If you are lucky enough to have trails around your barn, you should use them as much as you can. Trail riding benefits both you and your horse. Your horse gets a break from being ridden in the arena (this can be boring sometimes!) and you learn how to ride a horse out in the open. Exploring woodsy trails or cantering across large fields is great fun!
If you can get some friends to go with you, that's even better. It's always a good idea to take a friend or two with you when trail riding, for safety reasons. If someone gets hurt, the other riders can help out. Often people will go out trail riding in a group. Riding schools sometimes head for the hills with a group of students. Some areas have trail riding groups that meet once or twice a month so they can ride together. If you ever find yourself riding in a group of four or more riders, it's important that you be extra safety-conscious when you leave the barn. Many horses get excited when they are ridden in a large group, and some may misbehave. Read on to learn 15 useful tips for riding in a group.
1. If there are four or more of you, it's a good idea to ask a horsey adult to come along with you. If she has a cellular phone, she should carry it with her in case of emergency.
2. Always tell someone back at the barn where you plan to go.
3. If you have to ride on a road or next to a road on a grass verge, always walk in single file.
4. If you ride on other people's land, make an effort to stay on the path. Don't crowd others on the trail so they step off it and on to crops.
5. Even though you're having a nice, relaxing time chatting with your pals, it's essential to maintain a good riding position. Don't get sloppy. Keep a light but constant feel on your horse's mouth, and keep your legs touching his sides. You never know when your pony may spook and you'll go flying.
6. Speaking of spooking — when one horse spooks at something silly, it's likely the rest of the gang will spook, too. They are acting on instinct. Just be prepared!
7. If you are riding behind someone, keep at least one horse's length between you and the horse in front.
8. Alternate riding in the lead. A horse should be happy leading or following.
9. Let your trail riding buddies know when you'd like to change gaits. Don't gallop off at 100 miles per hour without warning them.
10. Don't charge off when someone has dismounted to open a gate or fix his tack. His horse may get upset and hard to control. Be courteous.
11. Cantering in a group can excite your horse and she may get out of control. Only canter or gallop if you can stop your horse quickly. If your horse takes off, shorten your reins a lot and turn her in small circles until she slows down. It's safest to canter in a group when you are heading away from home.
12. You may need to put a stronger bit on your pony if you are going on a group ride, because he may not be as responsive as he usually is.
13. Don't allow your pony to get too far behind the group. He may get worried or excited, and try to catch up with the others at top speed.
14. If one person is scared, or her horse is totally out of control, the whole group must return to a walk.
15. Always walk back to the barn after a trail ride. If you always return at top speed, your horses will jog and prance when they know they are heading home. And if one runs home, the rest will want to copy him.