Trail Riding Etiquette (from John Lyon's Perfect Horse Magazine)
Have you ever been on a trail ride enjoying a relaxing ride in the woods, only to have another rider come galloping past your horse without so much as a "rider coming up" or "coming fast behind" or "here we come!"?As your horse becomes nearly uncontrollable, you probably have a few choice words about the rude and dangerous rider who has not learned the finer points of etiquette while riding with others.
Though Webster's dictionary defines etiquette as "rules governing socially acceptable behavior," a code of ethics while riding in a group of horses is even more important because it can determine the safety of other riders and their horses.
If you normally ride alone in an arena at home or open field nearby home, practice riding with other horses before going on a large ride. Working with your horse at home will pay off.Other riders will appreciate the control you have over your horse, even if he is acting frisky or frightened. His trail "manners" will improve every time you take him on the trail with others, and you may be able to avoid serious trail accidents if he knows his lessons well.
If you do decide to take a green or ill mannered horse on a ride be sure that you alert everyone before the ride starts of your horses potential behaviors so they may distance themselves if they think your horse might upset theirs.
RIDER MANNERS - Since riders are responsible for the decisions they make regarding not only their safety, but the safety of their horses and the others around them, it is critical that they be aware of the general rules of the trail. Regardless of whether you are on an organized pleasure or benefit ride, or out with a small group of friends, you need to be aware of AND corteous to the riding abilities of those you are with, and the level of training the least experienced horse and rider has.
DO NOT pass the lead rider unless instructed to do so. Also, do not fall behind the "drag" rider (last scout rider bringing up the rear of the group) without letting him know you are doing so.
WAIT until ALL riders have had a chance to mount and settle on their horses before riding out. Most horses get nervous and will want to move off when the group starts leaving.A horse feeling he's being left behind could cause him to buck his rider off or dance around so much it's impossible for the rider to mount.
Whether riding on an organized ride or a group pleasure ride, DON'T separate yourself from the other riders or drift off the trail without letting someone know. Notify the trail boss or another rider if you or someone near you is having a problem with their horse or tack and needs to stop.
NEVER PASS another horse at any gait (ESPECIALLY at the canter) WITHOUT NOTIFYING the rider you are doing so. It is best not to pass in a fast manner at all and is considered rude.It is a sure invitation to get kicked or crowded off the trail or cause other rider's horses to get upset.
Maintain one horse-length distance between each horse to avoid being kicked or bitten. If you cannot control your horse enough to maintain the distance, politely ask the other rider to move out of the way at the first safe opportunity, then move your horse an appropriate distance from the other horses. If your horse is misbehaving keep to the back of the trail line so your horse doesn't upset others horses.
WALK up and down hills or gullies or control your horses at a steady pace. Most horses by nature want to use momentum to carry them up the other side of a steep hill or gully so be prepared for this!!They prefer to rush down and back up out again. Many times they will run right into the horse in front of them if you aren't careful.
Also, DON'T STOP at the top of the hill when another rider is behind you, KEEP MOVING! If the horse behind cannot get enough momentum to get out of the gully or up the hill, their only choice may be to go back down again dangerously, risking a fall.
CALL BACK to other riders of hazards in the trail such as holes, drop-offs, glass bottles, wire on the ground, low branches, snakes or cars. Don't hold onto branches as you go under or past because this causes the branch to sling back into the face of the next rider or horse. (We've ALL been there...)
WALK across pavement. Usually steel-shod hooves and pavement don't mix well and are very dangerous.You don't want to end up in a heap on the asphalt.
WAIT until all horses have had a chance to drink BEFORE riding away from a watering spot. Most horses won't stay and drink their fill if the group has moved away from them. On long rides, it is imperative that horses have adequate chances to drink plenty of water.Be considerate of other's horses well being, not just your own.
RESPECT the property you are riding on. Pack out everything you bring in, and NEVER litter. Do not disturb the land in any way.Littering or land destruction can be a certain way to lose trail-riding privileges on both private property and government lands.Follow the rules that property owners and government parks set. Rules are usually put in place for the SAFETY of you, and your horse and the protection of the land.
Leave gates as you found them! You would not want to be responsible for letting livestock out onto roads or other people's property.
Bear in mind that many trails are multi-use. You might be sharing them not only with fellow riders, but with hikers, joggers, cyclists and motorcyclists. Never run past hikers and such scaring them or pass too closely to them.Often, these people aren't familiar with how to act around horses and are scared of them, so it's best to either give them the right of way or plenty of forewarning that you're coming. You may also have to prepare your horse at home for these types of distractions.
Be aware that normal movements, for instance, removing your jacket or taking a raincoat out of your pack while you're in the saddle, could frighten another person's horse. The same is true of simple things like handing a water bottle or sandwich to another rider. Also, be aware that while you may be able to talk on your cell phoneand ride, your horse could well drift into a space where he's bugging another horse or rider, or crowding up to another horse's hindquarters or hogging the trail.
EQUIPMENT CONSIDERATIONS. Check all your tack before leaving on a trail ride. Tack problems in remote areas not only pose safety hazards, they can spoil the day's ride for you and fellow riders. It's a good idea to carry spare parts such as leather or nylon straps, hoof boots in case a shoe is lost, all purpose tool or knife, large "zip-ties" and an extra lead rope/halter.
Place a RED (or Orange) Ribbon in the tail of a known or suspected kicker. That tells riders approaching from behind that your horse may kick or otherwise display dangerous behavior to other horses.
You may also place a GREEN ribbon in the tail of a novice or greenhorse. Though the ribbon alerts riders about your horse's experience, it DOESN'T relieve you of responsibility to control your horse. Not kicking another horse or rider is your responsibility. Keep your horse busy and focused on your signals and he won't have time to react to the other horses.
Place a YELLOW (or White) ribbon in the tail of stallions, and keep them under control at all times. Make sure before hand it is okay to bring stallions to a ride.The danger factor to others increases considerably with stallions on the trail, so be sure your horse has adequate training.
RIDING WITH COMMON SENSE. Most accidents or challenges on the trail can be avoided by using these common sense approaches to good manners and etiquette.
Remember to BE POLITE to other riders and horses while enjoying the countryside.
Keep a positive attitude EVEN while things are not going exactly as planned, and you will find that you can enjoy a pleasant ride with a group of fellow horsemen.
Let's be careful out there and take care of each other and our horses!
Don't forget to pack something to share for lunch... Rusties LOVE to eat after a trail ride!