Oklahoma Trail Horse Bridlewood Equestrian OklahomaOklahoma Trail Horse Bridlewood Equestrian Oklahoma
Oklahoma Trail Horse Bridlewood Equestrian OklahomaOklahoma Trail Horse Bridlewood Equestrian OklahomaOklahoma Trail Horse Bridlewood Equestrian Oklahoma
Oklahoma Trail Horse Bridlewood Equestrian OklahomaOklahoma Trail Horse Bridlewood Equestrian OklahomaOklahoma Trail Horse Bridlewood Equestrian OklahomaOklahoma Trail Horse Bridlewood Equestrian Oklahoma
Oklahoma Trail Horse Bridlewood Equestrian OklahomaOklahoma Trail Horse Bridlewood Equestrian OklahomaOklahoma Trail Horse Bridlewood Equestrian Oklahoma
Oklahoma Trail Horse Bridlewood Equestrian OklahomaOklahoma Trail Horse Bridlewood Equestrian Oklahoma
Oklahoma Trail Horse Bridlewood Equestrian Oklahoma
Oklahoma Trail Horse Bridlewood Equestrian OklahomaOklahoma Trail Horse Bridlewood Equestrian Oklahoma
Oklahoma Trail Horse
Trail Tips and General Guidelines for 
Executing Trail Horse Obstacles for Competitive Riding 
Bridlewood Equestrian Oklahoma

The following abilities will help trail riders negotiate trail horse obstacles successfully. This list of trail obstacles is meant only to provide a reference for riders. Riders and horses may be asked to perform the following skills in the negotiation of trail obstacles for competitions such as Trail Trials, Trail Challenge, Extreme trail, NATRC, ACTHA, and Bridlewood Equestrian Trail Events in Oklahoma. 

 The Rider should evaluate  any trail obstacle for potential cautions before,  and during the obstacle, before proceeding.

Leading: Horse to follow willingly, not crowding or lagging. Excess rope shall be held in the non-leading hand. Rider not to coil rope around hand; if halter is in place on animals head, it should be used as
 opposed to reins.  A rider ground handling his horse through challenging terrain, over logs, through 
tight spaces shall secure a safe position prior to asking his horse to negotiate the obstacle. 

 The horse must be lead with a halter and lead rope, not the reins, with the following exceptions: 
     Horses wearing a halter-bridle do not have to be lead with a separate halter. The rein must be 
unclipped from the bit rings and correctly fastened to the leading-ring of the halter bridle. 

     If a horse is wearing a bosal [Spanish hackamore] and a mecate, or snaffle bridle and a mecate, 
the rider may tie the mecate into a leading-hitch. Riders will not be penalized for using the mecate, so hitched, in lieu of a halter and lead rope. 

     Horses wearing a Western bridle with a halter, bosal and mecate [under bridle] may be led by the mecate or lead. 

Reins should be secured to the horn of Western saddles, or knotted and/or appropriately secured, if no saddle horn is available. 

Stirrups without fenders on saddles such as English, Endurance, Australian, etc., shall be secured by running the stirrups up the leathers, or secured by crossing over the saddle 

 Mounting: The rider must check cinch.  Horse will stand quietly and not move off when mounted. Style of mounting is not considered, only a smooth mount that does not unbalance the horse, or rotate saddle. A rider must have the reins in hand while mounting.   Practice mounting your horse from both sides. It's almost impossible to mount from the downhill side on a hillside trail. If you can’t turn your horse around, you’ll have problems if you can’t mount from both sides of the horse.  Rider will NOT be penalized for using available assistance to mount, i.e. rock, log, low ground, etc. Use of terrain is smart and helps your horse. 
Dismounting: Horse will stand quietly and not move off. Style of the dismount not considered, only a smooth mount that does not unbalance the horse, or rotate saddle. A rider must have the reins in hand while dismounting. When dismounting or mounting on a hill, do so on the uphill side, whether it is the near or the off side of the horse.  

 Hoof check: Horse will stand quietly. The criterion for this obstacle is a safe leg pick up, not 
the method of cueing the horse to pick up the leg. If the rider is holding the horse rather than tying
 him, letting go of the lead rope will be penalized. 

 Water crossing: The horse should walk quietly through the water. Horses will not be penalized 
for stopping to drink. Horses will not be penalized for acknowledging the obstacle before entering it. 

 Uphill: Before beginning ascent check cinch and breast collar, if used. A rider is to be positioned appropriately, maintaining the center of balance. Saddle should stay in place; rider should be forward and in balance with horse; holding mane is rider's preference; horse should be on a light contact or less; rider's legs should not contact horse's legs; horse should walk calmly; stopping to let horse blow is at 
rider discretion. No penalty for holding the mane or neck to secure the forward position. Horse to 
negotiate a slope in a safe manner. At riders' discretion, horse may stop to blow, as needed. If the 
rider is asked to stop on an uphill and there is sufficient room, the rider shall rest their horse so that
all four hooves are on ground that is as level as possible. . At no time should a rider position his 
mount, haunches toward a drop off.  

