Getting started on trail rides?
I'm working with my horse right now on competitive sports, but I really love trail riding and wanted to get him into it since he's so stocky and sound.
So my questions are:
-What equipment will I typically need?
-What conditioning will I have to do?
-What training/desensitizing should be done with him before going out on the trail?
-How can I find someone else in my area to come out to trails with me?
*any other tips
There isn't any "necessary" tack. I've seen people ride with English saddles, western saddles, Aussie saddles and even bareback.
Some things you may want to take with are water, a compass and map or GPS, pocket knife or utility tool, hoof pick, sunscreen, and bug spray for you and your horse.
There shouldn't be much conditioning needed unless your horse isn't used to being rode or if you are planning for an all day ride. Just take things nice and easy for the first few times.
As for training, your horse should have the basic controls understood, like turning, stopping, etc. For desensitizing, that depends on where you plan to ride. I think there is a sticky thread about desensitizing.
Finding others to ride with shouldn't be too hard. Ask around at barns or put an ad in a local paper or website like craigslist.
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I would take a few minutes and learn to take your horses vitals. Learn what they are at rest and you can compare them to when he is working out on the trail. Pulse and Respiration are the two most common, But also look at Hydration and gut sounds.
2-4 mile rides that you do in a hour, Not a big deal, But when you start covering 20 miles and being gone all day, I think you should be aware of your horses vitals.
As far as gear. Use the type of equipment that you are comfortable with and that will carry things you want along the trail. I always bring several bottles of water, I usually keep some granola bars and jerky in the cantle bag, Always have matches, a space blanket, and TP. If I hade to, I could survive a night on the trail.
I went hiking today and the topic of hydration on the trail for my horse came to mind. Do you have any advice regarding that?
Pinch the skin on his neck if it snaps back he is hydrated if it stays tented he's dehydrated.
There are several way to test for hydration. The skin tent is one, Capillary refill is another and gum color is a third.
For the capillary refill, press your thumb hard against your horses gums, After a moment, remove your thumb and count how many seconds it take for normal color to return to the tissue. Compare that time to what is normal at home when the horse has not been worked. ie If it takes 1 second at home for the capillaries to refill but takes 3 seconds on the trail The horse is becoming dehydrated. Comparisons like this are based on you KNOWING what is normal at home.
Gum color is also an indicator. Usually gums are pink because of the blood flowing thru them, A dehydrated horse has reduced blood flow. and the gums get more of a grey color.
Also you can press your thumb against your horses juglar vein. And count how many seconds it takes to fill the vein. Again compare to what is normal when the horse is not being worked.
Gut sounds are another sign. If you listen to your horse's gut, You can almost always hear gurgling and bubbling as material flows through his gut. As a horse become dehydrated. The material in the gut slow or stops.
I wanted to comment on your remark about your horse being "so stocky".
The leaner, longer muscled horses tend to make better trail horses than the short muscled, "stocky" horses. Hill work can be harder for the "stout" type of horse.
If it's just a matter of your horse carrying too much weight, then easing into trail riding will help condition him.
Please don't take trail riding lightly.
Many things can be encountered on the trail that you may not expect.
Ride with someone who has trail experience and is willing to help.
Take a cell phone and ID in something water proof on yourself not the horse.
I ride near a river, the horses get a drink or swim every 3-4 miles.
If you are planning on riding a lot of flat ground this should be no problem with stocky animals.
I agree with "Wimpy" regarding hill work though.
Conditioning: Start with short rides.
Training/desensitizing: too many variables, but a good relationship between you and your horse is a must.
I will disagree with not using stocky horses for trail rides. Pretty much any horse is capable of trail riding. 6 of our 10 horses are built like tanks (very stocky). We have no issues with them going up or down hills, even steep ones. It's nice having their power under you. However, our Arab mix doesn't have issues either.
Now, if you are talking of an endurance trail ride, I will agree to not use a stocky horse. Casual trail riding can be done with any horse, as long as they're prepared for it. I wouldn't take an arena trained horse that's never been rode outside for a ride.
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