Need a Trail Riding 101 - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 16 Old 05-27-2013, 01:31 PM Thread Starter
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Need a Trail Riding 101

So, I'm an avid english rider and never been on a trail ride before. My family and I are going to a dude ranch this summer for vacation and, of course, we will be trail riding

I would just like to know the Do's and Dont's of trail riding, so I can appear to be a little more educated, and not be the fool making all the wrong mistakes haha.

Also, if anyone could enlighten me on things NOT to do as an english rider that's switching to western for a week that will make me look silly. I don't want the people to be able to look at me and right away and be able to tell I'm strictly english

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post #2 of 16 Old 05-27-2013, 01:40 PM
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First off, welcome to the forum . Don't worry too much about "looking strictly English". Anyone who's been riding western for a while will be able to tell by looking that you were trained English, no matter what you do. That's nothing to be embarrassed by either, there will be folks there who have only ridden horses on pony rides or trail strings where they just sit there and the horse follows the tail in front of them.

Here is a thread about trail riding etiquette, though the finer rules may vary from place to place.
Trail Riding Etiquette

The only other thing I can really think of (and likely the thing that you'll have the most trouble getting used to) is riding one handed without contact. Properly trained western horses are not ridden on contact, nor are they ridden with 2 hands for direct reining. The "proper, traditional" hand to use is the left, but nobody will stress if you use your right.

Other than that, just relax and have fun .
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post #3 of 16 Old 05-27-2013, 02:03 PM
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My mare has been behaving much calmer when ridden with a western curb bit than she does with any snaffle I've tried. For looking weird, it is hard to beat combining an English saddle with a curb bit...but if she behaves well, who cares?

And I think that is the attitude of most trail riders and western riders. If you ride in a way that seems harmful to the horse, you might get a comment. Or you might get a comment from some know-it-all, particularly if they know very little:
"Scarecrow: I haven't got a brain... only straw.

Dorothy: How can you talk if you haven't got a brain?

Scarecrow: I don't know... But some people without brains do an awful lot of talking... don't they?

Dorothy: Yes, I guess you're right."
But most English riders I've seen have good balance, which is huge in good riding. Riding with one hand instead of two still feels a bit odd to me...I often rest my right hand on the saddle horn because I feel more balanced with my hand toward the front. If anyone wants to laugh at me for doing so, they can. One advantage to being 55 is that I don't care as much any more about what other people think...

Good luck, and enjoy!
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"Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing...well, ignore it mostly."
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post #4 of 16 Old 05-27-2013, 02:35 PM
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Yeah, as mentioned, a loose reign. Other then that its just riding. Enjoy the big comfy saddle and have fun.

It's not like everything is backwards ;)

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post #5 of 16 Old 05-27-2013, 02:45 PM
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Ha Ha BSMS, it don't look weird, I rode that way for years! Whatever works, right?

Carpe have you ever ridden western?
When I went from western to English it was a bit of a struggle learning to keep contact or on the bit. I felt awful because I'd always ridden with a curb and the LAST thing you do is have constant contact. So remember to keep the reins loose.
Verbal commands are more common, so remember to "use your words".
Don't rely on alternate bit action, they neck rein. I've seen some primarily English riders spin circles and struggle going forward until they learned to use their legs and the reins instead of the bit. Watch some basic Western riding videos before you go, it ain't rocket science. You still mount on the same side, LOL!

As for keeping in the saddle...
Your legs will be longer, but with the secure saddle it's not that big of a change.
Don't excessively post, LOL! Sit the trot, but don't bounce around either.
I'm sure you probably have a good seat, so just sit back and relax.
On the trails I don't micro manage. I allow the horse to somewhat choose their footing and path as long as I am 100% in control. (Not like I just willy nilly let them meander around, LOL!) Get the horse under control with a few half halts/easy taps on the reins before going up a hill so they don't take off on you. I'm pretty sure the horses there are seasoned pros and will take good care of you!

Relax and have fun!
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post #6 of 16 Old 05-27-2013, 02:54 PM
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Trail rides are a little different from riding in an arena in that you will be gone for 5-6-8 hours. There is no stop by the rail and get a drink.

I pack several bottles of water, some food/snacks, any extra layers of clothing I might need during the day. I usually keep some basic essentials in my cantle bag, TP, matches, band aids, insect spray, some Motrin or Advil.

Most dude strings will set you up with your saddle and tack, So hop up and make sure the stirrups fit and your gear all gets tied on behind the cantle. Horn bags are also handy for snacks and cameras, Things you want easy access to.

Since trail rides often involve trail side vegetation. Using only one hand on the reins allows you to use the other hand to push branches out of your way or swat spider webs away before they cover you face. I frequently take some pruners with me and prune away branches that would hit me in the face.

But other than stuff like this. Nobody cares how you were trained to ride. Get on the horse and enjoy yourself.
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post #7 of 16 Old 05-27-2013, 03:17 PM
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First thing I would ask is whether you are used to non-horse trails - hiking, backpacking, etc? If so, you will have a good idea of what you need to take on a ride. Ask your guides for advice. One thing I'd add to PaintedHorse's list is sunscreen: lots more UV at the higher elevations.

I'd also suggest listening to your horse. S/he has probably done these rides hundreds of times, and will know the trails &c.
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post #8 of 16 Old 05-27-2013, 03:27 PM Thread Starter
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I've never ridden western, so this helps a lot, thanks!
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post #9 of 16 Old 05-28-2013, 05:56 PM
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If you ride English in you underwear, loose them, and get some western jeans and shirts. Word of caution, when selecting jeans, get those with the heavy seam on the outside. Those with the heavy seam on the inside are not very comfy.

Don't be bashful about asking questions. Not all western horses are trained the same. Not at all unusual for western horses to be ridden with slight contact with the bit. All of our horses are western, and all ridden with slight bit contact. Also, very common to post to the trot. NO WAY, I'd sit the trot of most western horses. And you might get lucky, and they'll have gaited horses, very common.

Most of these ranch/dude horses are also trained to plow rein steer. If you get in a tight spot, practically everything you've learned English will work.

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post #10 of 16 Old 05-28-2013, 06:14 PM
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You may or may not be out for 5 - 8 hours. Many of these places take people out that have never been on a horse before, so it's best to call ahead and see what the package is for. Bringing some water and snacks is a good idea. If you have water bottles with straps they're easier to find a way to attach to the saddle. I use a belt for snacks unless I have pockets.

You can buy jeans just for the ride if you want, but I know I wear English breeches when I trail ride purely for the comfort. Your English boots are OK too. If the weather is at all iffy, bring a coat or raincoat. Riding in the rain can be wonderful, but only if you are dressed for it.

Why be concerned about people seeing you as being English. I'm always impressed by anyone trying something out of their usual element.
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