 Downhill: Before beginning descent check cinch and crupper if used. The rider to be positioned appropriately maintaining the center of balance. Saddle should stay in place; horse and rider to remain balanced; rider's legs should not contact horse's legs; horse should be on light contact or less; horse should walk calmly in a straight manner, except when necessary to follow trail; however, on a wide trail a traverse is okay; forward position or Cavalry style will be penalized. Riders may use a hand on the saddle to support themselves, but must not do so in such a way as to unbalance the horse. Holding the cantle may suffice as a psychological aid on a steep descent, the practice tends to twist the rider's body and interfere with balance. In that case, it should be faulted. Oppositely, a light non-reining hand on the pommel, horn, or swell can aid the rider's balance, thereby helping the horse as well. It may serve the rider from a safety standpoint if the horse stumbles. If, however, the hand and arm appear to be jamming down and putting extra force over the withers, faulting would be reasonable. Horse to negotiate the slope in a safe manner. At rider’s discretion, horse may stop to blow, as needed. If the rider is asked to stop on a downhill and there is sufficient room, the rider shall rest their horse so that all four hooves are on ground that is as level as possible. The location of the stop shall be clearly marked and given in the directions for the downhill. At no time should a rider position his mount, haunches toward a drop off. 

A gully with a steep descent into it followed by an immediate sharp rise is ideal for observing trail equitation skills.
For a smooth performance, the rider needs to apply not only all the body and leg principles of the descent and climb positions vital to balance and lightness, but the rider also must rein with tactfulness based on the horse's ability and temperament. Most importantly, the rider needs to make the transition from the descent to the climb position smoothly in order not to interfere with the horse or jeopardize its balance and safety.
The trail rider who does not move readily into the climb position at the instant the climb-out begins will be put behind the action of the horse. The cause might be inadequate body alertness and/or inadequate rein control, the latter allowing the horse to rush or lunge. To compound the problem, the rider may be forced to use the reins for balance if the body lurches back.

 Step over: This is a forward motion obstacle. Horse to look at an obstacle and proceed over carefully, avoiding striking the obstacle. Size of an animal relative to an obstacle to be considered. Jumping, 
hopping over is considered a penalty, unless instructed to do so. Small horses and ponies not to 
be penalized for hopping very tall step overs, if they otherwise negotiate the obstacle calmly and 
with deliberation. 

 Bridge: The horse should walk across quietly. No penalty for acknowledging the obstacle 
before starting to cross. Horse should step on and off the bridge quietly. 

 Gate: Competitors may be required to negotiate a gate either mounted or dismounted. The horse
 and rider combination will move through the obstacle quietly, deliberately and under the rider's 
direction.  - safe and smooth while mounted; contact with gate should be maintained; judge will
 state if gate can be opened dismounted without penalty (as for a ranchers gate of wire & sticks);
 horse to remain calm.  Gate should be worked on the rider’s off side, hinge and / or swing of gate determines if horse should move forward or back through the gate.  Working gate from left side will result in penalties.  Rider must keep hand contact on the gate at all times.

Drag or Pull: Check cinch required before taking the rope or drag obstacle in hand. The rider may hold rope or dally. No tying hard and fast. The rider should demonstrate awareness by looking at both the drag obstacle and the direction they are going. The horse or rider should never become entangled in the rope. Horse to stand quietly during preparation then pull or drag an obstacle quietly and in control. Wrapping the rope around the rider's working hand is to be severely penalized. Excess rope should be held in the rein hand, never in the working hand.  Horse's hindquarters should not face log before mounting (judge may hand rider rope to save time); control of horse to be maintained; rope not to be wrapped around hand or coiled; rider should not dally (wrap rope around horn) more than one full turn unless mounted (dallying is optional) - NO TYING TO SADDLE; English riders may use hand pull; horse to pull evenly and quietly; unless specified, the direction of a turn shall not be penalized so long as the rope does not contact the horse below the hocks.

The judge should warn each competitor that if things start to get out of hand, the competitor should drop the rope.

Standing tied: Some obstacles may require riders to tie their horse. Horses will be tied with the halter and lead rope or correctly configured halter-bridle, or other approved means, using a quick release knot that is safe and appropriate for the situation and horse. The knot must be secure and the horse must be tied in a location that is safe for the horse, the rider, and any bystanders, other tied horses and their handlers. Horses will stand quietly while tied.  Tie should be as high as reasonably possible for the rider; keep safety in mind for the horse; any type of quick release is allowed.  When your horse is saddled, he should be tied a little shorter than when unsaddled, so to that he will not lie down or roll with the saddle on. 

 Stationary Obstacles: These are such things as slickers, balloons, maps, trash, staple gun, etc. A rider is to maintain control of the horse as he acknowledges the obstacles.  Horse to stand still and calm; control of horse should be maintained with reins in hand.

