Trail riding etiquette (part 1): How to be safe and still have fun!

Published 05-13-2010 10:53 AM

This blog was written by Essie Rogers, the Director of Education and Welfare at the Kentucky Horse Council. She is also a certified instructor of the Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA).

Trail riding etiquette (part 1)

Poor trail riding etiquette typically leads to unsafe activities, while excellent etiquette paves the road for safe riding experiences.

To keep riders in your party safe you should at a minimum:

  • Nominate a leader/trail boss
  • Ride at the level/speed of the least experienced rider
  • Ask the group (and get consent) before increasing speed
  • Communicate concerns clearly
  • Maintain 10 feet or more between horses
  • The lead rider should notify others of danger; each following rider should pass the message along
  • Carry a cell phone on your body (not on your horse)
  • Carry a trail map
  • Pack a first aid kit
  • Wear and ASTM/SEI approved helmet (helmets should be replaced after every fall or after 5-7 years)
  • Always return to the trailer/barn at a walk

Make sure that your horse is ready to trail ride. Horses need to build their muscle strength and endurance gradually, just like humans. It is really important to condition and desensitize your horse well in advance of a trail ride. This takes time and commitment. Conditioning rides should be conducted over similar terrain (i.e. riding up hills regularly in advance of a hilly ride) and in well fitted tack. Arena riding generally is not adequate conditioning for trail riding. More general information on desensitizing your horse can be found in “Is Etiquette Important” at

Proper hoof care is vitally important to the soundness of horses used for all riding. Many horses are most comfortable trail riding with shoes (or specialty boots) and you should discuss the best option for your horse’s hoof care with your farrier.

Other considerations for your horse’s well being while trail riding:

  • Allow your horse the opportunity to drink at every water crossing
  • Check your tack regularly for proper fit
  • Examine feet and legs carefully after riding
  • Pick feet before and after every ride
  • Groom or wash your horse before and after every ride
Page last updated: 7/30/2013 4:41:54 PM