Where to ride in MD
I Haz 2 many Horsez
The Junk Drawer
Behind the Bit
MD Horse clubs
So you want to go trail riding....
Good! I encourage you to. I happen to think it is one of
the most fun things to do in the world. But, a little bit of planning and
thought, will make the experience more fun and safe for you, and more
importantly, your horse.
Before you go..
Know where you are going. That seems simple, right? Map
Quest, directions off the site, or plotting on a road map will get you to the
trails. But planning where to go, involves so many other facets.
Do you know the trails? If not, you will need a map.
Often park trails connect to trails on private land. Without a map you could
inadvertently trespass. Or get lost, or take a hikers only trail and get
stuck on the side on a mountain with no way to turn around. The mind boggles
at the number of things that could happen. It also helps if you can read a
map, but that is another discussion.
Is this trail appropriate for you and your horse's level
of condition and experience? Are you ready for 10-15 miles of hills
and rocks? Is your horse? If you have never ridden more than an hour in the
ring, neither you nor your horse is ready for the outback yet. Start with
one of the smaller beginner friendly parks, such as Schooley Mill,
Rosaryville, Little Bennett, and Morgan Run (in MD). In these parks you are never
more than 30 min. from the trailer. If you ride for an hour or so, and feel
you both can go on, you can ride another loop, or take another trail.
Has your horse ever crossed water? Best not to find out
when faced with 10 yards of belly deep water. Pick a park with small stream
crossings (Schooley Mill, Little Bennett) and make sure one person in the
group has a horse that has crossed water. (follow that horse!)
Do you have appropriate preparation? Shoes, insect
repellent, etc. Walking back to the trailer because your horse is footsore
from the rocks is not fun. Nor is riding a horse constantly fretting and
Have you checked the trail conditions? If it has rained
recently, and you are thinking of lowland trails, you may be facing knee
deep mud. If there has been a storm, there may be downed trees. If there is
a river to cross, think not only of how much rain we have had, but also
upstream from the park. Rivers in flood are not safe to cross, not just
because of the current and water depth, but also hazards swept down stream
by the water, sharp metal, tires, etc. Often you can call the park and check
on conditions, but usually it is left to your own judgment. When it doubt,
ride somewhere else! It's not worth risking yourself and your horse.
But wait, there's more..
Ok, so you have decided on the place, you are ready to go,
but before you leave the barn pick up some essentials. First, bring water. Many
horses will not drink water from streams, and you shouldn't count on there being
good drinking water available. Bring water from home (rinsed out cat litter
containers work great!) and a bucket! Bring extra. You never know how much they
will want to drink, and you may want to rinse them off after the ride, or have
an injury to clean out, etc. Bring water for yourself, even in winter you can
get dehydrated. Bring fly spray. doesn't matter where you ride, you will need
it. I would suggest spraying it on yourself as well, flies and ticks aren't
picky. I also bring fly bonnets for the ears, and soak them with fly spray
before putting them on. Nothing more miserable for your horse than flies biting
their ears. Make sure you have all your tack, and it is appropriate. You may
want a thicker saddle blanket, to reduce the chance of soreing. Does your saddle
slip easily? think about a breast collar. No fun trotting up a hill and sliding
back to your horses tail. Bring extras, just in case. Extra halter, lead line,
bridle. Things can break at the worst time. Bring a first aid kit, for human and
horse. Bring a muck bucket and fork. You should never clean out your trailer in
a parking lot. Bring bribes. Apples, carrots, grain, whatever. You may have to
catch a horse that just broke that 'unbreakable' lead line, or convince your
horse to get in the trailer to go home, etc. Don't forget tail ribbons for
appropriate personalities, red for horses that kick, yellow for stallions, plaid
for the unbearably fashionable.
You're ready to ride!
Well, almost...there are still some rules of engagement
Trailering - be considerate of your horse and other
drivers. Take corners smoothly, and don't accelerate until the trailer
is straight behind you. Accelerating through a turn is like playing
'Crack the whip' with your horses. They can lose their balance and slip
or fall. Give yourself extra time to stop. hitting the brakes suddenly
can also throw your horse off balance. Don't follow too closely, and
give other drivers plenty of notice if you change lanes. For practice,
put a bucket of water in your trailer, and drive your usual route. If
you don't spill any water, you are doing it right. Or attend one of the
wonderful trailing clinics TROT and other horse organizations put on. It
will be an eye opener!
Parking - Again, be considerate. Give yourself room
to tie your horses, and drive away at the end of the ride. Give everyone
else the same consideration. There is nothing worse than getting to a
great trail location to find out someone with their big rig has parked
across the parking lot blocking everyone else from getting in (or
Trash Patrol - Always pick up your trash, left over
hay, manure, everything! Many areas are sensitive environments, and
fellow park users are certainly sensitive to road apples left in parking
Be an Ambassador - If you are in a public park,
someone will come up to admire your horse. Take a moment to talk to
them, let them pet your horse if it is ok. Take the opportunity to teach
them a bit about horses, and make it a positive experience. Everyday we
lose more places to ride. It doesn't take much for parks to decide they
don't want horses there any more.
Never let them ride - Kids always ask, it's not a
good idea. The liability issues boggle the mind. Let them know about a
local barn with lessons instead.