 Moving Obstacles: These are such things as backpackers, bicycles, baby strollers, 
vehicles and carts. A rider is to maintain control of the horse as he acknowledges the 
obstacles a horses look of interest is okay.
Safety of all parties, including those persons providing the obstacle, is the primary concern. 

In Trail Trials, pay attention to the judge or assistant's directions with the horse 
positioned at a safe distance from the judge and/or assistant.  Repeating the directions or 
asking the judge to repeat them for clarification is acceptable. (except: situation obstacles)

Situation Obstacles:  In Trail Trials, the judge will read a “situation” that might occur on the trail.  Ex: “You have a rock in your horse’s left rear hoof.  What will you do?”  The judge might be scoring 1 or all of the  following actions.  Dismount, tying of horse, or maintaining contact with horse, hoof pick-up, hoof pick carried by rider, dismounting or mounting.  Riders are allowed to have the judge repeat the situation, but may not ask for clarification of the situation obstacle.  Remember,  trail trials emphasizes team safety, and  benefit’s that are advantages to the horse. (ex: mounting with a block, or high ground, if available,  to protect the horses withers during long rides)

Jumping: Jumping on, into, off of, through, or over any obstacle, unless required to do so, is a major fault. 

 Whoa: At a walk, an animal should stop on command with little aid from the rider. Effort will increase slightly for the jog, and again for the lope. 

Standing:  The horse should stand quietly after the stop. Your horse should be able to stand quietly on its own. Many people overlook this important component of the training foundation.  Your horse needs to be able to stand quietly a number of ways; tied to a hitching post, tied from above, tied to a tree, etc. If you are going overnight, then you need to train your horse to stand quietly for 8-10 hours. Ideally, your horse should be trained to hobbles also.

Tack Check - horse to stand quietly; rider should have a safe way of securing horse (halter and lead line or hobbles); rider should have some type of hoof tool; equipment should be in safe repair; anything beyond this should not be considered.

Turnaround - horse to turn willingly and in control; always face downhill side to reverse.

Water Crossing - horse should walk through water calmly; rider may allow horse to drink 
- to be without penalty it must be rider indicated.

Tailing:  This is an advanced obstacle. The rider shall instruct the horse to go uphill while 
controlling the horse with a single rein and holding onto the horse's tail. This demonstration 
is typically used when an 'uphill' is too steep for a rider to navigate safely on horseback 
(i.e. - low branches), not safe to lead a horse or difficult for a rider to go up the hill without 
assistance (being pulled by the horse).

Gaits- Execute all gaits calmly and as directed. All gaits natural to a breed are acceptable. 

Lateral- Be able to move the horse laterally [side to side]. 

Turns- Make turns on the forehand and/or hindquarters. 

Backs- Be able to back the horse in a straight line, downhill, and/or around corners. When backing, the rider should demonstrate awareness.  Riders should not be instructed to back either their horse's front or back feet over a raised object. Riders in a natural back-up observation where such things as rocks, brush, or limbs need to be avoided should look behind before cueing the horse to back. Therefore, the judge may fault those who do not. In a quite different situation where riders have been directed to trot to the judge along a flat, clear road, then halt and back the horse, the riders most likely do not need to check behind within the mere seconds of trotting the space--especially when they have been started individually.  
The application of leg aids in a back-up can be so subtle as to be unobservable with a skilled rider on a well-trained horse.  Faulting is justified when a rider incorrectly applies leg aids—such as on the wrong side of the horse--or does not use them at all to correct a crooked back-up.

Emergency Dismount: Be able to dismount quickly and safely without the use of stirrups while maintaining control. 

 Cinch Check: Is a pass or fail. Rider may test the cinch for excess slack by tugging on it. This may be done either from the ground or in the saddle. If done from the ground, rider will be judged on dismount and mount. Cinch checks are required before mounting, going up or down hills, or pulling and/or dragging which are all considered stresses on the saddle. Only one cinch check per obstacle shall be required. 

 On Course: The rider is to follow directions as given and stay on course. Excessive response, avoidance or rider's misunderstanding of the direction will be penalized. The participant must remain within the boundaries of the obstacle as marked. Avoiding or going outside marked boundaries constitutes being off course. 

Awareness: This is a very broad and important category. 

       Rider awareness: The rider should be paying attention to the directions with the horse positioned at a safe distance from the judge. The rider should evaluate the obstacle for potential cautions before proceeding, and during the obstacle. If the rider is asked to answer a question (i.e., where are we on this map?), perform a specific skill (i.e., tie a specific knot to a hitching rail), or lead their horse, and the rider does not perform the skill correctly, the judge may use this category to assess points. 

     Horse awareness: It is a fault if the horse is too aware by spooking, shying, or spinning or if the horse is unaware and is just "going through the motions". If a horse clips or stumbles because of lack of awareness.

