Trail Rides Are Great for Horse and Rider

Whether you're a dressage rider or a barrel racer, there are few things better for you and your horse than a trail ride.

I am always amazed at the number of people who have never ridden outside a ring. They don't know what they are missing. It doesn't matter if you are experienced enough to wander the woods alone or are out on a group ride, there is nothing quite like enjoying nature from the back of a horse.

Trail riding lends itself to many things – from cool-down to conditioning, to seasoning a skittish green (untrained) horse, to providing a mental break for you and your mount. It's terrific to tone down or tune up a competition horse. It teaches him that the demands he normally expects when you climb on his back can sometimes be replaced with pure fun. It also can provide a training opportunity. There are many movements that can be practiced on the trail – sizing up the distance to a log, doing haunches in or turns on the hocks.

And a jaunt on the trail is as relaxing for the horse as the rider. The more you do it, the less hyper your horse will be when you take him into the show ring or any other new environment.

Tips For Your Trail Ride

Group rides can provide useful learning situations, especially for green horses. They learn to go quietly from their older, seasoned trail mates who don't spook at every squirrel. It also helps them to conquer other frightening circumstances – natural obstacles such as water, fallen logs or traffic. Here are a few tips if you're planning a trail ride:

Many people advocate taking a cell phone on solitary trail rides. There are special cell phone cases available in the equine catalogs that clip to the dee rings on your saddle or your belt. This probably is a good idea – just remember to charge it.