By Carey Williams and Janice Elsishans
When trail riding, everyone needs to be aware of not only safety concerns for the rider and the horse, but also courtesy for other trail users. All safety precautions and tips on riding should be practiced, because trail etiquette and safety go hand in hand.
Stay on designated or marked trails. Do not ride horses at a pace greater than a walk on muddy trails. You should cross rivers, creeks, or wetland only in designated areas to guard against adverse impact on the environment and for the safety of you and your horse.
Good riding etiquette prevents land abuse and destruction.. If you ride on federal or state lands, ask the park officials for their advice on the best trails to take or if there are any map changes. Ride only on lands offered for public or private use where you have permission to ride.
If you stop for lunch, make sure your horse is resting in a safe place both for the horse and for other trail users. Stay with your horse and be considerate of other trail users.
If it is permissible to have the horses rest off the trail, do not tie your horse directly to a tree. Use two lightweight 8-foot lines with panic snaps and secure your horse between two trees. This will prevent the horse from chewing the bark and damaging the root system.
Leave what you find and carry out what you packed.
Water should be offered to a horse at any available point on the trail if the trail permits horse access. If there is no access, do not attempt to enter the water. Entering rivers or streams in undesignated areas can cause damage to the environment, be unsafe for the horse, and possibly result in the trail being closed to horses.
At the trailhead or when using a public park, be considerate of other users and clean up any manure. Do not toss manure from your trailer into the bushes unless you have asked the proper officials if this is acceptable.
Horses that are young or new to trails can learn from seasoned trail horses, so surround the novice horse with two or three seasoned horses. This is especially helpful if a novice trail horse is easily spooked.
Horses may not understand that a hiker with a large backpack, floppy hat, or a fishing rod is still a person. Speak to others on the trail to help your horse understand that unfamiliar objects do not pose a danger.
Keep your own safety in mind, as well. It is best not to ride alone, but if you do, tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to be back. Consider carrying a whistle or cell phone to use in case of an emergency. It takes less effort to blow a whistle than to yell for help.
Consider attaching an identification tag to your horse when trail riding. The tag should include the horse’s name, your name, and your cell phone number. Should you become separated from your horse and you are some distance from home, a cell phone number will aid anyone who has caught your horse in reuniting it with you.
Carry a current map of the area and have an idea where you are going. Study the area around you, noting landmarks. Occasionally look behind you to help recognize the trail for your return.