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Just curious as I am rather new to trail riding in groups.   What are the rules for trail riding in groups?   Are they different in anyway with gaited and non-gaited riders/horses?   With small or large groups? 

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This is a really good question! It seems to me there are no real rules, just be kind and courteous, and to me the biggest concern is be very aware of the kids on these rides. They get exposed to enough in this world, and there's no way for them to filter out the junk, especially when they are in a state of excitement while riding. I'm gonna keep up with this one, it really is a good question and I need educating myself!
There are some common rules for safety and courtesy...
1. Dont run/gallop your horse from behind passing other people, it can get their horses excited and wanting to bolt off with your horse. Anytime you want to let your horse run, regardless of where you are located in a group. always check with other riders around you and see if they are comfortable with you suddenly going much faster. In our group, when some of our younger riders want to run, those of us who don't want to run will hold our horses back and let them get ahead of us before they let their horses take off into a run. That way it is less likely that our horses will want to take off and keep up with them.

2. Dont let your horse follow the one ahead of you too closely, some horses kick, and you or your horse could be injured.

3. If you meet another group of riders coming from the opposite direction, it is polite (and safer) if one group pulls off to the side of the trail to let the other group pass (if the trail allows it).

4. Dont pass horses in your own group until you check with the person you are wanting pass, this applies to narrow, single file trails...if you can pass by getting off the trail or it is wide enough for 2 horses to pass easily then this isn't necessary.

5. Never ride off and leave someone riding alone, unless you are sure they are comfortable with riding alone. Never assume! Many people would not admit to being uncomfortable riding alone, so always ask if they are sure they are ok with it.

I am sure there are other rules or guidelines for safe and courteous riding, but these are the main ones that I can think of at this moment. Maybe others can think of something and chime in here.

I am sure there probably are other safety/courtesy rules, but these are the main ones that I can think of at the moment.
Great rules Adrienne. Here are a few of the rules I have learned along the way.
1. Most trail areas have basic rules that are posted on the release form. These usually include no alcohol, no foul language, stay on the trails, don't tie horses to trees, no galloping through camp, etc.

2. Know the skill level of your riders and their horses. If someone is on a green or scittish horse, you should be aware that the horse could react differently than expected.

3. If you know your horse has some bad habits, warn the riders in your group. Some riders put a red ribbon on the horse's tail if it tends to kick out when others follow too close.

4. Make sure the group has a general consensus on how long you plan to ride.
Always ride at the pace of your weakest rider.
BRAVO Suzanne!!!!! Thinking of other's safety!
These are all excellent rules that everyone should ride by. Unfortunately not everyone does.
I would like to add just as a reminder to everyone:

1. If you pack it in, pack it out!

I can never understand why ANYONE wants to throw their trash down on the trail. It is such a selfish, uncaring thing to do when it is SO EASY to put it back into your bag and take it back to camp to the garbage can.
I couldn't agree more Melinda!
Another important facet to trail etiquette is personal responsibility. On trails that are frequented by many other riders, it's very likely that unexpected things will happen. Your ability to control your horse, and your horse's ability to follow instruction under pressure are vital to your own safety - and that of everyone around you.

If you're on a green horse, make sure everyone riding with you is aware and ok with it. AND make sure that anyone you happen across is also told, so they can be alert as well. Riding green horses is work, not pleasure - make sure you approach it with the same respect and professionalism that you would have with co-workers.

I see lots of folks over-estimating their own abilities and not really willing to learn more, and these are often the ones who cause or are hurt by unexpected things like deer, bear, or that "crazy" horse that goes rodeo bronc for no apparent reason (bees often cause this). You can never stop learning when it comes to something like horsemanship. Learning the basics of a balanced seat, teaching your horse to move off your seat and legs, and reinforcing your horse's cues with verbal commands are all excellent ways to improve your safety on the trail - AND the safety of those around you.

Drinking alcohol while riding is a Very Bad Idea, too, but I sure see a lot of it. Nothing against folks having a cold one, but save it for camp.

We all love our pets, but leave your dogs at home. As a rider whose horse was attacked by a dog that was familiar with horses (and the horse was familiar with dogs as well) I can assure you there are NO safe places other than your own property to take your dog. Not only are you risking other people's lives and your own liability, but the life of your dog. I've seen more than one dog killed by a horse on the trail, and it's never pretty. How would you feel to see your dog get it's eyeballs literally kicked out of his head? I watched it happen last year to a loose rat terrier at a public trail riding place.

