Sometimes riding around in a ring, focusing on improving your riding position and improving your riding skills can be a little bit repetitive and can easily become boring. We all need a little break once in a while. That's why sometimes it's a good idea to get out of the ring and relax while enjoying a little bit of exercise on a trail ride.
Trail rides not only allow you to see nature on horseback, they also allow you to improve your relationship with your horse, to gain confidence and to gain trust. So even though you aren't working on your leg position or clearing that oxer, you'll be working on other things in a more relaxed atmosphere.
First of all, make sure that you are well prepared before you head off onto a trail. Make sure you have enough water, food and that both you and the horse have enough insect repellent on. A hoof pick may also be a good idea to bring along just in case your horse steps on something that will make him uncomfortable. If you are going on a trail in the woods, bring a map and a compass with you so that you don't get lost. Keep everything in a backpack or in a saddle bag so that you don't have to worry about loosing anything.
It is best to trail ride with at least one other person and to always make sure you have a cell phone on you as well as identification in case of an emergency. Whether you are riding in a group or alone, always notify someone that will not be riding with you where you are going and for how long before heading off.
Remember to give your horse his head and to let yourself be an easy load. Some areas of the trail may be muddy or inclined. By allowing your horse more rein, it allows him to have more balance to get both of you to the other side. When going up a hill, you want to lean forward. When going down a hill, you want to lean back. This allows your body to stay with the horse's centre of gravity, making his job much easier.
When a horse spooks at something, it is the perfect opportunity to take the time to show him that there is nothing to be afraid of. If you can, let him observe and smell the object he spooked at. If you stay calm and show him that there is nothing to be afraid of, he'll gain more confidence and will trust you more. Learning not to spook at sudden movements like a rabbit or a bunch of leaves will also teach him not to worry about unusual things anywhere else, like during a competition.
Exposing you and your horse to new things will only increase your bond and make you a better team. If you're lucky enough to have access to horse trails in the woods or on the beach, take advantage of them. Even if it means loading your horse in a trailer, it will be worth it (not to mention that the trailer is also another great exercise to do).
I hope you are all doing very well and have enjoyed this past week. Thank you for reading and I wish you all the best on your trail riding adventures.
Until next time, happy riding!