Trail Tips: Trail Etiquette and Leading

These Trail Tips will show you the proper etiquette when riding in a group and the best way to lead your bridled horse on the ground.
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These Trail Tips will show you the proper etiquette when riding in a group and the best way to lead your bridled horse on the ground.

Practice Group-Ride Etiquette
When riding in a group, establish safe and thoughtful ground rules so that all horses have enough space and riders don't feel pressured or crowded. Keep one horse length between you and the horse in front; allow two horse lengths if you're riding uphill and even more space if you're riding down a steep slope. The extra space between you and your riding pals provides a buffer in case a horse slips or spooks, or if an unexpected obstacle causes everyone to stop quickly.

When riding in groups, don't crowd the horse in front of you. Keep at least one horse length between your horse and the horse ahead for safety. | Photo by Heidi Nyland

When riding in groups, don't crowd the horse in front of you. Keep at least one horse length between your horse and the horse ahead for safety. | Photo by Heidi Nyland

Also, ask your cohorts before changing gaits, especially before taking off into a lope/canter or gallop. All riders should be ready and in control before anyone in the group rides fast and far ahead. Within a large group and without warning, horses' herd instincts can kick in, making them follow the fastest horse without their riders' cue or permission.

Lead with Care
As you lead your bridled horse from the ground, don't hold your hand too close to his jaw. Also, don't tug on the reins. These actions will apply needless, confusing bit pressure to his sensitive mouth tissues. He'll learn to resist and even fear the bit.

Instead, hold your right hand loosely on the reins, near the end of the loop on one-piece reins, or halfway down on split reins. If your horse encroaches on your space or gets ahead of you, school him with a halter and lead. Rope halters work best for schooling.