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Summertime Fun on the Trails by Bonnie Marlewski-Probert

by Bonnie Marlewski-Probert

As more and more of our forested areas and parks are being shared by bikers, hikers and horses, it is more important than ever that all horsemen understand the rules of the road.

Below are some tips that will make your next trail ride safer and more fun for everyone:

    1. Invest in a good fitting helmet for the sake of your horse. For the die-hards out there who refuse to wear a helmet, answer this question; In the event that you get dumped and hit your head, who is going to keep your horse from causing a problem for other trail users or worse, from getting hurt? Frankly, I don’t think wearing a helmet is as much about keeping you safe as it is about keeping everyone else, especially your horse.


    1. Never ride alone on the trails and be sure to choose riding partners who are safe, responsible and considerate. I have always told people that I will horse show with Jack the Ripper, but I am very picky about my trail-riding companions. The reasons are simple; horse shows are designed to be a controlled environment wherein the ring is dragged, fences are in good repair, the ring crew is there to make sure all is well, and there is a judge watching everything, but on the trails, anything goes. It is because of the unpredictability of nature that I only trail ride with people I trust.
Photo Courtesy of Barefoot Saddles
Photo Courtesy of Barefoot Saddles


    1. Be sure to warm-up your horse before you head out on the trails. This includes making certain the brakes, steering, verbals and gas pedals all work and check your girth at least three times before you leave camp.


    1. Carry a cell phone with you. In the event that you encounter a problem, a cell phone can make all the difference and it is also essential for ordering a pizza if you get hungry! One word of caution, however, keep the cell phone turned off until you need it. One of the funniest stories I ever heard was from a friend in California who decided to take one of his green ranch horses out with him for a full day of riding fence. They were out for hours, just the two of them, enjoying the peace and tranquility of the area, when all of a sudden, his cell phone started ringing. The green horse completely lost his mind and started spinning in circles. Because the phone was in the saddlebag, there was no way to shut it off; no way to calm the horse down and my friend didn’t dare fall off in the middle of nowhere. Eventually the phone stopped ringing and he shut it off! This particular friend is a wonderful rider with a million miles of experience under his belt. He is the last person I would have ever expected to buy, let alone carry a cell phone and that is why the story was so funny!


    1. Only carry in your saddlebags items that you WON’T need if your horse heads for home without you. I find it funny when I hear from people who say, I was careful to pack a cell phone, first aid kit and a flask of water on my trail ride just like you suggested. However, I stopped to wee in the bushes and my horse headed for home, leaving me with nothing because all of those items were carefully packed in my saddlebags!

Summertime Fun on the Trails by Bonnie Marlewski-Probert

    1. If you agree with the romantic concept that trail riding is spending time in God’s country, then that makes you a guest. In the same way that hikers, bikers and other horsemen are also guests on those same trails. No one has precedent over anyone else.


  1. As a horseman, you are the ambassador for the entire industry. Remember that hikers and bikers may never have been this close to a horse in their entire lives. The way in which you handle yourself during that first encounter will either teach folks that horsemen are friendly, helpful trail lovers, or that they are rude knuckleheads. What they decide is largely up to you!

The goal of responsible trail riding is to leave no trace. Tie your horses in a way that does not damage the trees. Clean up your campgrounds so there is no trace when you leave. If there are cut trails, stay on them to avoid causing erosion problems in the area, have a great time and above all, remember that you are a guest!

About the Author

Bonnie Marlewski-Probert worked in the horse world as a professional rider, teacher, trainer and speaker for many years. She is the author of more than 25 books and 1000 magazine articles. Bonnie is also the founder of Whitehall Publishing. If you have a book in you and are looking for a publisher, visit for more information. Bonnie now devotes a lot of her time working with animal-related non-profits to help them grow their organizations through her website at

She is the creator of the Horse Tales for the Soul series of seven books that are sure to touch the heart of every horse lover. Learn more at

To learn more about Trail Riding organizations and places to ride please visit our Trail Riding section.

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