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.