Trail Riding: Position in a Group

Does your horse walk along quietly with at least a horse length between him and the horse in front, or does he want to tailgate the lead horse without watching where he places his feet?
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Editor’s Note: This is Chapter 16 of Happy Trails: Your Complete Guide to Fun and Safe Trail Riding by veteran author and horseman Les Sellnow. 

Once you’ve completed your preparatory work at home, you’re ready to take your horse on a trail ride. You should pick an easy route for the first ride–one with no serious challenges. And, even better, you should ride with someone aboard an experienced trail horse.

Position in a Group

On your first ride, if possible, start by letting your horse follow the experienced horse. Does your horse walk along quietly with at least a horse length between him and the horse in front, or does he want to tailgate the lead horse without watching where he places his feet? You want a horse that is comfortable anywhere in a group, but you don’t want him walking with his nose on another horse’s rump. If you have a tailgater, you’ll want to check him up quietly anytime he comes within less than a horse length to the horse in front of him.

Find out next what happens when you’re the leader. When you put the horse up front for the first time, make sure you know the trail and are certain that no scary obstacles are ahead. By keeping the ride free of challenges the first few times, you can get a better idea of how he’ll react to being the lead horse in a group. Encountering scary obstacles while in the lead should come later

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Les Sellnow was a prolific freelance writer based near Riverton, Wyoming. He specialized in articles on equine research, and operated a ranch where he raised horses and livestock. He authored several fiction and nonfiction books, including Understanding Equine Lameness and Understanding The Young Horse. He died in 2023.

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