Balance: This applies to both rider and horse. The rider should be well balanced in the saddle. For uphill, the rider should lean slightly forward with legs balanced under rider and not hitting horse's flanks, and deep in the saddle but not hitting the back of cantle. For downhill, the rider should lean slightly back. The rider is not to lean excessively forward, back or sideways. The horse is to be balanced while negotiating obstacles. For downhill obstacle hindquarters should be under the horse and the horse should not lean on forehand. While negotiating step overs, the horse is to be balanced and pick up feet and avoid clipping and stumbling. Slight brush okay. 

Cues- Horse’s Response to Cues: When the rider applies aids or cues to the horse, the horse is to react appropriately. The rider should not have to resort to very strong aids to obtain a response from the horse, nor should cues create a reaction whereby the horse overreacts (i.e., side passing or backing too far). The horse should approach an obstacle as cued (i.e., straight on, side pass) and not avoid direct approach. The horse should stand quietly while mounted (slight shifting of weight is okay). 
Tied:  If the horse is tied, the horse should stand quietly and not pull back. Horse should not be “herd bound.”

 Rider's Control: The rider must maintain control of the horse at all times. This will be maintained by having the rider control either with the reins or lead rope at all times. Rider's control of the horse is whether mounted or unmounted. Rider should also control the horse by knowing HOW to ask their horse to execute the obstacle as well as keep the horse under control if the horse shies or spooks.  The horse should be lead quietly either behind or slightly to the side of the rider. While leading the horse the rider should not let the horse crowd or lean on rider. 

Bypass or Disqualify: It is the participant’s responsibility to bypass any obstacle they deem as beyond their team’s skill level. Safety and common sense should always be kept in the participant’s mind. The team has three opportunities to attempt an obstacle; demerits to be assessed for each attempt. After the horse refuses three times the rider is disqualified for this obstacle and receives full penalty points except a cinch check. 

 Coaching: It is the participant's responsibility to negotiate the obstacle on their own so a true test of their skills can be assessed. Once a participant has presented himself or herself to the obstacle judge there shall be no further contact by another person.  Coaching is defined as any verbal, gesture or implied assistance to a rider on course and executing the obstacle, regardless of when the coaching occurs during the obstacle negotiation. 

 Refusal: If a horse refuses at an obstacle, the participant will be allowed a total of three attempts to complete. Each attempt the rider will acquire PENALTY POINTS. 1ST attempt, 22nd attempt, 3rd attempt. If the horse refuses a third time, the participant is dismissed from the obstacle. . The definition of a refusal is a horse that moves their feet away (any direction) from the obstacle. Looking and snorting are not considered refusals. 

 No Score: Should a rider miss an obstacle because of getting lost; injury to horse or rider, or quitting the trail course, a score of NS will be entered in the obstacle score on the Official Score Sheet and the total score for the rider shall indicate NS. Check with show management, some 
obstacles may have a "time-out" to complete the obstacle, so that the show 
moves quickly .

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Oklahoma Trail Horse
Trail Riding Etiquette, Rules, and Trail Tips 
Bridlewood Equestrian Oklahoma

If you're going to go trail riding, you owe it to your fellow riders to learn the rules they go by, as well as the rules of whatever property you're riding on.  Trail manners count. Knowing how to act on a trail will make sure you are a welcome partner on the next trail ride.
Best thing you can do is make sure you and your horse have as much experience as possible before going to a large ride. Trail etiquette (or lack of manners) is the reason horseback riders tend to not participate in large organized trail rides.   
While the majority of riders are safe and courteous, it only takes one or two to ruin a day of horseback riding due to their lack of good judgment or etiquette.

Prepare your horse for the trail at home.
Too many people are riding horses that aren’t ready to be on the trail (this goes for both the people and horses). Although, we do enjoy watching a horse buck off a rider that does this to them. Don't be cheap entertainment for the rest of us -- work this out ahead of time.

Don't bring you horse on a trail ride unless it is physically fit, calm, and experienced for the situation you are heading into. If your friends are going for a 25-mile ride and your horse has been in a stall for 3 months – Don’t go. 

“Ride time” does not mean “Show-up time.”  You should be saddled and ready to ride at your appointed ride time. Be considerate, don't make others wait on you. Habitually late people tend to take shortcuts to compensate for their lack of time management. The place to try out your new gear is at home in a controlled environment. Try out your new breast collar or rear cinch before you get to the trail. Don’t practice or experiment with new things on the trail.   If you arrive for a trail ride late and the group has departed.  It is safer to return home than to ride alone.  

In organized rides, there will be a short briefing before each ride. Horses should be saddled, bridled, and ready to ride 10 minutes prior to the designated ride time for the briefing. 

Be aware of how you park at the trail head.  Leave enough room between vehicles to safely tack and groom.  Nothing is worse than after a ride, to find your trailer blocked… or maybe angry waiting riders that you  have blocked? 

Clean up manure at trail head/parking areas. Scatter manure piles at stopping spots. Pick up left over hay and your trash and a few pieces of trash left by others.

