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Spring is in the air, the flowers are starting to bloom and horseback riders are eager to get back in the saddle. While some brave horseback riders ride throughout the cold winter temperatures, many riders take a break during the winter months. With Spring weather hitting most parts of the country, horseback riders are ready to hit the trail.
As you prepare for spring trail riding, here are some things to remember to keep you and your horse safe.
Before selecting a trail and the duration of your ride, consider your horse and their physical condition. If you have been riding or exercising your horse during the winter months, your horse is probably in fairly good shape. However, if your horse was idle most of the winter, you’ll want to spend some time on conditioning before hitting any strenuous trails. Doing some groundwork and lounging will help your horse build up strength and muscle prior to your ride.
As you consider your horse’s fitness, remember your own. Are you fit enough for an hour trail ride? Daily exercise for horseback riders is critical for success in the saddle. Simple leg, hip and back exercises will make your trail riding a lot more fun.
Spring is known for sudden changes in weather, going from warm to cold quickly. Dress for potential changes in weather with easily removable layers. If you are in an area where snow or rain is common in the Spring, consider adding waterproof gear.
All horseback riders have experienced the unexpected on the trail. Spring weather and footing can result in even more unexpected issues. Packing small amounts of food, water, and a first-aid kit can come in handy during these situations. Remember, issues can arise on short and long rides, so be sure to pack these items every time you hit the trail.
Windstorms and snow often bring down branches and debris on trails. Unless you are traveling on a well-maintained trail, you will likely need to clear these items yourself. This debris sometimes makes trails completely impassable. However, in some situations, you can clear the debris with a little work. Carrying a small, lightweight saw can make clearing these obstacles much easier.
Springtime means mud and unstable ground from erosion. Make sure to be careful on slopes and hills. Choose your time to ride carefully, as mud over frost can be dangerous for your horse. It is very difficult for them to get traction on this footing, regardless of the type of shoes they have. If you do encounter this type of footing on the trail, dismount and carefully walk your horse from the side. Walking in front of your horse will put you at risk if your horse slips.
Take extra caution on hills until the ground is completely dry. Hills can be deceiving and very slippery for your horse. Draining water and high water also pose a higher risk during winter melt. If you are unsure of the water depth or current, avoid crossing in that area.
We hope these trail riding tips help you get ready and stay safe on the trail this Spring!