You’re out on a pleasant trail ride with several other riders. Without a word, one of the riders suddenly urges her horse forward and gallops off down the trail. The left-behind horses frantically try to follow. The riders struggle to control their mounts. Pandemonium ensues.
This kind of thoughtless behavior on the trail is no fun to deal with and could cause someone to get seriously hurt. Clearly, leaving your fellow riders in the dust isn’t what you’d expect of a good riding buddy. “Never again!” you say to yourself. “I’ll never ride with her again!”
We all want to be the kind of person other trail riders enjoy being around. By using the eight simple techniques below, you can be a good riding buddy who is fun and safe to ride with on the trail.
1. Manage expectations
Make sure everyone planning to attend knows how long the ride is, what the terrain is like, and how challenging the trail will be. That way they’ll know what to expect and can come prepared or, if they or their horses aren’t prepared, bow out ahead of time and wait for a less-taxing ride.
2. Ride at the level of the least experienced horse and/or rider
For safety’s sake, tailor your ride to the level of the least experienced rider or horse in the group. It might be old hat for you and your horse to cross creeks; trot and canter; or share the trail with bicycles, dogs, or motorcycles. But these experiences can be daunting for a green horse or rider, so plan a ride that’s appropriate for their level of experience.
3. Wait for others
Be sure everyone is mounted before riding off. On the trail, make sure everyone has stepped over that fallen log or successfully crossed the creek before you ride away. And when you stop to let the horses drink, allow all the horses to have their fill before you continue down the trail.
4. Ask before you speed up
If you get the urge to canter your horse up the trail, always ask the other riders if it’s okay. If some of the riders don’t want to canter, they can stand together with their horses facing back down the trail while the fast riders canter away. After the canter, the fast riders can wait until the slower riders catch up and the group can continue together.
5. Encourage time-outs
Make sure everybody in the group is comfortable calling a time-out to stop and adjust their tack, get a drink, or take a “training moment” to calm their excited horse or manage his behavior.
6. Share the lead
Everybody in the group should get a chance to be in the front, middle, and back of the group if they so desire. Not only is it good manners, but it’s also a great way to ensure your horse learns to be comfortable in any pack position.
7. When you encounter low-hanging branches, remember the rider behind you
When you encounter low-hanging branches across the trail, you naturally want to push them forward out of the way as you pass. But if you do, the branches can snap back and whack the rider behind you. Instead, lift the branches and pass under them. They’ll fall gently downward into place and won’t annoy the next rider. It also doesn’t hurt to alert riders behind you of the obstacle ahead so they can prepare to encounter it.
8. Train your horse to be a good buddy, too
Nobody appreciates a horse that kicks, bites, tailgates, refuses to cross water, or tries to run home. If your horse exhibits antisocial behavior, or if he doesn’t know how to deal with common trail situations, find a trainer who can help you resolve the issue so your horse can be a good riding buddy, too.
Your actions and those of your horse will determine whether others will want to ride with you or avoid you. Be the considerate rider you want others to be, and you’ll be known far and wide as a good riding buddy.