Emergency ID and numbers should be on both the horse, rider and vehicle 
Remember that if you have an accident and you become incapacitated for one reason or another, the emergency personnel and police will most likely not have a clue how to handle your horses. In a visible place in your tow vehicle and/or trailer, put a list of emergency numbers for them to call - your veterinarian, friends, or family members who would be able to help make decisions about your horses. Put ICE on your cell phone.

Someone in your riding group, should always carry a emergency bag for rider and horse. Carry your cell phone, matches, knife, and whistle on you, rather than on your horse, in case you become separated. 
Practical trail horsemanship includes carrying at least the following: 
A hoof pick or some device for cleaning the feet; a knife for the quick
cutting of tack and equipment that gets hung up,  halter and rope or similar gear for tying a horse quickly, safely, and securely in the event of a trail emergency.

For bridling or unbridling, the horse should not be tied since safety is
jeopardized if the horse pulls back. Instead, the lead rope attached to the halter should lie over the handler's arm or shoulder. For the process, the halter may be either left on the horse's head or fastened around the horse’s neck.  

The wider stirrup helps prevent the riders’ feet from going to sleep, allows shifting of weight to a wider surface and helps reduce strain to knees and ankles. 
Evaluate the size relationship between stirrup and boot. If the stirrup is so large in proportion to the boot that the foot could extend through the stirrup, you jeopardize your safety.  By the same token, a stirrup that is disproportionately small for a boot could also become jammed. 

When dismounting or mounting on a hill, do so on the uphill side, whether it is the near or the off side of the horse. 

flank strap that hangs so low it could catch the horse's foot when striking at a fly, is dangerous and is improperly tacked. A breast collar should fit snug above the working shoulder, the tie strap should be loose enough as to not cut into the muscle of the horse, but tight enough not to trap a hoof during a possible fall.

Always “quick tie” your horse as high as possible.  A good height for tying, whether at a trailer, tree, or fence post, would be that of the horse’s withers. Lead slack should not be longer than the neck of your horse. The tie's length must not be so long that the horse could catch a foot over the rope while pawing or nibbling at ground level. For a standard length, the halter snap when unfastened would hang almost to the ground, preferably not touching the ground at bedtime since the rope can stretch during the night. Also acceptable is a length a few inches shorter if there is the possibility of the halter catching on a  trailer fender. 

If a hay net is used, it must be tied high enough to prevent the horse
from pawing into it especially when empty.  Rope nets have a ring at the bottom which is used to prevent bag from hanging to low.

Always ride with a buddy, and let someone know where you are riding, and at what time you are expected to return, even when riding with a group..  

Don’t ride off, while someone is trying to mount. Wait until all riders are mounted and ready to ride before any horses move out for the trail.

Riders/ Parents should be responsible for conduct of their children and guest. Riders under 17 years of age will be accompanied by a parent or adult sponsor, that will ride with them. 

NEVER allow your horse to nose to nose another horse.  Don’t let them go "visit" other horses on their own. Horses should not sniff to be friendly. It has the potential to spread disease and some horses will take this as a challenge and strike out.

A horse that tends to kick, has a Red ribbon in her tail, a Green ribbon for a 
“Green horse or green rider,”  Yellow for a Stallion.  (Tail and Forelock) 
 Every horse should be treated like it has a red ribbon.  If you do have a horse 
that you know does kick, it's your responsibility to know how to take away the hindquarters to avoid a kicking situation. When riding a young horse, put a 
red ribbon in their tail.  Be  extra watchful for signs of forewarning: pinned ears, swishing tail, hind leg at the ready, etc Remember that your horse could move to avoid the kick and put you in its path instead. A broken leg or knee from a kick 10 steep miles from the trailer is no fun.

Don’t pony horses when you’re with a group unless you are packing.

Stay behind the Trail Boss and in front of the Drag Rider

You should always be able to see the rider in front of and behind you. If not, call loudly to regroup.

Don’t Tail Gait.   A long established standard dictates that a rider should keep at least one horse-length behind another except when overtaking to pass. A minimum of two horse-lengths, however, might be necessary on uneven terrain to allow for better visibility and reaction time.  When you encounter a short bridge on the trail, ride horses across one at a time. Allow more than the usual single horse length between each horse over longer bridges. A distance of at least one horse length (about 10 feet) should be maintained between animals on all trails. Don't tailgate!! When going uphill, keep at least two lengths between horses. On downhill routes, maintain at least three horse lengths between animals.

If nature calls and your horse has to pass some manure, maintain movement at the same speed as other horses. This spreads the manure and prevents another horse down the line stopping in a potentially unsafe location and/or without warning.
Be courteous on the trail, announce when you are ready to pass, "Rider, may I pass on your right?". “Hole on the left please?” When passing a horse on a trail moving in the same direction as you, let the rider and horse know you're approaching simply by saying, "Trail, please". The rider should then move to the right as far as is safe or simply stop their horse for the approaching rider to pass.

