Because the majority of equestrian trails are multi-use, we share trails with hikers, bikers and other users. Most of us have probably been startled by a biker while we’re out trail-riding. Bikers are relatively quiet and they can move fast, especially downhill. Many trails have blind corners and the sudden appearance of a fast moving object can scare even the most well-mannered trail horse. The following tips will help you prepare to expect the unexpected out on the trail.
Introduce the bike from the ground: Invite a friend to come over with her bike. Allow your horse to walk up to and smell the bike. Once your horse is comfortable with the bike at a standstill, ask your friend to start to move the bike slowly. Have your friend move the bike away from your horse while you and your horse follow the bike. When your horse is comfortable with the bike moving away from him, ask your friend to move the bike back and forth in front of him. If your horse needs to move his feet, that’s ok, allow him to do so, but always ask him to face the bike. Eventually he will become comfortable with the bike moving in front of him and he will stand still as the bike moves. Allow your horse the time he needs to get used to the bike. This may happen in one session or several. Reward your horse for exploring the bike and remaining calm.
Mounted: Now that your horse accepts the bike from the ground, ask your friend to mount the bike and ride slowly away from your horse while you and your horse follow. Repeat the same steps from above, while you remain on the ground and your friend rides the bike. When your horse is comfortable with the mounted biker, you can mount up, too, and interact. Start by following the biker, then have the biker go back and forth in front of you and your horse, eventually working up to the biker approaching your horse both head on and from behind. Work with your friend announcing herself and not announcing (a surprise) from behind your horse. The more you can expose your horse to different scenarios the better prepared you both will be out on the trail. Get creative with it, and have fun.
Etiquette: You and your horse are ambassadors for other trail riders. Always be courteous to others out on the trail, even if they are not courteous to you. Whenever possible and safe to do so, pull off the trail and allow the biker(s) to go by. Have your horse turn and face the biker(s). Announce yourself if you are coming up on a group of hikers or bikers. When passing or being passed, announce how many riders you have in your group. If your horse is really jumpy around bikers, ask the bikers to dismount and walk their bikes slowly past you. The friendlier you are and the more information you provide, the better the experience for everyone out on the trail. A lot of people don’t know what scares horses, so be courteous and ask them to help you out and explain why your horse is afraid. Always remember to say thank you!
Kim Baker, KB Natural Horsemanship, KB Equine Solutions, Holistic Healing, Pet Communicator, Lessons, Horse Clinics, Natural Horse Training and more...Building quality partnerships and lasting relationships from the ground up. Cell: 303-981-2127 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org , www.kbnaturalhorsemanship.com
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Photo by: Andy Fortuna