Heading for the trail? Test your smarts and see if you are ready to ride.
by Karen Braschayko
Are you a kid (or adult!) headed for a trail ride? Are you new to trekking or need a refresher? Here are some questions to get you thinking (and riding!) in the right direction. You’ll find the answers and more information at the bottom of the page.
1. What is a question to ask before beginning your ride?
A. What is my horse’s name?
B. What is this horse like and does she have any habits I should know about?
C. What type of terrain will we be covering and what is the riding level required?
D. Will we be walking, trotting, cantering or trying any other gaits?
E. All of the above.
2. What feeling should you keep in mind while riding?
A. Calm. A horse can sense your emotions, so take a moment to breathe and relax. Transmit calm through the saddle, because a horse can feel if you are nervous.
B. Awareness. Listen to your horse, mind your guide and keep your eyes ahead so you can see any hazards before they come your way. Even the most experienced trail horse can spook at a blowing plastic bag or animals you may encounter, like deer, so stay aware.
C. Respect. Be mindful of nature, of your horse and of your guide’s knowledge. Ask your horse for cooperation, alert your guide if you have any concerns and remember that when outside, anything can happen.
D. Confidence. Your horse can sense if you are scared and will feel your tension, so have confidence that you’ve been matched well and that you both know what you are doing.
E. All of the above.
3. When riding uphill or downhill, you should:
A. Lean forward on your horse’s neck.
B. Lie back.
C. Lean to one side.
D. Stay vertical with the horizon and balanced, leaning back when moving downhill and forward when going uphill.
4. Why is it important to wear boots or shoes with a heel when riding?
A. To keep your foot from sliding through the stirrup.
B. For style— so you look like a rider.
C. They keep your feet warm.
D. All of the above.
5. What is a good safety guideline to remember for trail riding?
A. Leave one horse length between horses.
B. Use hand signals for turning, and let riders behind you know if you plan to halt or ride faster.
C. Watch out for branches—they can snap back after the rider in front of you passes them.
D. If you open a gate, close it behind you.
E. Check your girth or cinch regularly to make sure it’s snug.
F. All of the above.
6. Near the end of the trail ride when you're headed back to the stables you should:
A. Giddy-up! It's fun to run along home.
B. Travel at a walk and not allow your horse to run home.
C. Canter or gallop.
D. All of the above.
7. If all goes well, after your ride you should expect to feel:
A. Exhilarated and happy— you had fun and saw new sights.
B. Sore— you’ve used muscles that you may not normally exercise.
C. Hungry— fresh air and horseback riding can build an appetite!
D. Grateful— your trusty mount carried you back to the stable safely.
E. All of the above.
1. E. Any information about your horse, his personality and possible quirks and what to expect on your ride are all important details. Take a few minutes to chat with your guide, check your tack and girth and get everything in order before you depart. Ask for a general overview of the trail you’ll be taking and the best way to "drive" your horse. Many horses are trained in differnet ways, so knowing the horse's cues are important. Your guide will probably tell you a lot of what you need to know, but make sure you are comfortable with what you are doing. Safety must come first when you ride, so always be honest about your ability and any concerns you have.
2. E. All of the above. Horses are like mirrors. A horse can feel everything the rider does, from nodding your head to sensing emotion, and your reaction can determine your horse’s reaction. So as you are enjoying the ride, always keep your reins in your hand or hands, your feet in your stirrups and your seat in balance. Watch for dashing wildlife, swooping birds, obtsacles like tree roots and holes in the trail.
3. D. Keep your seat centered on the horse, and lean your torso forward when going uphill and back for downward slopes, in general vertical with the horizon line. This shifts your weight off the end of the horse bearing the most burden and helps your mount keep his balance. Grab the horse's mane if you need to steady yourself-- trying to balance from the reins could hurt his mouth!
4. A. Boots with at least a one-inch heel can prevent your foot from sliding through the stirrup and getting caught in case of a fall or emergency.
5. F. All of the above. Remember to communicate with your riding group, so everyone is on the same page, knowing when the leader is ready to trot, canter or stop. Lean forward when you need to avoid low branches. It may be helpful to review more trail riding strategies before heading out, and ask your guide if you have any safety questions.
6. B. You should walk your horse back to the stables at the end of the ride. You don't want to get into the habit of trotting or cantering home, as your horse may get used to that behavior and be hard to control. One tool to regain his attention if he's anxious or excited is to ask him to ride in serpentines along the trail.
7. E. All of the above, or we hope so anyway! Just accept walking funny as payment for the joy of horsemanship.
Many right—you’re ready for the trail!
What is your best trail riding tip? Post it below and help educate others on good trail riding behavior.
Karen Braschayko is a freelance writer and horse lover who lives in Michigan.
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