Teach your horse to stay calm when you mount and dismount from his right (off) side, for trail safety. | Photo by Heidi Nyland
These great trail tips will teach you how to mount a horse from the right side, where to stash your lead rope while trail riding and what to pack on a trail ride.
Will your horse allow you to mount and dismount from either side? Can you mount a horse from the right side? Mounting from the left is just tradition. Soldiers would mount up on their horses left sides so that their swords, anchored over their left legs, wouldn't harm their horses' backs.
But you're trail riding, not heading into battle. This spring, make sure your horse is comfortable with you mounting and dismounting on either side. You never know when you'll encounter a rocky cliff, a mud hole, or other trail hazard.
Alternating sides also allows your horse to use muscles on the right and left sides of his spine equally, which helps his back.
Here's how to get your horse comfortable with right (off)
Step 1: Lead your horse.
Lead your horse from the right side. Ask him turn in each direction, and stop.
Step 2: Walk toward his right side.
Stop your horse, and practice walking toward his right side, directly toward his heartgirth.
Step 3: Place your foot in the stirrup.
When your horse appears calm thus far, saddle him, and place the tip of your left boot in the right stirrup.
Step 4: Repeat.
If your horse seems concerned, repeat the previous steps until he's used to the experience.
Step 5: Step up into the stirrup.
If your horse stands calmly, step up into the stirrup, but be prepared to kick out your foot and jump down, if necessary
Step 6: Swing your leg over.
If your horse remains relaxed, swing your left leg over the saddle, and gently sit down
Step 7: Repeat the off-side mount.
Repeat your off-side mounting and dismounting until it feels comfortable to you and your horse
Stash the Lead Rope
If you ride with a halter beneath your bridle, stash the lead rope in your saddlebag so it doesn't get tangled or caught up in trail detritus. | Photo by Heidi Nyland
Do you leave a halter with an attached lead rope under your horse's bridle as you ride? It's convenient. The lead hangs at the ready ? attached to your horse's halter and tied to your saddle's horn ?making it easy to tie your horse during breaks.
However, the extra rope dangling beneath your horse's neck can become tangled as you ride. And any loop or excess rope can easily get caught on small limbs and debris. To be safe, leave on the halter, but stash the lead rope in your saddlebag.
? Clinician Steve Edwards; www.muleranch.com
Pack Power Food
Carry high-protein snacks on every ride, in case you're unexpectedly waylaid. And don't forget to take along plenty of drinking water. | Photo by Heidi Nyland
On half-day rides, you may just take along a small snack to keep you energized. But what happens if you lose your way, or encounter a sudden problem that keeps you out on the trail longer than expected? To stay nourished, pack high-energy protein bars or even military-inspired emergency meals. Check out www.nitro-pak.com for special emergency food kits and freeze-dried treats. The grub can stay in your packed gear ride after ride, until you need it. Of course, take along plenty of drinking water, too.
Pack most of your gear into your front saddlebags to keep weight off your horse's kidneys. | Photo by Heidi Nyland
The worst possible location to carry weight is behind the saddle, over your horse's kidneys. Large saddlebags and saddle packs designed to carry overnight camping gear tempt you to fill them with unneeded items, to the possible detriment of your horse. Keep your saddlebags small and light. If you must carry heavier items, such as water bottles or backpacking stoves, select pommel or horn packs that fit on the front of the saddle.
? Montana outfitter Dan Aadland, adapted from
101 Trail Riding Tips