Tips for Trail Riding
Trail riding certainly is a special time spent
with friends both equine and human. It can be great fun. It can be
memorable. There are certain steps we can take to make sure all the
memories are good ones.
Be In Shape
the difficulty of the trail ride to the conditioning of both you and
your mule. Donít take the first Spring trail ride and make it six
hours long when neither you nor your mule has been doing much during
the winter months. Get ready for the longer rides by gradually
conditioning your animal with small rides working up to a higher
level of fitness. Trotting is the best conditioning for both muscle
fitness and wind. Climbing hills will strengthen the back and
hindquarters. Remember that athletes warm up before exertion and
both you and your mule will benefit from this, too.
trail riding you finally have found somewhere you can really express
yourself in color of clothing. In fact, sometimes, the louder the
better. Bright clothing will insure you will be noticed by drivers
and hunters. That bright yellow, burnt orange, neon green are
perfect on the trail. Very few turkeys, deer or bear wear these
colors when out and about so you wonít be confused with them. Bright
helmets and helmet covers are a good choice, too.
You might consider a few bells on your tack. Their sound will serve
as warning on those switchbacks when you are coming around blind
When riding at night, consider the iridescent
vests and leg wraps for your mule. These show up well in the
headlights of those cars and trucks that whiz by you. Without the
attention-getting color, you might not be seen on the shoulder of a
busy road. Reflective clothing or wraps can be kept in saddle bags
along with a tiny bicycle flasher light just in case you get caught
out after dark.
in case of an accident or an unfortunate incident where you and your
mule might be separated, be sure and keep identification on both of
you. There are numerous saddle IDs that can be attached with your
name and number so should you become separated, someone will know
who to call when your mule is munching their front lawn with no
rider in sight. In addition, bring your driver licence, write your
name in your helmet or attach a tag with pertinent information on
the zipper of your jacket.
If you have allergies or medical problems, wear medic alert tags. If
you should take a nasty fall or be unconscious, your mule canít
speak for you. Be sure your identification is available so that
friends or family can be contacted should you be hurt and not able
to speak or make decisions for yourself.
You might even consider carrying your cellular phone on the ride. If
you are riding close enough to a tower, youíll have communication
should you need it. Cellular phones are good in all kinds of
emergencies whether in the truck or on the trail.
always need to take a number of items for your trail ride. Some you
need to keep on your person should you become separated from your
mule and some you can keep in saddle bags. There are fanny packs,
fisherman vests and special riding vests made for you to where and
horn bags, saddle bags and cantle bags for your tack.
Both you and your mule might light to have a snack on the trail.
Keep your muleís snack on you just in case you might need it to
convince a loose mule to come back to you. Mule treats like carrots,
apples, etc. might just be needed to entice Molly to come back
instead of embarking on an excursion that could break tack and leave
you afoot for the next two hours.
Pack a small first aid kit. You can
include Vet-Rap, adhesive tape, cotton, gauze, Band-Aid, antiseptic
spray or cream and Sting Eaze. You might want to consider a snake
bit kit in some areas.
On long rides you might want to bring an
extra lead rope or an extra set of reins. Let your mule carry
his halter and lead rope by putting it over his bridle and tying the
lead rope around his neck. Or you can purchase a halter/bridle
Saddle bags which are insulated can
provide a cool drink on hot days when you need to re-hydrate
yourself. Golfers have some great insulated bags you can also use.
Some them even carry a six pack of cans in a long tube like
Include fly spray or wipes, rain
gear in threatening weather, a hoof boot, and anything
else you have found that you will need. You can also include a
compass or even a G.P.S. to keep you on the right trail.
Weather might dictate lip balm, sunglasses, gloves
or sun screen. You and your mule both might like to have one
of those neck coolers that you soak in water to cool you down. Take
a sponge to wet your mule down in hot weather. Or, your mule might
appreciate a quarter sheet under the saddle on cold days if heís
body clipped for shows.
Carrying a firearm is completely up
to you. You should, however, know the laws concerning carrying
concealed weapons in the area you ride. In addition, be thoroughly
educated in the use of the gun and familiar with its use. That means
be trained to use it and knowledgeable in handling it. Remember, a
bullet CANNOT BE TAKEN BACK and should be used only in an emergency.
While most people wonít care if you are doing your part to make
rattlesnakes an endangered species, the law will be less forgiving
you endanger the life of a hiker.
always best to ride with a friend. However, if you do ride alone
sometimes, it is important to let someone know where and when you
intend to ride and when you can be expected home. Include the route
you intend to take, your cellular phone number, truck licence plate
number. Stick to your planned trip route. No one helps you if they
donít know where they can find you. Leave the approximate time you
plan to return so someone will know to search for you if youíre
late. Be sure and let your contact person know when you arrive home
safe and sound.
Riding in Company
yourself with guidelines for multi-use non-motorized trails and
pathsKnow trail etiquette and use it. Ride/Skate/Walk as far to the
right as practical, except when passing another user going your
direction (pass on the left). Control your speed, slow down and use
caution when approaching or overtaking other trails or pathways
users. Travel in a consistent and predictable manner. Always
look behind before changing positions on the trail or path.
Ride/Skate/Walk single file when other users are present. Use no
more than half the trail or path so as not to block the flow of
other users. When stopping, move off the trail or path. Use extra
caution where trail or path crosses streets, driveways, or other
trails and paths. Use extra caution where trail or path crosses
streets, driveways, or other trails and paths. Keep a muleís length
between you and the mule in front of you. Trails and paths are open
to the public, but often the adjacent land is private property.
