Fall Trail Riding: Preparing Your Horse, Tack, and Saddle

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The smell of campfires, crisp mornings and cool evenings, yes it is fall!  For trail riders, the season holds much anticipation of planning as many rides as possible before winter arrives.  It’s important to be prepared so you and your horse have the safest and most enjoyable experience possible.

Most have heard the phrase, “no hoof, no horse”.  Your horse should be on a good schedule with your farrier year round.  Prior to long trail rides, have your farrier evaluate your horses need for shoes.  If you prefer not to have your horse shod but still want hoof protection, horse boots are a great alternative. Check your shoes before you head out to ensure they are tight.  Nothing is more frustrating than realizing you have a loose shoe after hitting the trail. 

Inspect your tack for any faults or wear problems.  Ensure the tack you will be using properly fits the horse you will be riding.  It’s always a good idea to take an extra snap and pieces of string or rope for emergency repairs.  If you will be tying your horse along the trail, take a halter.

If you plan to tote saddle bags, make sure your horse is used to them before hand. Just because he does well with empty bags thrown over him doesn’t mean he will like it when they are loaded and flopping against his sides.  For insulated bags, pack them with ice and see how your horse reacts to the cold water that may drip down his flanks.  Give him a good test run at the barn before your trip.  I could tell you some pretty interesting stories about inexperienced horses and saddle bags! 

Pack a first-aid kit with the essentials your horse may need while on the trail.  Water; even if you don’t think you will need it for drinking, you may need it to rinse a wound.  A good blood stopping wound care, such as Wonder Dust, bandages, small hoof pick and duct tape. Duct tape can be used to cover a hoof after loosing a shoe or keeping a loose shoe on until you return to camp. You can keep this list short or add several more items, depending on the amount of space you have in your bags.

Knowledge of tail ribbons!  Knowing the meaning behind the color of a ribbon tied to the tail of a horse could save you and your horse from injury.  A red ribbon tied in the tail hair or around the tail head is an indication that the horse may kick.  Beware and give him his distance.  A yellow ribbon indicates the horse is a stallion.  Use caution when approaching or passing and allow him a little extra room.  Green signifies the horse to be young or inexperienced, practice patience when in close proximity to a horse in training.  A white ribbon advertises the horse to be for sale.

At the campsite…

Some horses do not drink as well when they are away from home.  The odor and taste of water can vary, so take water from home when possible to ensure your horse stays hydrated.  Offer him small amounts of water at first until his thirst is quenched then allow free choice water.  Keep a supply of electrolytes in your trailer.  Electro-Plex is inexpensive and easy to use; it replaces fluids lost through excessive sweating.  It’s best to provide your horse hay before grain after a long, strenuous ride.  Let him cool down and relax before offering grain

If you plan to tie your horse to your trailer or a highline picket, he may tend to “stock-up”.  Stocking up often occurs in horses that are used to being turned out and able to move about freely.  It’s caused from the lack of normal circulation and usually is more noticeable in the hind legs.  The condition normally goes away quickly with exercise.  Equi FlexSleeve’s work great to promote circulation in standing horses that are tied overnight.  Just slip them on when you tie your horse for the evening and remove the next morning.

The fall brings a change of the seasons and with that, unpredictable weather patterns.  Take your horse a winter blanket.  You never know when the temperatures may drop at night.  He won’t have his winter coat yet and will appreciate the warmth a blanket will provide overnight if the temperatures take a sudden dip.

A little preparation and common sense will ensure you and your horse have a great trail ride!  I always enjoy seeing and hearing about your adventures.  Share them with us at our JeffersEquine Facebook fan page.

         “No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle” – Winston Churchill


Christy Wells

Christy has been riding, training and handling horses for 25 years including several years in the rodeo circuit.


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