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Island Horselover 04-14-2012 10:38 AM

Experience with Trail Riding Companies
 
Hi there, I have a business and offer exclusive trail and beach rides for people. We do offer rides for smaller groups (max. 4-5 people per ride) as we believe it makes it more interesting if the group is smaller and you can do more stuff out on the trails or beach and as bigger the group gets - well the only thing we could do is walking along..... which might be pretty boring for some people.
So we decided to offer more interesting rides for smaller groups. Well, my question for you guys is: Do you have any experience with Trail Riding companies in your areas (bad or good).
I have heard some pretty bad stories from some people here that have bad experiences with trail riding, old slow horses, non responsive horses that "just follow along", horses in pretty bad shape and and and.
My horses are all really well trained and I make sure that horses and people get treated well on the rides, everybody should have fun and be safe (horses and people)!!! Let me know your experience and what you think is important if you go on a trail ride... I know most of you guys have their own horses and or lease a horse but maybe you went in the past or have a friend that went trail riding with a company. Thanks for your input.

Painted Horse 04-14-2012 01:53 PM

My only experience with a paid trail ride was in Hawaii and it was just not possible to take my own. And like most trail ride stories, we got on horses that knew exactly the routine of where they were going and back, Trying to get them off the trail to do anything other than too/from the known destination was almost impossible. Regardless of how responsive the horses were, we got the opportunity to see some new country from the horses back.


I've also seen trail groups in the national parks, Bryce Canyon in particular. Where we ride past them. Their concern is mostly making sure that their horses don't turn around with a little oriental lady and follow us because we are heading toward the corral, and the rider has no idea how to control the horse. Again their horses are pretty much nose to tail down the trail. Any opportunity to turn and head for home is where they are going. So we as the outsiders always have to pull off and wait for the guide and string to ride by, then we can re-enter the trail and proceed.

Allison Finch 04-14-2012 02:32 PM

I wrangled for years in Colorado between shows. I did pack trips into the West Elk Wilderness with my show horses (they would pack and ride, but no guests on my horses). I made a point of learning all kinds of natural science so that I could offer flower plant and tree identification and basic geology of the surrounding mountains and the forces that created them. MANY people really liked that info. Are there any more advanced trails (steeper grades, tighter trails) that you could offer to more advanced riders? Be aware that many people will misrepresent their skills so you might need "escape routes" if they are overfaced.

Beginner trail (this was a prelim event horse!)

http://i176.photobucket.com/albums/w...etrailhead.jpg

More advanced trail

http://i176.photobucket.com/albums/w...Aspenscree.jpg

I could tell you how this remarkable mountain was formed (laccolith, anyone?)

http://i176.photobucket.com/albums/w...helacolith.jpg

callidorre 04-15-2012 02:26 AM

I live in a area with a high amount of tourism. I could go on all day about the different trail riding businesses that operate at my local trail system located on a very popular historical site. I know two of the 3 main businesses very well and have seen the third operating on the trails many times.

Some suggestions I can think of-----

-Have a variety of sizes of horses for different riders. Have some horses that can carry larger and/or taller rides comfortably (short backed/stocky draft crosses, quarter horses, paints). You don't want your horses overworked or have to turn away business because of not having appropiately sized horses. You should have a posted weight limit also. Whether you enforce that limit and how strictly is up to you. I believe the limit at the businesses around here are all set at 240/250 lbs.

-Offer a free bottle of water to your customers and have a bag on the horse available to carry the water in the summer heat. Bring extra water with yourself. Someone at some point will end up with heat exhaution or dehydrated (happens every year here). They don't drink enough, not appropiately dressed, and/or they've been driving all day to get there and aren't rested.

-Be social with your customers. People enjoy the interaction on the rides.

-Offer up times to take pictures. Before, during, and after customer's rides.

-Be very prompt in returning phone calls, emails, etc. related to booking a ride. I don't know if you have any competition, but people will move on to the next place if they don't hear back.

-A personal point/gripe from me. I much prefer the horses be able to get out and stretch their legs when they aren't working. Time in field/pastures and rides where they do not have to do walk only with inexperienced riders.

