Trail Riding: Safety Tips for Bystanders and Drivers

Written By: The Irongate Equine Team

Written By: The Irongate Equine Team

Fall is a great season for trail rides – the weather is perfect, though fickle, the scenery is gorgeous, and your horse is excited about stepping out into that atmosphere! Not to mention, it’s a great way to let off post-show season steam. To be safe on the trail, there are a wealth of factors to double check. You need to double check your first aid kit, and triple check your tack, making sure there’re no loose threads or cracking leathers. You check the weather, of course, and cross your fingers for a beautiful, sunny day. You’ve gone over the map with a careful eye, and you’re ready with your compass *just in case* you and your horse get turned around. You’re prepared for almost anything, and you’re ready to hit the trails! Unfortunately, there is one thing that’s outside of your control. In light of that, this blog is not for our clients and their horses, but for the drivers and bikers that see you.

Listen up, drivers! Horses are infamous for their flight reflex and general “spookiness”. Even the most “bombproof” horse can behave in unpredictable ways. Help your local horseback riding community by being thoughtful and knowledgeable about horses and how you should act around them. Compassionate, safe driving can make a trail ride a wonderful experience for any rider. If you’re very good at driving around horses, riders won’t even remember that you were there. However, reckless drivers, or even drivers who simply don’t change their driving habits when they see a horse, can make a trail ride a terrifying and unsafe experience. Here are some tips to help you help us.

When driving near a horse:

  1. DO slow down. It’s important that you’re going slowly enough to come to a complete stop if the horse begins to spook.

  2. DON’T honk. Horses spook at unexpected and loud sounds.

  3. DON’T allow your dog to stick his head out of the window and bark at the horses. A nearby predator will definitely spook the horses, not to mention the loud sound.

  4. DO give the rider a little extra room on the shoulder, if it’s safe for you to move over. The horse will appreciate that extra buffer.

  5. DON’T tailgate the horse. Horse legs have a lot of power, and they’re not afraid to use it. If the horse is spooked, he may try to kick your car if you’re close behind him.

  6. DO watch the rider for any signals they give you – they may tell you to pass, slow down, or stop. The rider has a good idea of how their horse is going to react, so trust their judgment.

Don’t worry, drivers. The pressure isn’t all on you. Trail riders, always remember:

  1. DO avoid busy/fast roads in favor of smaller roads with lower speed limits.

  2. DO wear high visibility clothing, especially as it begins getting dark earlier!

  3. DO desensitization training prior to taking your horse trail riding.

  4. DO thank drivers with a smile or nod when they drive around you safely. No need to take your hands off of the reins for a wave if that won’t be safe.

  5. DO wear a helmet. That’s always a DO.

Have questions about trail riding? Call us anytime, we’d be glad to chat about it.