Trail Riding Etiquette

The Transwest Team
The Transwest Team
Apr 07, 2021
Trail Riding Etiquette

How to Handle Horseback Riding on Any Trail

Horseback riding is a wonderful way to explore long stretches of trail, access remote campsites, or simply get away for a Sunday afternoon ride. For many, trail riding is an enjoyable way to reduce stress and find an improved state of mind.

However, riders need to understand how to adhere to the proper trail riding etiquette when taking to the trails. By obeying common etiquette rules, everyone on the trail can enjoy their experience and, most importantly, everyone can stay safe.

Before you trailer your horse and head to the trails, check out the following guide to trail riding etiquette.

Why Trail Etiquette Matters

While there are certain trails where only horseback riding is allowed, the reality is that most of the time, horseback riders will share the trails with others. Multi-use trails often allow for equestrian use, OHV riders, bicycle riders, runners, and hikers. Also, many trails are pet-friendly, allowing hikers and runners to bring along their dogs.

With so many different activities taking place on a single trail, it is easy for people to get in each other’s way and for dangerous situations to occur.

Conversely, when everyone shares the trails respectfully and follows common etiquette and rules, all trail users can remain safe and enjoy the beauty of nature.

Know Your Horse Before You Go

If you enjoy trail riding, you must understand your horse’s temperament before heading to a shared trail. You will not only be dealing with other people on the trail but also will be working with your horse, guiding it through a variety of scenarios.

Additionally, while you hope that others on the trail abide by trail etiquette, it is wise to prepare for the worst and feel confident that you can handle your horse regardless of what other people on the trail decide to do or not do.

Before you take your horse on a shared trail, understand your horse’s triggers, what its natural instincts will make the horse do if a trigger occurs, and how you will handle that situation.

Start with Equestrian Only Trails

If you are just venturing out into the world of trail riding or working with a horse you don’t know that well, it is often best to start by acclimating yourself and your horse on an equestrian-only trail.

These trails are reserved for horseback riding and will give you the chance to test out how your horse handles trail riding.

On equestrian-only trails, you can work on basic trail skills, as well as start to learn more about how your horse reacts in the wild.

This is particularly important for young or inexperienced horses who might not be ready to encounter loud OHVs, rapidly moving bicycles, or even the sudden appearance of another person.

Over time, you can work with willing participants to expose your horse slowly to the presence of OHVs, bicyclists, runners, hikers, and dogs.

Tips When Sharing the Trails

If you are working with a horse that you know well and are ready to join a shared trail, enact the following etiquette tips adapted from the Forest Service to ensure that everyone is treated with respect and courtesy.

  • Stick to the right trails: Never ignore trail restrictions or warnings. Only ride on trails designated for equestrian use. When in doubt, ask a local park ranger or check in at a nearby information center in town.
  • Be considerate: No matter who has the right of way or what the rules say, practice common courtesy. Be nice to others and treat everyone with respect.
  • Stay alert: It is easy to get lulled into complacency on a particularly beautiful and low-key ride. However, it is important to always stay alert and keep your eyes peeled for others on the trail.
  • Slow down: In certain situations, a trail might wind or climb in such a way that visibility is poor. When this happens, slow down and remain extra alert.
  • Listen: Never ride with earbuds in or headphones on. This makes it difficult to hear and can cause you to miss out on important queues. Additionally, it makes it hard to communicate with other recreations.
  • Yield: While horses have the right of way, this means that motorized vehicles, mountain bikes, runners, and hikers must yield to equestrian riders. Be sure to pay attention to anyone looking to pass you from behind or traveling uphill. These folks should be given the right of way.
  • Retain full control: Only ride on a shared trail if you know that you have full control over your horse and that it has been exposed to recreationists before. Not having control of your horse can be extremely dangerous for you, the horse, and other trail users.
  • Pull off when possible: While OHVs and bicyclists must yield to equestrian riders, when possible, if you hear them coming, pull off to the side to allow them to journey at their faster pace.
  • Secure horses at trailheads: When you arrive at a trailhead or you are in a staging area, be sure that horses are secure and that you are out of the way of other recreationists.
  • Communicate: Don’t be shy! Learn how to communicate with other trail enthusiasts. Don’t hesitate to speak up, warn hikers of your presence, or even call out instructions to newer trail users who might be uncertain of how to interact with horses on the trail. As always, keep communication respectful and kind.

Come See Us at Transwest

Trail riding is a rewarding experience, and by practicing the right trail etiquette, trails can continue to be enjoyed by recreationists of all kinds. Before you head to the trails next, come visit us at Transwest and talk to us about your horse trailer needs. At Transwest, we carry a quality inventory of horse trailers in numerous styles, sizes, and designs. We look forward to helping you find the perfect fit for your next trail riding adventure.



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