Trail Ride Preparation
by Bob Jeffreys & Suzanne Sheppard
Trail riding is the reason many of us started with horses in the first place. It’s still our favorite horse activity. There’s no pressure to perform, no judges and no clock; just your trustworthy mount, you and Mother Nature. Although Mother Nature can play tricks on us at times, we can minimize the effects with good trail ride preparation.
For the purpose of this article, we’ll assume that your horse feels safe and comfortable with you as his leader and has had sufficient trail training.
The first thing you can do is to let someone know about how long you’ll be gone and, if possible, what route you’ll be following. If you have a map, bring it with you. If not, and you’re riding in an unfamiliar area, stop and turn around every once in a while to take note of what the scenery should look like when you’re returning home.
For a long distance ride or in rough terrain, an endurance saddle or a properly fitted Western saddle would be preferred to an English or dressage saddle. They distribute the weight over a larger area making it more comfortable for your horse.
Dry spots on your horse in the saddle area after you ride indicate that your saddle is causing undue pressure on those particular areas. This prohibits the sweat glands from operating and is probably causing your horse pain. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you need a different saddle. You may have to pad appropriately. Basically you want to be able to insert your hand between the saddle and the horses shoulders or loins without feeling pressure. You should not be able to do this where the saddle is resting on his back.
The use of a breast collar or rear cinch is a matter of personal preference, as well as terrain. These tools can help stabilize a saddle on an especially round barreled horse, or up and down steep slopes, so plan accordingly. If you’re going to use saddle bags, we find most horses prefer pommel bags, which dont irritate the horse as much as bags tied behind the cantle.
In either case, tie the loose end to your saddle to prevent it from flopping against your horse. Tie a slicker or raincoat to your saddle in case it rains. Wear, or bring along a hat for the same reason. If you are 18 years old or younger, the laws in many states require that you wear a riding helmet.
Read more: http://horsecity.com/articles/training-riding/15375-trail-ride-preparation#ixzz20R1WWrfd