One of the first rules of trail riding etiquette is to make sure that the trail one is riding is a horse trail!  Most trail systems use international trail symbols -- a stick-type figure on a horse. This sign designates a trail for horsemen. If the sign has a red slash over the figure, this means the trail is closed to horsemen. And other trail systems use a combined sign. One that shows all users with the exempt ones having a red slash over them. 

Be Aware!!  Who Yields?
It depends on where you are riding as to who or what you’ll encounter. In wilderness areas, you’ll probably come across hikers, horses, llamas, mules and other pack stock. In many other areas you’ll also encounter bicycles and motorcycles. There are some simple "rules of the road" that apply to trail use and right of way. The best thing for your safety and that of others using the trail is to be aware of your surroundings. Most often you can see a problem and deal with it before it ever gets out of hand. Though there are universal rules for right-of-way, not everyone on the trail follows them. The general right-of-way rules are:

Uphill traffic has the right-of-way -- regardless if its hiker, biker or horsemen! 
Mountain bikers yield > to hikers. 
Cyclists and hikers yield to > horseback riders. …  

In some instances, even though you have the right of way you may be better positioned to yield to another trail user -- be considerate. Basically, whoever can get off the trail easiest should do so. Common sense and courtesy are much more important than who has the right of way.
          If you see a hiker that you don’t think your horse has yet noticed, it is a great idea to yell ahead to the hiker; “Hi there! Great weather we are having today!” When they respond, your horse will know they are there and is much less likely to spook. Voice contact is a great way to ensure your horse doesn’t get surprised. Stay relaxed yourself and keep talking to the hiker and your horse if he is nervous.

A horse’s natural predator comes swiftly and quietly. A man on a silent, fast moving, HORSE EATING bicycle can come from behind. quickly and quietly before you know it is coming.  Find out if there are more in their party and tell them how many in your party. Ask them to stand off on downhill side of the trail. Encourage cyclists and hikers to verbalize.  Once again, horses are prey animals and often attacked from above, so keep the scary looking thing down low. It can also be easier to control a horse going uphill if he spooks.  Never, never, never have a hiker or backpacker or biker or other horseman or anybody step behind a rock, a tree, a bush or out of sight. If the horse has seen him, he's looking for him! And with the sudden disappearance the horse can become more nervous and upset. To a horse, that disappearing what-is-it could suddenly bounce out and eat 'em. Even if completely out of sight, a snapping twig or a rustling branch as a horse goes by can spook the animal. So keep the other trail user in open sight -- and TALK.

Most other trail users are intimidated by the size of a horse. And they just don't know what to do or where to go! So say "Hi" and tell 'em what to do. If the hiker is on a hill trail, have him move to the downhill side of the trail and stand there -- continue carrying on the conversation with him as you ride by. On flat trails, have him move to the left side of the trail so you can stay on the right side and continue carrying on a conversation. 
If someone wants to stop and pet the horse and the horse is agreeable, let them. It's good public relations. A lot of hikers may never have touched a horse before. And with groups of kids, they love talking to and petting a horse regardless of how dirty and sweaty the horse is! 

Single riders will yield to pack strings and groups.
On a narrow trail, a rider on a slow horse must give way to others
asking to pass as soon as a safe spot appears available.

Downhill riders will yield to uphill riders.  Uphill traffic has the right-of-way -- regardless if its hiker, biker or horsemen! Downhill traffic should yield by waiting at the top of the climb or at the first safe spot to stop.

In theory, vehicle to rider. 
 Crossing Roads..  Always cross as a group.  Never leave a horse(s) separated on busy road traffic.  By law, vehicles should yield to pedestrians /horses.  If possible, flag traffic to stop, and then cross the road as a group.  Otherwise, take your time and wait for a safe crossing.
When crossing, first horses should move far off road and wait for the last horse, before proceeding on trail. 
When being passed by a vehicle on a narrow, precipitous road, the rider
should be riding or move to the inside against the rise of the hill or bank.

Don’t forget to use your “please” and “thank yous”. We all want to be respected when passing others on the trail, and the best way to do that is to be respectful of them and to take any opportunity to educate others of a horse rider’s needs on the trail. If you neglect to be respectful of a mountain biker, they are likely to be less concerned about using courtesy with the next horseback rider they pass
Don’t make a court case out of it. If you have room to move and its safe, do it -- use common sense not your testosterone. Don’t preach the rules of the trail to other trail users. Ask nicely and you’ll probably get cooperation.

When being passed by motor vehicles or mountain bikes, on a narrow road or mountain trails, keep the uphill side rather than along the downhill edge of the road. 

If a trail rider is having difficulty controlling their horse they should step off the trail, out of line to restore calmness to the horse. This can be done mounted or dismounted. 
Don't leave any horse/rider at an obstacle if that horse is having trouble crossing it (bridge, creek, etc.); most horses do NOT like being left, and that can turn into a dangerous situation (it can also sometimes help get the horse across when done correctly.