Above all, be respectful and careful. But, never assume other people will be equally respectful, so make sure you and your horse are twice as good to make up for any problems Other People create.
Thanks for commenting about dogs...that is one that I forgot to mention. Not every horse is ok with having a dog around it's legs. Mine are fine with it, but it is not worth someone's safety or LIFE if their horse spooks at a strange dog. I love dogs and have my own, but she does not go on the trail with me. For your dog's safety and for rider safety, dogs should be left at home or contained in camp.
I love dogs, live with four of them and adore riding with a good trail dog on private property.

Loose dogs "accompanying" riders on public trails are more often a danger and nuisance to other riders than not. Dogs are predatory animals. To a horse unaccustomed to seeing a predator continuing to advance toward the horse on a trail, the results to the rider can be catastrophic. Whether it's the dog's intent to be aggressive or not, dogs are a predator species and forward advancing behavior is often instinctively interpretted by a horse to be aggressive. Herding breeds' posture, in general, puts them in a predator-appearing category of their own....even when the dog is simply moving down the trail. Often the odd mottled coloring of trail dogs such as Aussies, Aus. Cattle Dogs, and some hounds or odd conformation traits as seen in Pembroke Welsh Corgis, puts them in a truly unfamiliar category to even a seasoned trail horse.

It's incredibly rude, insensitive and pompous for me to take a loose dog on a public equestrian trail where it is clearly expected by other riders that dogs are not allowed off leash. I don't know about you.

Ok, I saw this recently and thought I would share:


Trail riding etiquette

These rules are modified from the website of United States Trail Ride, Inc.  Perhaps we should think about adopting them for our rides.

  1. When parking, leave room for others to park and tie their horses. Avoid going into areas where you may get stuck. This may cause property damage.
  2. Repair any damage caused by your horse or yourself. Report any problems to the host or land owner before leaving, such as injured livestock, trespassers, a downed fence, etc.
  3. Introduce yourself to the ride host or sponsor as soon as you arrive.
  4. Pack food and water for both yourself and your horse. Don't expect this to be provided.
  5. Clean up any manure, hay or trash before you leave.
  6. Close all gates you open; if a gate is already open, leave it.
  7. Carry a hoof pick and a spare halter and lead, in case of emergencies.
  8. If possible, team up with a "buddy" to watch out for each other.
  9. Do not allow your horse to "say hello" by touching noses, or sniffing another horse. Many horses will strike, or wheel and kick a new horse and have no concern about kicking the rider/leader in the process.

10.  If your horse is prone to kick, put a red ribbon on its tail. If it is green or young, put a green ribbon. This warns others and acts as a constant reminder that they need to show extra caution. If you are riding a stallion, identify it with a yellow ribbon. If your horse of any sex is unruly, leave it at home.

11.  Do not ride to close to the rear of other horses, not only may you be kicked, but you can't see where you are going, either.

12.  Warn the rider in front of you before attempting to pass a horse and rider.

13.  Do not canter/gallop past other riders, if you want to go faster, pass first and then warn the other riders before accelerating.

14.  Ride single file.

15.  On roadways, all riders must stay on one side of the road, in single file. A horse is a vehicle, and must follow the rules of the road.

16.  When changing gait, warn other riders, to avoid being rear-ended or encouraging runaways. Pass on the left, and when passing oncoming traffic, left shoulder to left shoulder the customary position. Just think of driving your car, minus the "road rage."

17.  Do not pass the trail "boss" or leader. Stay with the group, don't wander off or trail blaze.

18.  Don't be a chronic complainer. If you can't take some inconvenience, stay home!

19.  Stay out of people's yards and fields. If you must enter, ride on the edges to avoid damage to the property.

20.  Avoid livestock completely; if this is not possible, don't take it as an invitation to cattle rustle.

21.  If you see a hole, or dangerous obstacle, point out the obstacle as you warn the other riders.

22.  After your ride, don't forget to thank your host or leader for the opportunity to ride. Keep in mind a lot of work goes into an organized ride even before the day you ride, so try to be a good sport even if you didn't have a great time.


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