also dress warm.
Also, consider packing at least a small first aid kit that includes bandages. You never know what you might run into and might need some anti-inflammatory medication or an adhesive bandage. Especially if you take regular prescribed medication, pack those in case they are needed.
If you’re going on a trail ride during the summer, consider packing a sponge to use on your horse to keep him cool and a bandana for you to soak. The sponge can be soaked with water and applied to his neck and body to cool off, and the bandana can be tied around your neck to keep your body temperature down.
Preparing to Mount Up
When you choose your outfit, make sure it’s comfortable for all day wear in the saddle and that, if needed, you can walk comfortably in your boots and breeches. You never know what you might run into on the trails, so having the proper outfit is key.
Protection for your head is crucial—make sure your helmet fits you appropriately and that you have sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun’s rays and whatever else might get into your eyes. Your clothing should also have some sun protection, especially if you’re riding during the middle of the day.
Also, it’s a good idea to wear clothing that is brightly colored and easy to spot from a long distance. This can help drivers see you if you have to ride or cross any roads along the way. This is especially true if you are riding during hunting season. The days can pass quickly when we’re out having fun with our horses. If you’re out at dusk, you should also consider using reflective wear for you and your horse, so that drivers can see you.
Check that your horse is sound before you tack up and load him into the trailer. Pay close attention to the condition of his hooves that there are no rocks in the soles and no chips starting on the wall. If you know your horse might be a bit tender-footed, consider using a hoof boot on the ride (as long as he’s used to it prior to use) to protect his soles.
And, above all, enjoy your time in the saddle and be thankful for the fresh air and beautiful sights you’re about to take in on your ride. Grab a selfie or two, listen to the breeze in the trees and let your horse stretch his legs a little.