-I'd personally much rather do a loop if possible on a trail rather than straight out and back. Different trails and different hours of riding options are good. Like a 2 hour ride on this trail. Or a 3 hour ride on that trail. Some places offer having a packed lunch. Or bring your own packed lunch. Then they have lunch part way through the ride.
-------
All the business that offer trail rides here are walk-only due to liability (I'm not sure whose rule that is. Whether it's insurance or perhaps a park official rule). They offer rides from 1 hour to 5 hours depending on the business. All of them offer to have a licensed historical guide join the ride for a certain amount of money. One group offers a ride with a headset device describing the area around them and what occured -however usually people I've heard or seen talk about the rides prefer having a real tour guide instead.

I've also ridden at a different trail business about 2 hours away a few times. This business does allow w/t/c with experienced riders. I don't know the people personally, but I believe they evaluate us as we ride along and then test out a trot and canter to determine if we really are experienced.

I'm not going to say anything bad about any place in particular. I will say that I'd support and pay to go on a ride at three of the four places. There are also carriage rides in town here locally. All horses are well-taken care of by all of the carriage businesses.

Hopefully this is helpful. You can pm me if you have any questions.

DraftyAiresMum 04-15-2012 03:12 AM

The barn that I board at offers dude string rides. In fact, one of my best friends is the head wrangler and leads the rides (usually).

Everything that callidorre said is great. There are only a couple of things I would add.

First, have a dress code and make sure people booking a ride know what your dress code is. Let them know that if they come improperly attired, they won't be able to ride. For example, at our barn, if you show up in sandals, don't expect to get on a horse.

Second, have helmets available in a variety of sizes. Make sure they are clean and disinfected after each ride and I would even go so far as to encourage riders to wear them. Our BO makes anyone under 18 going on a ride wear one.

Third, make sure the horses you have are suited to their job. I hate to say it, but my BO has a few horses that just aren't suited to being dude string horses. They're either too inexperienced (in my opinion, a horse needs to be dead broke to be on a dude string) or too lazy. I've ridden one of the dude string horses and am not a slouch when it comes to riding. I had to kick the snot out of the horse I was riding to get him to leave off eating grass and finally ended up having to direct rein him in the tom thumb bit he was in to get him to pay attention to me.

-----------------

Our barn offers several different rides. There's a one hour ride; a two hour ride; a four hour ride (out to the lake and you take a picnic lunch); a ride up to some Native American ruins; what the BO calls the "Hi-Ho Silver Ride," where you get to trot and canter (if you feel confident enough to canter); and there's a moonlight ride available on every full moon during the summer.

Here's the website for the barn I board at: Granite Mountain Stables??

*Funny side note: The three horses in the top left pic on the home page are Bubba (the bay), Reno (the paint...who is also the horse that I rode), and I'm pretty sure that the sorrel is Jack. It might be Skeeter, but I'm almost sure that's Jack. I'm pretty sure that's Jack in the bottom left pic, as well.

