It is a privilege to ride these trails, it is a working forest and there is no “right” for horses to be here. Click here for a print version of the Trail Riding Etiquette.
Remember that you are always an ambassador of horseback riding and that we all share the outdoors. If non-riders always meet a courteous and polite horse rider on the trail, their impression of all of us will hopefully remain positive.
There are few “official” rules for trail riding, like there are for, say, driving. But there are some commonly accepted practices that are good to remind ourselves of every once in a while. And while the word “etiquette” implies good manners, trail etiquette is as much about safety as it is about courtesy. Horses are herd animals and prey animals and this is the driving force behind how they think. Most horses do not like to be “abandoned” and can get upset if they feel this is occurring. When they encounter something which they perceive as frightening, their natural prey animal reaction is to jump and run. Much of what is listed below comes from an understanding of these facts.
If you can’t control your dog (with your voice from horseback) or he is ill-mannered with other people or animals, leave him at home. (Your dog must always be restrained in the car park prior to riding out and when returning back in)
If your horse is naturally scared of dogs, please consider attending a desensitising clinic before coming to the forest, a dog walking around and paying no attention to your horse is not a reason to complain to another rider about – however if you are worried please by all means communicate this to the dog owner when you see anyone with a dog.
In theory, single riders will yield to groups but be prepared for this not to be the case (hills and narrow trails)
Do not try to squeeze by other horses, you are asking for all kinds of trouble. Instead, give yourself plenty of room to go around.
Yield to anyone coming up or down the trail if you don’t know their animals or their riding ability and are confident with your own, also unless you know the oncoming horse and rider and their abilities, it is safest to assume that the horse and rider are both inexperienced and be prepared that anything could happen as you or they go by.
If it is a narrow trail with no way to move off to let another pass, decide who should turn around.
Always turn your horse to the downhill side. He can see his front feet and won’t step off the trail. He cannot see his back feet or where he is putting them as well, so you want to keep those on the trail.
You want to maintain a distance of about one horse length between horses while going down the trail. This leaves you time and space to react safely in the event of an accident in front of you.
Think like a horse, especially if you are the leader of the group. If you look at objects on the trail like a prey animal (is it unfamiliar or potentially dangerous), you can help prepare yourself for anything. Once again preparation and awareness can be the difference between a controlled flight and a bad wreck.
Nasty horses to go the back when riding in a group. If your horse is unruly, he should bring up the rear where his poor behaviour will not be witnessed by the other horses and cause them to get upset as well. And, if you are lucky, he may learn a thing or two from watching calmer horses in front of him all day. Likewise tie a red ribbon in the tail of a horse that kicks. If you are following a horse with a red ribbon, obviously it would be safer to maintain a little more distance between you, but also you might be extra watchful for signs of forewarning: pinned ears, swishing tail, hind leg at the ready, etc. Remember that your horse could move to avoid the kick and put you in its path instead. A broken leg or knee from a kick is no fun.
Mares in season and stallions can present special problems on the trail. They require an extra level of attention on the rider's part and the others in the group. If you are riding one, be extra vigilant of her/his behaviour. If you are not, but they are part of your group, keep an extra eye out on these animals. Ideally the rider on either of these animals would be an experienced horseman, but we all know you can’t count on that. Warn oncoming riders if necessary. And then also consider that any horse you may pass on the trail could be a mare in season or a stallion and that the rider may not be experienced.
Watch the footing, especially on uphill’s and downhill’s. If you encounter problems, warn any riders behind you and advise YMCA staff of any unexpected hazards.
When leading and/or riding with anyone behind you
Walk - Ask before trotting/cantering
Warn of holes, bad footing and other dangers - Warn if a branch might snap back in someone’s face
Warn when you are stopping
Keep track of other riders behind you
Take turns leading, if possible…share the dust.
When you reach a watering area, take turns and don’t crowd. Wait for everyone to finish before moving off. If you have a dog, keep them out of the horse water, there will be separate drinking stations supplied for them J
Stop if there is an accident.
This should be pretty obvious. Your help may be needed. But also, once again, horses are herd animals and do not like to be left alone, especially in an unfamiliar area. If you ride off, while someone is trying to mount back up, their horse could panic and take off to catch up with the group.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics:
Pick up all your trash, take it out.
Pick up other people’s trash to keep places as pristine as possible and set a good example.
Always be prepared for the idiot or the inconsiderate.
Be prepared for someone to take off at a gallop while you are mounting, bump into you from behind or stop dead in front of you.
Keep your comments to yourself (or pick your battles).
Unless the situation is a health risk or puts a life in danger, refrain from passing on your horsemanship wisdom. Many people may not respond well to a “know-it-all” or will resent the implication that they are stupid. Your “helpful suggestions” may cause more harm than good.
Additional safety items
Always carry ID on your person and on your horse in case you become separated. (These will be supplied to you)
Tell someone where you are going in case you don’t come home, even when riding with a group.
Carry on your person: cell phone! Drinking water in the summer (recommended)
If you come across walkers and cyclists or motorcycles, ideally they will yield to a rider- but don’t count on it. (Please report cyclists and motorcycles but no point getting into an argument with them – it could ruin your nice ride)
When encountering walkers or bikers, talk to them and get them to talk to you. Walkers with backpacks and bikers with helmets do not look human. Explain this to them and ask them to speak so that your horse will understand that this “thing” is actually just a person.
Ask them to stand off on the downhill side of the trail. Once again, horses are prey animals and often attacked from above, so keep the scary looking thing down low. It can also be easier to control a horse going uphill if he spooks.
Stay relaxed yourself and keep talking to the walker etc. And your horse if he is nervous.
Find out if there are more in their party and tell them how many in your party.
Thank them for their cooperation and be kind and courteous.
Leave gates as you find them
Keep off the logging truck routes as notified, trucks take a long time to stop – horses must give way to them – I am sure you don’t want to find out why!
We are all out there to enjoy ourselves – let’s all be safe and happy!