As published in the March 2016 issue of West Coast Horsemen.
There’s an expression in French: Simple comme bonjour, “simple as hello”.
Do you greet the folks that you’re sharing the trail with? You should. A friendly “Jambo” when you meet someone on the trail will not only help horse riders become everyone’s favorite trail partner it can also help to keep you safe. The hiker you politely greeted could be the vital link that directs Search and Rescue to your location after a wreck that leaves you hurt and scared along the trail. You want the people you encounter on the trail to remember meeting you. Hello is a great way to start a conversation. Ask about the trail conditions ahead, water sources, or how far until the next trail junction or campsite.
Being polite, offering a friendly “Shalom”, and encouraging the people we share the trails with to engage in a brief chat will also help your horse to understand that the strange lycra clad beast ahead is indeed just another odd human, and not an equine eating creature to fear.
An “aloha” when coming across other trail users will help to break the stereotype of horsemen as rude, inconsiderate, and even dangerous. If we want to break the cycle of trail loss, horsemen need to become everyone’s favorite trail partners. We can do that in a variety of different ways starting with being polite.
Have you ever been riding, when someone greeted you with a hello, and it made you feel good? We all have. Those experiences underscore how powerful a simple hello can be. When you say hello to someone you’re acknowledging them, and we all love to be acknowledged. Every time we fail to say hello when we pass another trail user is a lost opportunity to make a positive difference in the world.
I’m energized when a simple hello turns into a positive interaction. The opposite is true of the less than stellar times when “guten tag” falls on deaf ears. We feed off of one another’s energy, which is why we feel so wonderful at the end of a good ride, but leave the DMV feeling like a drink is in order. When a sincere trail greeting is ignored it’s easy for us to feel awkward, silly, and even mad. Mother Teresa once said “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” When I think of greetings as a gift it makes it much easier to be OK with receiving nothing in return. I like to give gifts just because I can, without any expectation of reciprocation.
You don’t have to say “Konnichiwa” to everyone. Although I try to make it a point to say hello to all I meet on the trail, an exception is the very rare event when you happen upon someone who makes you feel unsafe. Keep moving in those situations, pull out a cell phone if you have one, or pretend that you’re with a group that is just behind you.
The vast majority of trail encounters are pleasant experiences that can be even better if we take the time to say “Hola”and mean it. Don’t underestimate the power a hello can have on your fellow trail users. A hello costs you nothing, yet brightens the spirits of others, and yourself. That’s pretty powerful.
If we say “bonjour” just half the time we pass someone on the trail we’ll be making a huge difference and improving the world. It’s as simple as “hello!”
For more of my thoughts on trail riding, camping with horses, and more visit www.trailmeister.com the largest horse trail guide in the world.