Island Horselover 04-15-2012 11:21 AM

Thanks guys, that all sounds great. We have a weight limit of 220 punds and most of our horses are under 15 and in really good shape. They have access to food 24 7 (only when they out on rides and even then they get grass and Hay inbetween the rides). They seem to like their jobs, are healthy and in a good mood, which is really important for me. We do not offer long trips, we only offer 1 or 2 hour trail and beach rides and we are really busy! I love it, there is nothing better than making other people happy. My horses have a huge pasture of 9 acres and I totally agree that they deserve that and need to run and get rid of some energy and stretch. We made it priority to make sure that no horse is out longer than 4 hours in the main season. As for the competition, I live in a tourist area here and we are the only place that offer rides just 15 min from Victoria (Vancouver Island) Downtown and the next place is about 1.5 hours away I believe. So we are pretty happy about that even though I always wish for a little bit of competition. Yes, giving people the chance to take pics is a great idea. I think I will offer them to take the pics of the group so everybody is in the picture if they trust me with their camaras :0)))) We recommend clothing for the people and most people are listening but some still show up with Flip Flops :0) So far I am doing that for 2 years and I only had one bad experience... and nobody got hurt but they were just not listening and I love to share the trails and am happy that we have so horsefriendly trails around here and this person just ignored any other person on the ride and I had to stop the ride because it is not worth it for me that people get annoyed by us, another reason to keep the groups smaller. We offer beach rides to more experienced people as the beach is a pretty open space and when the tide is low it is perfect for a little bit of trotting or cantering as the sandbanks allow this and you can even run through the water, this is just awesome and you do not disturb any other people or get distrubed. We def. have trails that are suitable for beginners and some that make it more interesting for experienced riders. Thanks for the tip though! Another thing for me is that my horses are all getting ridden in rope halters as I am not a big fan of people (beginners but even worth experienced riders) pulling on the reins and hurting the horse, I mean that can happen in a halter as well but as I said I try to make sure that the people give them long rein most of the time. And the horses know exactly what their job is but I still be proud to say that you can actually ride my horses, they are responsive and will listen to the rider as long as the commands make sense and that is one of the bad experiences with trail riding companies I had, making the horses go left or ride was nearly impossible :0( If you hop on mine and dont do anything they just go along with the group but if you ask them to do something they will actually do it! Another thing we do offer is swimming with the horses, all our horses are trained to swim and they are doing aweseome (in beach and lake) and I was riding for so many years before I came to Cananda and never did this before on the horse and it is def. one of the most amazing things I have ever done with a horse! Thanks for all your input and I really appreciate it and we try to improve our business all the times so feel free :0) The most important thing for me is that horses and people are safe and happy! Cheers,

Allison Finch 04-15-2012 02:58 PM

You might want to rethink putting people on horses with just a rope halter for control. As we all know...Ka Ka happens. If a bee stung a horse and it bolted, with no form of real control, I suspect your insurance company might try to mitigate their liability by claiming you were not using due diligence. Sorry for the legal words but that is how it might come out. I would put an almost portless and very short shanked curb bit on the horses. It would take a lot for that to harm a horse, but there would be some ability to control the horse.

There are no such things as totally reliable horses, IMO. They all have a brain that may misfire at the most inopportune time.

amp23 04-15-2012 03:08 PM

I have to quote on this (just since it was the first post I read through and wanted to add to!) since I am a trail guide.

Quote:

Originally Posted by callidorre (Post 1455582)
I live in a area with a high amount of tourism. I could go on all day about the different trail riding businesses that operate at my local trail system located on a very popular historical site. I know two of the 3 main businesses very well and have seen the third operating on the trails many times.

Some suggestions I can think of-----

-Have a variety of sizes of horses for different riders. Have some horses that can carry larger and/or taller rides comfortably (short backed/stocky draft crosses, quarter horses, paints). You don't want your horses overworked or have to turn away business because of not having appropiately sized horses. You should have a posted weight limit also. Whether you enforce that limit and how strictly is up to you. I believe the limit at the businesses around here are all set at 240/250 lbs.
At my barn, we have horses from 14.2-18hh, as well as a "weight limit" of 240 that is sometimes gone over, since our big Perch mare can handle it.

-Offer a free bottle of water to your customers and have a bag on the horse available to carry the water in the summer heat. Bring extra water with yourself. Someone at some point will end up with heat exhaution or dehydrated (happens every year here). They don't drink enough, not appropiately dressed, and/or they've been driving all day to get there and aren't rested.
We don't always carry any on the trail simply because a few horses don't like the sound of them, but when we ride ones that don't care we take extras. We offer free waters to everyone after hot rides. If we have anyone with an allergy, feels dehydrated, etc, we will take drinks, medicine, whatever needed for them.

-Be social with your customers. People enjoy the interaction on the rides.
We talk all day long as long as the customers talk back. We often get people that aren't talkative, but if we can keep a conversation going we will.

-Offer up times to take pictures. Before, during, and after customer's rides.
Every ride where we have enough beach and the horses will stand still, we do pictures on the beach. Otherwise one of us guides takes the camera to take pictures on the way. Customers really appreciate this.

