Most trail accidents are preventable. Observation of some
tried and true trail manners can make the ride more pleasant and
much less dangerous.
Be safe and courteous; don't be the cause of someone
Don't take unsafe or untrained horses on a group ride.
These horses should be conditioned with experienced horses and
riders before being subjected to a larger group.
Check your gear before the ride. Make sure it is correct
and complete. (This goes for your horse, too.)
Arrive at the appointed meeting place on time. Late
starts are stressful. If you can't make it or are going to be
late, let someone know.
For longer rides, particularly in wooded areas, pack water
and a bright colored lightweight jacket.
Someone in the ride should pack a first aid kit, plastic
garbage bags, and a horse "utility kit". (See the "First Aid Kit"
and "Utility Kit" lists.)
Always have a "trail boss". Larger groups should also
have a drag rider. These should be experienced horsepersons who
can assist less experienced riders and horses, if necessary.
Use the "buddy system". Always be willing to lend a hand
if needed, and ask for help if you need it.
Horses that kick should be flagged with a red tail ribbon
to remind other riders to keep back.
Don't carry guns (except where permitted and necessary for personal safety.) Also, with rare exceptions, dogs and
studs can complicate an otherwise tranquil trail ride.
Never start until all riders are mounted up and ready to
On the trail, never pass the trail boss. This is the
cause of many a rider getting lost.
Leave at least one horse length between you and the horse
in front; two lengths at a trot. Ride side-by-side only when the
path is sufficiently wide so that horses won't try to nip or bump
If you or your horse is having trouble, allow more space
in front and behind. If necessary, ask the trail boss to stop
the group to allow you to work out the problem.
Stay on the designated trail or road. Many areas are now
closed to equestrians because poorly mannered riders have allowed
their horses onto fields, into orchards and other areas
"sensitive" to the property owners. RESPECT PRIVATE PROPERTY!
(You'll also avoid ticks by staying on the road.)
Never disturb livestock. Herding someone else's livestock
without permission is known as "worrying" and is illegal.
Never leave a dismounted rider on the trail.
Leave gates open or closed as found.
Use "gate manners"; don't ride away from the gatekeeper
until the gate is secured and the gatekeeper can join you.
At a stream, pond, or water tank, wait until all horses
have had a chance to drink before riding away.
Some horses have trouble crossing streams. Give them
Tell the rider in front that you wish to pass so that
he/she can correctly handle his/her horse as you come up, or
advise you if he/she is having any problems.
Don't let your horse scratch on or nuzzle other horses or
riders. Aside from being annoying and starting horse disputes,
this is a frequent cause of "hung up" and broken headgear.
Never mount your horse from downhill.
Never gallop away from the group. Coordinate "fast" work
with the other riders so no one's horse gets "juiced up".
Smoking while riding can be dangerous. Pick a fire-safe
rest stop to have that cigarette.
Drinking while riding can cause both social and safety
problems. Make sure the group you are with is not offended by
alcohol on the trail, and if you do have a sip, use discretion
and moderation as your guide.
In camp, tie all horses. Most horses won't stand long
while hobbled, and they, along with loose horses, can cause
Tie high, solid and short enough to prevent entanglement,
and provide sufficient space between horses so they can't go
"butt to butt" and kick each other.
Pick up all garbage from camp.
Thanks to Betty Wold for providing many of these tips.