Best practices for trail riding

When I was a kid, I rode our horse on several trails. I was always fearful of bees, raccoons, snakes, and low-hanging limbs – you know, things that could startle the horse, bite or sting me, or whack me in the head! 
Jenifer Nadeau is an equine extension specialist at the University of Connecticut. She says doing some ground work with your horse at home will help you both handle an uncomfortable situation.

"A lot of people talk about teaching your horse how to recover from different situations quickly, so that when they encounter something, they get over it. They don't just keep worrying about that thing and let it build up," says Nadeau. "For example Stacy Westfall has a lot of different videos for practicing for trail situations, teaching the horse to recover from something like a spook."

Be aware of your surroundings, and ride with others if you can. If you're not sure where to ride, Nadeau recommends asking other horse owners or organizations. State park maps often mark horse trails, and look for horse trails online. 

Before you saddle up, there are some considerations to make to ensure the experience is pleasant for you and your horse. 

"You really want to think about your horse's level of experience, your level of experience, the difficulty of the terrain that you might encounter, your horse's conditioning, and those sorts of things, and also, if you can add a route that has a water source on it," she recommends. "If you're riding and there's not going to be any water source, or you're going to be riding for a long time, you might want to incorporate looping back to the trailer for a drink."

There are several other things you should bring along. Nadeau says the number one item is a hoof pick, in case something gets stuck in the horse's hoof. Carry a flashlight in case nightfall catches you still on the trail. Have a first aid kit for horse and rider, sunscreen and insect repellant for both of you, and rain gear. 
 

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