-Be very prompt in returning phone calls, emails, etc. related to booking a ride. I don't know if you have any competition, but people will move on to the next place if they don't hear back.
There are people at the barn 12+ hours a day and my boss has voicemails forwarded to his phone, so calls are always returned asap. We have no competition, but they appreciate the quick responses.

-A personal point/gripe from me. I much prefer the horses be able to get out and stretch their legs when they aren't working. Time in field/pastures and rides where they do not have to do walk only with inexperienced riders.
Our horses don't have time to between rides, but when they aren't working (off day or at night) they are out in pastures to relax.

-I'd personally much rather do a loop if possible on a trail rather than straight out and back. Different trails and different hours of riding options are good. Like a 2 hour ride on this trail. Or a 3 hour ride on that trail. Some places offer having a packed lunch. Or bring your own packed lunch. Then they have lunch part way through the ride.
Our trail is not a loop simply because we go to the far point of an island and have to turn back. To make a loop we'd end up in the marsh/river :)
.

Great post with some great points, callidorre!

amp23 04-15-2012 03:15 PM

Also want to quote on these points :)

Quote:

Originally Posted by DraftyAiresMum (Post 1455595)
The barn that I board at offers dude string rides. In fact, one of my best friends is the head wrangler and leads the rides (usually).

Everything that callidorre said is great. There are only a couple of things I would add.

First, have a dress code and make sure people booking a ride know what your dress code is. Let them know that if they come improperly attired, they won't be able to ride. For example, at our barn, if you show up in sandals, don't expect to get on a horse.
AGREE. I wish we had this. Shorts are fine to me, but if you have improper shoes that impair you from keeping your feet in the stirrups and your heels down, you shouldn't ride because of safety.

Second, have helmets available in a variety of sizes. Make sure they are clean and disinfected after each ride and I would even go so far as to encourage riders to wear them. Our BO makes anyone under 18 going on a ride wear one.
here, everyone under 18 has to wear one (unless you're 16 or 17 and your parent approves of you not wearing one). We have S, M, L, XL helmets disinfected after every use. One suggestion is to make sure you have a lot of M sized helmets- we take rides of up to 8 and it seems like all those rides, everyone wears helmets and they all have M sized heads, though we only have I think 6 M helmets.

Third, make sure the horses you have are suited to their job. I hate to say it, but my BO has a few horses that just aren't suited to being dude string horses. They're either too inexperienced (in my opinion, a horse needs to be dead broke to be on a dude string) or too lazy. I've ridden one of the dude string horses and am not a slouch when it comes to riding. I had to kick the snot out of the horse I was riding to get him to leave off eating grass and finally ended up having to direct rein him in the tom thumb bit he was in to get him to pay attention to me.
Definitely a good point. We have good horses, but they can have their days. If we are worried about one not cooperating and trying to eat, we will either walk with them or not rent them out if possible. Most of our horses won't get spooked by anything we see/hear but you know how it can be... Sometimes things can happen. Thankfully if most of our guys were to spook it'd be in place and not taking off. but, in over a year I've seen no issues with this.

-----------------

Our barn offers several different rides. There's a one hour ride; a two hour ride; a four hour ride (out to the lake and you take a picnic lunch); a ride up to some Native American ruins; what the BO calls the "Hi-Ho Silver Ride," where you get to trot and canter (if you feel confident enough to canter); and there's a moonlight ride available on every full moon during the summer.

Here's the website for the barn I board at: Granite Mountain Stables??

*Funny side note: The three horses in the top left pic on the home page are Bubba (the bay), Reno (the paint...who is also the horse that I rode), and I'm pretty sure that the sorrel is Jack. It might be Skeeter, but I'm almost sure that's Jack. I'm pretty sure that's Jack in the bottom left pic, as well.


callidorre 04-16-2012 07:31 AM

Thanks everyone!

I actually board at one of the trail riding business I was talking about, so I've gotten to see my barn owner manage her business first hand at the farm and on rides when she has room for my horse on her trailer occasionally. She does an excellent job, takes great care of all the horses, and is constantly working.

And I'm friends with some wranglers at another trail riding business and have ridden there a bunch of times on wrangler rides and customer rides. It's a topic I could talk all day about since I get to see how everyone operates and their differences.


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