Need some advice about trail riding
Major and I are going on our first trail ride together this coming weekend. We are going to Uhwarrie. I know that I need to bring him feed/hay from home. I also know that I need to bring a hoof pick and brush and I will also be bringing his halter, lead rope and riding tack of course. Is there anything else I need to bring for him? Also, how often should I rest him? How long should I allow for a rest period? Do I need to take his tack off when I rest him? Is it ok to hand graze him during that rest period? Any tips and pointers would be much appreciated. Oh yeah...and I have had his shoes off for a while now...but never on anything but grass and dirt...should I get him shod? Sorry for the dumb questions, but I wanna do whats right and best for Major and I don't wanna leave it for guess work.
Well I don't know where you are at or what the weather is out there.
Is it all day long? Does your trailer have a water container? If it does I would bring a bucket and let the horse drink after cooling down from the ride.
If it is raining I would bring a sheet to put over the saddle if you do take breaks (make sure your horse is okay with it though!). It is nice to get back up into a nice dry saddle ;-).
If you do ride all day I would stop and take a break if the horses get winded or every two hours or so. If you don't take a break I would get off and walk for some time and get back on (this can be dangerous but I went on a Oregon trail reenactment for a week and getting off and walking your horse for a good couple of miles helped the horse out a lot). But then again its all on how phisicly capable your horse is.
I personally don't graze my horses, especially on trail rides. When horses graze and they are not used to being in a certain area they (from experience) tend to get a little spooky when eating. They also get some bad ideas and think they can get away with sneaking a bite or two (which can get very annoying if you don't like your horse diving into plants). I don't know what he vegetation is like over in North Carolina but toxic plants are always on my mind wherever I go. I had a friend who would graze her horse on trail rides, but he ended up passing away sadly from eating something toxic on his last ride.
When taking breaks I like to loosen the girth of the saddle. That is a personal opinion, but remember to tighten it when you get back on! (I like to swing a stirrup up and keep it in that position so it will remind me to check the girth again when I get back on).
I wouldn't take tack off until I get back to the trailer. I also like to brush my horse off after any ride. This helps him not to feel as itchy. (If there is a nice sandy dirty spot I also like to take my horse over to it to offer him to roll. But be careful of the lead! Getting a horse tangled up isn't fun, or dropping it and having the horse take off running isn't fun either haha). I also like my horse to be dry before I load him up. My trailer is open and we don't get very warm air around here so the worrysome me always have the thought of 'Is he shivvering? Is he cold? Is he to warm?' come though my head haha.
Here is a hint of wisdom. Keep your cell phone and a water bottle on yourself. Not on your saddle. If you fall off and your horse takes off with your personal items on the saddle.... you can be stuck for a very long time.
Sorry for the long post... but trail riding is what I love haha. Are you spending the night out there? Or is it just a day trip?
Thank you for the very informative post. We are planning on staying 2 nights. The first night will really be for setting up tents and such though...not really riding, although I may ride him an hour or so or lunge him some to get the jitters out of him so he will stand more quietly over night.
Part of keeping a healthy horse ont he trail is learning to read his metabolics. While the horse is resting learn to take his pulse, respiration and hydration. When you are riding, and have been working him, stop and take a break, give him 10 minutes to relax. His metabolics should return to normal in that 10 minutes. If they don't then you are stressing him and he needs a longer rest.
I would suggest a pulse of less than 12 ( in a 15 second count period) Same for respiration. Press your thumb on his gum and his lip and count how long it takes for the color to return. Usualy 1-2 seconds, Pull a pinch skin on his shoulder near where the neck shoulder meet. The skin tent should return to normal almost immediately. If he fails these test, he is dehydrated and needs some water.
On long rides, I want to keep my horses gut moving. So I do let them graze when I take a break. If I see some tempting grass, I'll stop and offer to let the horse grab some. He has learned it's a no no to try and sneek a mouthfull while at work, but he has learned that when I offer, he can. You can listen to your horses gut sounds, ( put an ear or stethoscope against his barrel and listen) Get used to whats a normal gut sound for your horse. You will not master these in one camp out. But start paying attention and learning what is normal for your horse.
Watch for soreness after the first ride. I usually unsaddle and cool off the horse and check for soreness an hour or two later after they have a chance to stiffen up. Run your fingers down both sides of their spine pressing down with your finger tips and see if he his sore around his loins. Look at his lower legs and see if they are filling with fluids. Ask him to lounge around you in a circle in both direction at a trot. See if he shows any signs of lameness. If they are sore, trotting in a circle will show it better than trotting in a straight line.
Horse are always excited the first night out. They are in a strange place, usually with new horses around them. You have them high lined or tied up so they have restricted movements that don't allow them to go investigate things. So I find they fidget and prance in place. I usually try and quiet them by offering penty to eat. I usually place a hay net in front of them. I usually feed twice as much during a trail ride as I would at home in the corral. It's kinda of my pacifier for the horses, And they are working anyway, so they will burn the calories up.
I usually try to keep them dry. If there is no cover to get out of the weather, I usually bring a sheet to cover them with, and my horses have spent a few nights standing in the trailer al night to get out of the rain. I want them to burn their calories carrying me down the trail, not shivering to stay warm all night.
if he's not shod now, don't do it this close to a ride.
I just took a look at the Uwharrie NF site. Looks like there may be some gravel roads. You might call the park service to check for types of footing and if they recommend shoes. We always check before we head to someplace we've never been.
As far as what the horse needs, he will need everything he is used to getting at home. Check the hay regulations, many national parks require certified hay. Most have it available if you don't have it, but no sense in bringing some from home if you can't feed it.
Bring something to clean up after him with. A manure fork and bucket are what we take. Most places either want it raked in or carried someplace else.
Oh im really glad I posted this thread! You all have some very good tips...things I didn't think about. Major has a lot of energy anyway...so if he's gonna be excited about being somewhere new...I might should plan on getting there really early so I have plenty of time to get some of that out of him. There is a lot to think about when going trail riding huh? I may be certifiable...but I don't think my hay is :lol:....so I better check on that. We are planning on staying at Canebrake horsecamp...their website wasnt very informative....but they did say that they had a range of trails from easy, moderate and hard. Hopefully we can stay on all easy trails our first time out.
Check with the park and see if they require certified hay, It's a given out west that any public land requires it. But I've had folks from back east, Say, huh1 what are you talking about. So apparently it's not common back there.
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