Trail Rides Etiquette That You Must Know

If you want to have a pleasant cross-country ride, it’s important that you are aware of the rules of etiquette for riding cross-country. You have to respect and follow these rules if you want to be allowed on the property and be invited again.

Do you know some of these unspoken etiquettes?

Many of these rules are more of a courtesy or common sense, such as respect for your co-members and other land users.

Below are the common etiquettes for trail rides that you must be knowledgeable about.

Know the Lay of the Land and the Owner

The first thing that you need to know when riding cross country is the lay of the land that you will be crossing. You need to gauge if you will be riding on a private or public land. You also need to know if you need to acquire permission to cross it or ride there.

Many riders make an assumption that they are riding on public land. Don’t make the same mistake. You have to know that some of private lands are not marked. You have to determine beforehand if you route will be passing a private land and acquire permission from the landowner if so.

Some property owners are fine with riders passing through their rangelands or ranch pastures. There are some landowners though that doesn’t tolerate trespassers at all.

Leave All Gates Exactly How You Found Them

It’s definitely tempting to leave the gate open especially if you are going to pass through that gate again later in the day. One thing that you must remember in riding is that you should leave all gates exactly how you find them. If you found them closed, make sure that you close them as soon as you passed through. Cattles and other pasture animals have allotted range pastures where they graze. Leaving the gate open might cause the cattle to wander into the wrong pasture and this could cause problems for their owners.

If you find a gate left open, you should leave them open. Gates are opened for a reason – for example, so cattle can have access to water. It’s important that you know about the land ownership and specific use and which gates should be left open or closed.

Leave Minimal Impact

Picture this scenario out: The hooves of your horse tear up wet grass. Or you left a furrow in the ground when you slide down a hill. Or, worst of all, you took a shortcut and passed on area where you’re not supposed to be and damaged the land. Tearing out vegetation on fragile soils or making a furrow or trail where there was none can lead to erosion. Not only that, these scenarios could have your invitation to ride on the land cancelled.

In whatever circumstances, you should do everything in your power to minimize adverse impact, especially in fragile areas. Care for the land should always be a primary factor when you make decision on the trail. You need to be more mindful, especially on open land.

Stay on the trails especially if you’re riding on existing trails. Ride single-file in the middle of the path and never detour around snow banks, puddles, or other obstacles if you can go through them. Don’t cut across the switchbacks or take shortcuts either; this could create additional trails and tears out and tramples more plants that could cause erosion.

Choose Rest Stops Mindfully

It’s tempting to stop at a wooded area to tie your horse and do a leg-stretch or perhaps have your lunch at a lush meadow where your horses can graze. You can’t just make your rest stops anywhere you want to. Instead of choosing the most breathtaking view, select a spot where you can leave the least impact instead.

How to be mindful on your rest stops?

Choosing an area with durable footing and soil where your horses can’t trample the vegetation is a good start. If you’re just taking a short break, instead of tying your horse to a tree you can rather hold him. If you’re resting on an area that is well-traveled, pull off the main trail so other users won’t be forced to go around you.

Don’t Leave Any Litter

It’s the most basic courtesy to never leave your trash behind.

You may think that dropping a plastic from a granola bar, pop can or a gum wrapper as you ride along is not a big deal, but you have to remember that this garbage will stay in the environment a long time. Littering could have other repercussions aside from the aesthetic impact. A curious calf may eat a wrapper or a plastic bag that you left behind, resulting in a fatal GI-tract blockage.

Put all your trash in your saddlebag or jacket pocket and dispose them properly when you get home.

Tie Your Horse Carefully

Long rides could be exhausting which is why many riders make a stop to explore the area, fish in a pond or have some lunch. If you need to tie your horse to a tree, make sure that you tie him to a live tree with at least 8 inches in diameter. Choose a tree that is well-rooted and sturdy that your horse can’t break, bend or pull over. Avoid trees with sharp branches at eye level for the safety of your horse.

Click here to learn more about carefully tying a horse to a tree.

Be Courteous

Being polite can certainly go a long way. Practice courteousness at all times so that other users – dog walkers, hikers, bicyclists – would respect you. Always offer the right of way to hikers, bikers or other riders. If it’s too hard to move your horse off a narrow trail when you come across with hikers, ask them politely to step off on the downhill side.

Practicing good manure manners is important too. As your horse defecates, keep him moving so that he won’t leave a huge pile. Keep heavy-duty garbage bags in your trailer’s tack compartment, along with a shovel, rake or a broom and clean up any manure left by your horse.

Learn more about horse riding here.