When traveling down the trail with multiple riders, as you cross
rough terrain, each rider should wait for the horse behind him, so 
as not to whip lash, the last rider.  This will allow each horse to
safely cross at his own speed,  without “fear of losing the herd.”   
Walk your horse when going up or down a hill or gully. Do not trot 
or canter away from hills! This may endanger other riders. 

Go straight. When on a hill, go straight up or straight down, never 
sideways. Your horse has better traction going straight; even if he 
slips and slides he will be less likely to fall. If you go sideways 
around a hill, he could fall flat and crush your leg. But if you head him straight down a hill, he can slip and slide all the way down and still keep his feet.

Stay on top. It's usually safer to stay on your horse going down a steep hill, if you keep him pointed straight down. He usually has better traction with four feet than you do on two. And if you lead him, he might slide right into you. Or, you might slip and fall in front of him. If you must get off, stay to the side and well out of his way. (The same rule of thumb applies to any slippery downhill footing - such as going down a steep bank.)

When allowing your horse to “blow” while going uphill, turn your horse across the trail,  resting your horse so that all four hooves are on ground that is as level as possible.  Pause at the top of a climbing hill, and check your horse’s P&R’s before you continue. (Pulse and respiratory)

Wait until the first horse has cleared the top if you are going up a hill.

Turning around / reversing on the trail.  Plant your hindquarters, Turn your horse’s head to the downhill or the steep side while turning. Always turn your horse to the down hill side. He can see his front feet and won’t step off the trail. He cannot see his back feet or where he is putting them as well, so you want to keep those on the trail.

Don’t cut the corners on “switch backs.”  Stay on the trail. Do not take shortcuts. 

Watch the footing, especially on uphill and downhill. Gravel on rocks is like ice. Wet bridges can also be very slippery. Walk on pavement.

Warn if a branch might snap back in someone’s face.  Tree branches...I know for a fact that timing is important and holding a branch is nice, but if timing is not good at the moment...leave the thing alone.

DO NOT hang back so you can gallop up on the rest of the group. It's dangerous and incredibly rude. 

Before transitioning to a faster gait, check with the group to see if everyone wants to transition. Then make sure everyone is ready before you start. TAKING OFF unexpectedly can lead to the weak rider falling off...

 Don’t drown your horse. Unsnap or remove martingles
 and tie downs when crossing deep rivers.  (Notice 
tie down on horse in photo)  

When crossing deep water, watch your horse to make 
sure that they don’t try to lie down with you in the 
saddle.   If your horse starts pawing at the water, 
there’s a good chance that they’re thinking about laying down. Many horses like to lie down in water after a hot day of trail riding, it’s refreshing! 

When at a watering spot, wait for the other horses to finish. Leaving while another horse is drinking can cause that horse to stop drinking. When you reach a watering area, take turns and don’t crowd. Wait for everyone to finish before moving off.  Be considerate of other horses; move away from the entry point if it is safe to do so. 

Sponging at water stops is usually beneficial for the horse--   You may cool your horse by applying water to the neck, between legs and anywhere on the horse that has veins near the surface.  
A sponge on a rope or string,  to wet your horse’s neck on a hot day, is a good way to cool your horse without having to dismount at a lake or stream.. 

The initial method for watering the horse on arrival at a lunch stop
should be at the rider’s discretion. If the horse is not in good condition, perhaps overstressed or overheated, the initial water intake should be limited to a few sips (for example, ten swallows, then ten more in ten minutes). Later on, free choice of water can be considered. An unstressed horse, in top condition, however, might profit by drinking fully on arrival when it is thirsty, thus dehydrating well. 

Regardless of the weather, keeping the legs wet from the knees and hocks down likely aids in removing residual heat and limiting swelling.

Riders  should hose down the horse at the most appropriate distance from a faucet .  Verses the less thoughtful rider  or anyone who creates a mud hole for others at the water source, or who unduly monopolizes a water source.

Never permit a hot horse to “gorge” himself on water when coming in to lunch stop or immediately after the ride. 

Walk during the last 2 miles, depending on the length of the ride, the 
longer the ride - the longer the cooling period. 

After the cool out period, you may want to feed him a hay ration, saving grain until later. It is wise to listen for bowel sounds before feeding after a tiring ride. If the horse is showing signs of fatigue, it would not be wise to feed him grain. 

You may wish to blanket your horse and use leg wraps for the ride home 

It really is just common sense, common courtesy and good safe practices, no matter what your riding level, experience or skill is.


Observe wildlife and livestock from a distance. Do not follow, herd, or approach them.  Do not get between a bear and her cub(s).   Where there is one snake, there is usually two or more.  Same with deer. 

Tying a bell on your horse, helps to keep wild game at a distance. 

Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
In general, trotting fast or galloping on moderate ascents, descents, and
exceedingly rough ground is poor trail care.

