. LOL We a bunch of lying effing trail riders too. Read your post and laughed.
One of the ladies who rides with us, and paid a steep price not long ago, rides a show type Welsh pony. She's a very petite, older lady. Learned to ride English style, in arenas. Switched to western, rides with a western type Tom Thumb bit (!!??!?)with an English posture in the saddle, and keeps her pony super COLLECTED the entire time we're on the trails! Pony struggles, tosses head a lot, but they somehow make it work. Last time she came out with us, the pony balked at a rain swollen creek, wanted to go one way to get across, rider over-corrected her to go the way the bigger horses had gone, Pony tap danced, tried to change directions, and it was over in two seconds - the lady panic snatched back on the reins, pony went straight up, and came right over on her side into the creek bank and the mud.
THANK GOODNESS our lady friend was okay, but shook and bruised up, banged up!!!! She told me later in the ride, somewhat nervously, that she really wished there were lessons to be taken on how to trail ride. God love her, she wants to do this, and we're there to help her all we can, but she's right - REAL trail riding isn't something you can learn in the controlled environment of an arena. There's no lessons you can take, really, except the type of Get out there and Do It sort, preferably with people who know what's up and can help you if you get in a jam. Anyway. Once we were back at camp and everyone had settled, we gently told her her first step is to learn to ride trails with a loose rein and trust her horse to know where to put her feet... and to get a different type of bit!
My friend who's gotten me started on this whole Camping with Horses type trail riding is also a barrel racer, her 7 year old daughter barrels races. She's in the saddle every. single. day. They don't wear helmets. None of us wear helmets. We respect the choices made by those who do, You do You, so all we ask is that the same is offered to us for choosing to not ride in a helmet.
She was contacted by her local trail rider association, she's very good friends with them, they asked if she'd be willing to come out and help them with a 'big trail ride'. Some people were coming up from the metro area, said they wanted to see what 'real' western trail riding was like. So... Coffee Mill lake/the Bois d'arc Trail Head was the location they wanted to try based on googling and reviews. Now... this is national grassland/forest. The trails are rated beginner to intermediate. MOST of the trails are sandy loam, but there are places that are red clay. There are lots of creek crossings - most are dry in the summer, some aren't. Water is shallow. There are some creek banks to climb, and some places going uphill that are 'stair stepped' by tree roots.
The trails can be maintained, and they are very well taken care of and kept clean, but they cannot be widened by cutting any trees or brush. Trees that fall over the trail, if they can't be gone around, can be cut into blocks and laid aside.
So. Where they can get in, the trail riders are allowed to use a skid steer to keep the trail clean, but eventually it narrows down and the skid steer won't fit. Trees can't be cut to allow it to fit. From that point on, the trails narrow to something like cattle trails. Still very lovely place to ride, still very laid back, low effort riding.
This group rolls up in high dollar rigs,not a speck of dirt on their trucks. Horses are unloaded and the horses are PUMPED. They are HOT and READY WOO OUTSIDE LOOK AT THE GRASS! Most are riders who have never been outside an arena, nor have ridden western, but 'wanted to try it out'. They all have helmets and impact vests on.
Friend said the second the trails narrowed down (And that's about 15 minutes into it) folks started complaining. They were bashing her for no helmet, bashing her for being a bad mom because daughter wasn't in a helmet and vest (That kid rides barefoot, legs crossed in the saddle, on a palomino mare that's built like a sofa and is about as excitable as one). They were kvetching about how horrible the trails were, how difficult and in some places, scary, they were (??? que?), how there were creeks to cross, trees to go around, and how LOOONNNGGGGG the ride was (THAT complaint started about 30-45 minutes in. Lots of Are we There Yet?)
One lady, the one that had carped the most about the lack of helmets on the 7 year old, actually lost control of her OWN HORSE and nearly fell out of the saddle... was dangling with a death grip from the horn, one leg still draped over the saddle.... at a slow trot. 7 Year old had to kick her old Twinkie mare up, and collect the dangling, loose reins of the complainer-in-chief, and safe her bacon by slowing her horse down and helping her regain her seat. 7 year old then quipped: I see why you ride in a helmet! I would too if I were that bad. Wow! (She's... young and a little... forthright. Not a lot of filters at that age y'know?)
So, everyone was going to 'camp all weekend', but friend said when they got back, they gave a few terse thank yous, said This isn't for Us, loaded up and rolled right out. They've never heard from that group again. Come to find out, they were expecting a well manicured horse park with level, raked trails, no brush, and only expected a half hour to an hour ride on each trail (The shortest is 2-2.5 hours long, the longest is just south of a 4 hour rider) and most had never ridden outside of an arena environment before.