Tips on How to Dress Appropriately and Safely for Horse Riding

Thinking about what to wear before you work with or ride a horse is important. Wearing the proper clothing is not only for comfort, it’s also for your safety. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on your outfit. There are tons of appropriate piece of garment that you can find at a more pocket-friendly price.

Below are some of the things that you need to know about proper equestrian attire.


There are a lot of headgears available in the market that you can choose from. When choosing a headgear, the most important thing that you need to consider is safety instead of fashion. Approved headgears provide the most protection for your head while the non-approved headgears only serve as apparel items.


  • Wear properly fitted equestrian helmets and ASTM/SEI certified when riding and working around horses.


  • Baseball hats
  • Cowboy hats
  • Top hats
  • Derbies
  • Bicycle helmets
  • Hunt caps

Wearing approved helmets have been proven to be effective in preventing injuries and reducing the severity of head injuries. You may need to spend around $30-$300 in a good helmet, but this amount is relatively small compared to the permanence and potential cost of head injury.


You really don’t have to buy new clothes that you can use for horse riding. Chances are, you can find something in your closet like a sweatshirt or T-shirt that is appropriate.  Make sure that the shirt has a perfect fit. Wearing loose or clothes that are too large may get caught in a tree branch or a piece of equipment. But if you are going to a horse show, then it’s a different story probably.

If you are going on a trail, wear clothing of bright colors so that you are more visible. Vests are also a staple for many riders, especially when the weather is cooler. Vests give you the needed warmth and they don’t restrict your arms and shoulders.

If you’re in an area with frigid temperatures, there are winter coats specifically designed for horse riding that you can choose from. These coats have more room through the shoulders and have gussets so they spread over the saddle rather than tucking under your seat. You can even get fancy and choose the ones that have attractive patches and reflective tape for greater visibility out on trail.


An inexpensive pair of two-way stretch tights maybe the smartest and most comfortable choice for everyday riding. You can buy your riding tights with seat patches and leather knee. These tights are made of a more durable fabric and provide a bit more grip than tights not designed for horseback riding. For colder weather, you can wear winter riding pants made of fleece material to give you an extra layer of warmth.

You may notice that a lot of riders wear sweat pants or jeans. Whilst these clothing are okay, you would want to avoid pants that wrinkle, twist or bunch along the inside of your legs and especially knees. Just like with shirts, your pants should be of perfect fit. Wearing pants that are too loose or too large can catch on something which can lead to an injury to yourself or your horse.

Leather riding chaps give some riders the extra grip and wind breaking ability during winter season. You can wear half chaps that cover from knee to foot if you want grip and protection for your lower leg. Chaps or half chaps may not prevent major injuries but they can protect your legs from scratches and scrapes when trail riding and from being chaffed against the saddle.  You would appreciate the extra layer of protection leather or synthetic chaps provide when you are riding with badly rubbed calves, especially after your horse starts sweating.


Gloves don’t just give your hands the protection they need; they also give you a bit extra grip and strength. Gloves are particularly useful when your horse pulls. Going out without your gloves on could give your hands horse blisters when you pull while riding out on a trail. You can use any reasonably fitted pair of gloves as long as they can hold the reins comfortably. Leather-palmed crochet-backed gloves are perfect for summer while lined leather gloves are ideal for winter.


Next to the helmet, footwear is probably the next most important type of attire for you and your horse’s safety.

There may not be an official standards or testing for horse riding boots, but you would want to get a pair with about a 1 to 1 ½ inch heel and low tread. The heel will protect your foot from slipping through the stirrup when riding.

Winter and hiking boots are not ideal for horse riding as their tread is too heavy and could jam in the stirrup in case of a fall. Gym shoes are not appropriate for horse riding either. You would also want to stay away from any boots with waffle tread. Sandals and flip-flops are also a big no-no, whether you’re working with or riding a horse. These footwear don’t give your feet any protection at all.

For riding purposes, your boots should be supportive of your ankles, just like an ice skater. Look for a pair that covers your ankles. You really don’t have to purchase a “riding boots”; your boots just need to have the heel, sole and tread appropriate for horse riding. There are two purposes that a pair of boots serves.  A riding boot with a small heel provides some protection if your toes get trampled and help prevent your foot from slipping through the stirrup. Tall boots also give your legs protection from chaffing while you ride and from getting scraped by scrub and branches as you trail ride.

There are many kinds of boots that you can choose from so choose whatever is affordable, comfortable and suitable for your type of riding. A good pair of boots starts at about $100.

Click here to find out more helpful tips and articles about horse riding.