- AS IN STAY OFF THE CROPS, and, of course have fun if you pack it in - pack it out. I could be wrong - but I think crushed empty drink/beer cans take up less space in saddle bags, than full ones do. That also goes for paper litter as well.  

Be respectful of those who live there and those who will visit behind you. 

Take only pictures, leave only footprints.

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Oklahoma Trail Horse
Leading the Trail Ride - Trail Boss Rules
Bridlewood Equestrian Oklahoma

Start the trail ride PROMPTLY at the scheduled ride time.

At the beginning of each ride, someone (Trail Boss) should take charge and tell the group the proper trail etiquette, rules, etc.... That should serve as a reminder to everyone. That also opens up the door for others during the ride to remind rule breakers of proper behavior.

Take a head count prior to departure and at regrouping areas and from time to time along the trail. 

Be sure there is a first-aid kit and wire cutters available. Riders are responsible for the application of first-aid to their own horses. Return first-aid kit after ride 

The trail leader should know the regulations, the trail, and special concerns for the area your riding. Have local area emergency numbers and contacts.

Inexperienced riders or riders with stallions, or green, or problem horses should identify themselves to the group at the beginning of the ride, during the briefing. 
Ribbon horses, Red, Green, and Yellow, on forelock and tail.

If there are more than twelve riders (12) it is best to split the ride.

Establish a pace which will ensure safety of riders and animals. 

Safety Riders, and drag riders designated and introduced.  
Post road guards if necessary, that have traffic experience.  Ensure that the TB, Safety Riders, are identified on all rides.
Generally speaking, most experienced person leading, next most experienced brings up the rear; less experienced in the middle.

But be sure to know if you have any "special" horses -- those who HAVE to lead or a kicker that should be in the back.

Along that line, announce if any horses have "issues" that could interfere with other riders. If this horse kicks, everyone should know so they avoid coming too close. If that horse has a tendency to spook and bolt, you may not want to put it directly in front of the timid rider on the follow-along horse.

Horses that are buddies should be kept together on rides. Buddies can be real problems if split up. So let buddies be together -- in the front or the back. 

Keep track of other riders behind you
Take turns leading, if possible…share the dust.

Alert people of upcoming “things” on the trail if you're the first to notice (other horses, bikers, runners, etc) Call out holes or obstacles in the trail to other riders on down the line.

ONLY go as fast/difficult as the LEAST EXPERIENCED rider in the group. If you want to gallop, but Bob only wants to trot, you TROT ONLY. 

Before transitioning to a new gait, check with the group to see if everyone wants to transition. Then make sure everyone is ready before you start. TAKING OFF unexpectedly can lead to the weak rider falling off...

Keep an eye on everyone in the group, particularly if there are "weaker" riders along - if you're cantering along, a quick glance over your shoulder is easy enough to make sure that everyone is still in the tack and under control.

Stop for tack check, 20 minuets out, and before steep terrain, uphill's or down hills.

Always make sure everyone is through a tough spot, like a river crossing, before moving on down the trail. If a rider has a problem with tack or control and needs to stop, the group should always stop and wait with them. 

Warn when you are stopping, but remember the terrain that the riders behind you will be forced to stop.  

By code, gates opened by the rider must be closed by the rider. 
However, the following is permissible: with the approach of a group of riders, the individual who opened the gate may mount and leave after giving clear instructions to close the gate.  Although ordinarily one rider must remain until the gate closer remounts, often the rider handling the gate will tell those passing through to proceed on rather than stand by.

When crossing a stream the lead rider should wait at a safe distance near the water before moving on. This allows each horse to drink or cross without worrying about being left behind. Many horses will not drink if another horse’s feet are moving.

At the top of a “stress point”, do not stop immediately on the trail at the top. Try to find a space so the horses behind you will need a flat spot to rest. Try not to block or obstruct the horses behind you. Check horses P&R's, and hydration before continuing down the trail.(How to check Vital Signs)

Gear the timing at rest stops so that the last riders in have an adequate rest, especially after a steep ascent or descent. 

Ensure that someone remains at the trailhead until all trailers have departed to offer assistance. 
Rules of the Trail Boss 

1. The TRAIL BOSS is always right. 

2. If the TRAIL BOSS is wrong, go back to Rule 1                                  back to top  
Trail horse etiquette who yields
Walk your trail horse down steep hills.  Don't whip lash other trail riders following your horse. Oklahoma Trail Horse from Bridlewood Equestrian Oklahoma
Leading you trail horse
Trail horse water crossing at Bridlewood Equestrian obstacle course.
Bridge crossing at Bridlewood Equestrian obstacle course.
Meeting bicycles are common for trail horse riding.
A trail horse crossing water at Bridlewood Equestrian River trail in OklahomaOklahoma
Trail horse riding at Bridlewood Equestrian in Oklahoma.
How to up hill climb your trail horse on a trail challenge course.