Please respect all property rights.
clothing based on comfort, climate, weather and length of ride.
There are many tennis shoes made for riding now. Keep in mind that
tennis shoes and paddock boots which lace up do not slip off a foot
hung up in a stirrup or brush as easily as a slip on boot. Helmets
are a good precaution. Safety riding helmets are made and certified
to protect from head trauma. You might end up with a headache after
a tumble, but thatís better than a hospitalization. For the fashion
conscious, they come in great colors, shapes and there are even
Rules of the Trail
know the rules that apply to the land on which you are riding. Many
parks have permit fees that need to be paid and most have
rules concerning trail use. Familiarize yourself with the customs,
rules and regulations at the park office.
Do your part to take care of the trails so that
they will be there for future rides. Carry out your trash, close
gates, donít smoke on the trail, practice courtesy when meeting
other trail users, stay on the trail and report any problems you
encounter to park officials. Get a map of the trails in the park
and ride only on designated trails. If a trail is closed to
equestrians, stay off it. Most trails make use of the international
trail signs. Obey them so everyone can enjoy the great outdoors.
In addition, to use restriction signs, you might
also encounter directional and conditional use signs. These are put
there for a reason. Obey them. Trail condition signs might serve as
warnings for dangerous conditions which could be encountered on the
trial as well. Pay attention to dry conditions, wet conditions and
When opening gates, usually whoever opens the
gate waits for all the riders to pass through and closes the gate.
Riders passing through the gate do so and then stop their mule and
wait for the gate opener to close the gate, remount if necessary and
settle their mule to continue the ride. It is rude to ride
through the gate and not stop. The person working the gate may
have problems with their animal if the others run off and leave
Ride single file. This causes less trail
wear. If your mule is a kicker, tie a red ribbon on his tail
to warn others to stay two mule lengths behind and be careful when
If you need to pass someone or a group, let the
other rider know you are approaching by talking to them. Always pass
on the left at the same speed that the person you are passing is
traveling. Donít kick your mule into a faster gait that will upset
anotherís animal and put them in danger.
Since any trails are multi use and will include hikers
and possibly motorized vehicles. Be sure and ask about what kind of
use is allowed. If you do not want to ride on multi use trails, find
somewhere else to ride. If you encounter motorized vehicles, stop
your mule and face the vehicle. Wave your hands to catch the
driverís attention and ask them to slow down as they pass you. Most
multi users are courteous and many drivers will even stop and turn
their vehicle off to calm a mule. But you canít depend on everyone
being that friendly. Get off the trail completely if you anticipate
a wreck on your part.
If you are riding on private property, make sure
you have permission to do so. All the above rules apply. Close
gates, donít smoke, donít chase other livestock and take care of the
property as if it were your own. Just as a nice gesture, send a
Thank You Note occasionally to let the property owner know you
appreciate their generosity.
Take a break once in a while on a long ride. Dismount and both you
and your mule take a stretch. Vary riding between open sunny fields
and shady forest paths. Enjoy each otherís company and make the ride
comfortable for both of you.
Remember, a courteous rider is generally a joy to
ride with and usually invited on all the trail rides. Rude and
thoughtless riders are generally left off the invitation list the
Right of Way
to the right when riding regardless of the trail conditions. The
right of way rules are that bikers give way to hikers and both
bikers and hikers give way to equestrians. This is considered
correct. However, always let common sense and common courtesy
prevail. Down hill traffic yields to uphill.
all have had problems with our mules buddying up with another
animal. When they are separated, they can be a real pain. If this is
the case, keep buddies together on the trail ride. Their separation
antics are not only irritating to their owners, but can be dangerous
to other riders. If you are using this trail ride as a separation
lesson, let other riders know this is what youíd like to do so they
can anticipate problems.
Crossing roads becomes necessary on some trail rides.
Cars are supposed to stop for equestrians, but thatís not always the
case. Stop your mule perpendicular to the road about 15 feet from
the pavement before crossing. If you must ride along the road for a
distance, ride on the left side facing the oncoming traffic so your
mule can see the cars. Large groups should try to line up next to
each other and cross the road at the same time after looking both
ways to make sure there is no traffic either way. Once on the other
side, assume the single file again.
Cantering and loping along can be fun, but can
also be dangerous on terrain you are not familiar with. Uneven
surfaces, wet lands and holes can create wrecks which you couldnít
avoid when going full throttle. Deer and other creatures, including
a boy scout troop with backpacks, can spook your mule as you round a
corner. At a full gallop, you could go flying off instead of
Everyone has their favorite dog companion. If you
intend to bring your dog on a ride, be sure it is well behaved and
trained to accompany your mule and others on the trail without
causing problems. A pupís over exuberance can cause a bad accident
or get the dog kicked and hurt. Unless, it is acceptable to all
trail riders, itís best to leave Rover either at home or back in the
riding should be an enjoyable time for you, your mules and your
companions. These rides will create memories for years to come and
stories to be told around campfires on future rides. It gives show
mules a break from the monotony of the arena and riders in high
stress jobs quiet times away from the office.
Most of all it gives everyone time to
experience all the blessings mother nature has provided for us if we
take the time to enjoy and take care of them.