Trail Riding Etiquette

Photo by Julia Mruz

Safety first, last and always.  Horse trail riding should not be taken lightly.  As a rider, you must keep yourself safe, your horse safe and keep the safety of other trail users in mind.  There is not enough room on this page to explore all the opportunities for disaster when riding a thousand pound animal however, proper preparation and education is key to helping you navigate the trails safely.  Keep in mind these important safety rules.  

  1. Do not take an unsafe or untrained horse on a group ride.
  2. Keep your equipment in good repair and make sure it fits you and your horse.  Consider wearing a well-fitting, ASTM/SEI-certified helmet. 
  3. At least one person should pack a first aid kit with supplies for riders and horses.  Everyone should carry water.
  4. Carry a Leatherman or pocket knife and rawhide strings for repairs and a compass or map for directions.
  5. Ride with a halter and lead rope so you do not have to tie your horse with the reins.
  6. Do not tie reins together as you can fall off and lose all control of your horse.
  7. Avoid overhanging branches. If you do ride under one, warn the rider behind you and do not allow the branch to snap back.
  8. When you stop along a ledge, always face your horse so he can see the drop off.
  9. If a horse refuses to cross water, lead him across. Do not stand directly in front of him as he may jump and land on you.
  10. Be careful when watering in the middle of a creek as a horse may lie down with you, often pawing first. It is safer to water horses from the bank.
  11. Walk a horse uphill and downhill. Do not allow the horse to run or lunge uphill.
  12. If you must stop on a hill, turn your horse perpendicular to the trail.
  13. When turning on a hill, turn the horse’s head to the downhill side.
  14. Attach your cell phone to you, not your horse. If you have an unexpected dismount and your horse runs away, so will your phone.
  15. Avoid riding alone. If you must, tell someone where you will be and when you plan to return.
  16. Ride at safe gaits for the trail you are riding.
  17. Stay alert to the environment and your horse’s behavior.
  18. When riding during hunting season, wear visible clothing like fluorescent orange.
  19. Keep your horse under control and maintain a secure seat at all times. Expect the unexpected.
  20. Courtesy is the best safety measure on the trail.

Photo by Lori Meisenheimer

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