Trail Safety Tips for Horse & Rider

Trail riding is one of the most sought-after outdoor adventure travel hobbies today. Whether it’s on the beaches of Costa Rica, the woods of Virginia or in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, trail riding is a fantastic experience that allows you to bond with your horse and enjoy nature’s beauty.

In order to keep your trail-riding experience pleasurable, memorable and relaxing, there are a few trail safety tips to learn about before, during and after your trail-riding adventure.

Safety Tips for Prepping for the Trail Ride

From planning to packing, there are several safety tips to consider before heading out on the trail.

Plan Your Ride

How long will you be going? Some riders will take a one- to two-hour ride, and others will plan for an overnight trip or, sometimes, weeklong adventures. Knowing your time frame will help you plan the equipment, food, physical and mental preparation for the trail ride.

Pack accordingly

Pack your trailer with current Coggins/health/brand inspection on your animals. Other items to take along include the following:

• Identification

• Pocket knife

• Hoof pick

• Mosquito spray

• Fly spray

• Jacket

• Rain gear

• Water

• Snacks

• Hat/helmet

• Sunglasses

• Lip balm

• Sunscreen

• First-aid kit for people and horses

• Nylon rope

• Leather cleaner

• Gloves


• Cellphone

• Wraps for the horse’s legs

• Boots for the horse

• Tack/equipment: Saddle, saddle pads, girth, bridle, halter, blankets or sheets (depending on the time of year)

• Hay, grain and treats

• Pitchfork, broom and any other cleaning essentials

• Trash bags

Check your equipment

Be sure to check that all tack is cleaned, adjusted for the horse and in working condition. The bridle needs to be adjusted properly so that it is not pinching the horse, all loose ends are tucked into keepers and the leather is in good condition.

Inspect the trailer

Carefully inspect the trailer from inside to the outside and be sure that everything is properly latched into place. The trailer should be stocked with hay and water for horses if the trip is longer than an hour. Test all brake lights and flashing lights to be sure they are in working order before loading the horses.

Check your horse

Is the horse properly prepared, mentally and physically? The safety for both horse and rider is critical, and determining the ability of the horse is a major factor before going out on the trail. Be sure to walk the horse around and be aware of any lameness issues, previous bumps or cuts, or any swelling or stiffness beforehand.

Rules of the Trail

Even if the rules are not printed on paper, there is still a standard set of rules to follow on all trail rides.

Respect the trails

Someone takes the time to maintain trails for the enjoyment of riders, so being courteous and respectful of nature and the trails is part of the ride.

Don’t litter

You may hear this one a lot, but leaving your trash on the ground will endanger wildlife and pollute the land. Be courteous and clean up any garbage that may have resulted from your ride.

Protect nature

Directly nailing into a tree to hang tack will cause trees to die. If you need to cut some wood, go for the dead trees. Use nylon cord that is easy to take down, instead of nails and wire.

Keep a safe distance

Don’t ride directly behind the horse in front of you. This will prevent any injuries from kicking by the horse in front.

Keep a steady pace

Know your horse and its stamina, along with your own. Keeping a steady and safe pace of a walk or jog is perfectly fine on trails. It is highly discouraged to canter or gallop through tight trails at high speeds; this may cause a horse to become nervous and increase the chances of a fall. Keep a steady contact with the reins to ensure a safe ride.

Assessing new trails

Always check the surrounding areas of a new trail before proceeding to ride through. If the branches are clear, the footing is safe and your “gut feeling” lets you believe it’s safe to go, then proceed. If any circumstance arises that puts you, your horse or the others in danger, dismount immediately and go back to known safe trail.

Ride in a team

It’s never safe to be alone on a trail. Horses like to travel in groups, and in many cases it reassures them that the adventure is safe.

After the Trail Ride

Cool down

If the temperatures are warm, be sure to hose down your horse and sweat-scrape any excess water. While the horse dries, it is safe to graze it before loading into the trailer. Be sure to offer the horse water and a treat after the ride.

Inspect the horse

Check for any swelling, bites, cuts or scrapes that may have occurred on the trail. If you notice anything awry, assess the injury and refer to the first aid kit.

Clean equipment

In order to keep all tack in working condition, it’s best to clean all reins, saddles, girths and anything leather to keep it from cracking.

A Note on First Aid

Preventing injury and promoting good health for your horse is critical in trail-riding safety. There are essential first aid products to keep on hand for the horse in case of emergency. Some of the key ones to keep in the trailer include: antibiotic ointment, iodine solution, a roll of cotton, bandage material (maybe vet wrap), gauze sponges, soft towels, cortisone cream, duct tape or an “EasyBoot” in case the horse throws a shoe, and a thermometer. A veterinarian should issue any drugs that might be needed in an emergency. Banamine is known to be of help in case of colic. You may also want to keep penicillin or another antibiotic on hand, in case the need arises for wound care.

Horse Aid - First Aid Kit for Horses

Veterinarian approved for barn, tack, trailer and trail.

This kit contains essential items for Horse First Aid Emergencies. more

Retail Price: $69.95

Special Price: $53.95

Quantity Discounts: Available Item#/SKU: 10140

By preparing safely, riding safely and traveling safely, everyone can enjoy a successful trail ride by following the above tips.

Jessica Adcock

is a lifelong equestrian and a member of the e-commerce team at Dover Saddlery, a leading retailer of quality English horse tack, supplies and riding apparel for horse and rider at any level.

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