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New Years Resolutions for Horse and Mule Riders


As published in the January 2016 issue of West Coast Horsemen Magazine

The New Year is here and many people are still contemplating and reevaluating some of their life choices. New Year’s resolutions are the perfect opportunity for all of us who have failed to start making the changes that we said we would make next week, or next month. Now is a wonderful chance to sit down and prepare a list of change you want to make.

Here’s a list of six New Year’s resolutions each with a bit of advice to help you deal with the issue and get you out on the trails this year.

Get in Shape: Along with losing weight, staying fit and exercising more is the top resolution for over a third of all Americans each year. Horse riding is a physical activity and your fitness is just as important as your horse’s. A rider who is in shape will not only be physically stronger but also have more stamina; is better balanced in the saddle; and will have the flexibility and suppleness that is required to move as one unit with the animal.

Stop Procrastinating: The single biggest barrier to reaching our goals is the desire to relax instead of working hard. And once we get used to procrastinating it’s a very hard habit to break. When the days are short, cold, and dreary it’s entirely too easy for me to say I’ll work with the horses tomorrow. Tomorrow is generally a long time in coming and when it does finally arrive the ponies, and me, are in poor shape for a long trail ride.

The lessons that Sir Isaac Newton taught us a long time ago still ring true today, objects at rest tend to stay at rest and objects in motion tend to stay in motion. This is just as true for humans as it is for falling apples. I’ve found that if I break my goals into small pieces that I’m more apt to actually complete them.

Meet New People: Trail riding is in my humble opinion the most enjoyable of all equine activities, and riding with friends make it even more so. It’s also much safer to ride with another rider than to ride alone. Finding a riding partner can be hard.  We’re all busy and it’s not easy to come across people with similar interests. I’ve found that my local Back Country Horsemen organizations are wonderful places to meet people I may want to go riding with.  The Back Country Horsemen of Washington, Back Country Horsemen of Oregon and the Backcountry Horsemen of California are all excellent organizations full of wonderful people that can help you get out of the trails.

Be More Confident and Take Some Chances: Having some fear or lack of confidence while riding is a common

feeling.  Horses are large, can be unpredictable, and accidents do happen so our fears are not unfounded nor anything to be ashamed of. Overcoming these anxieties is doable if you give yourself permission to try, to fail, and then try again. I’ve found that taking riding lessons is a tremendous benefit and confidence booster.  And finally, if you always avoid situations that make you uncomfortable (Remember that uncomfortable is different from dangerous.) you’ll never grow. Be willing be push your limits and you’ll find that your confidence will grow.

Be More Polite: Good manners have always been an important part of civilized societies. They make it easier to connect with others, avoid offending people and help ensure that other trail user’s perceptions of the equine world are positive.  Be familiar with the etiquette of the trails, be able to deal with rude people in a positive manner, and learn how to be a better user of the trails. Benjamin Franklin said it well “Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man”.  Greeting hikers and bikers on the trail with a broad smile and a friendly “Howdy” is the best way to start a positive trail conversation.

Check out the New TrailMeister: If you haven’t visited the largest horse trail and camp guide in the world lately now is a great time to do so. We’ve completely re-vamped and it’s a sight to behold. Not only is TrailMeister still the largest guide to equine friendly trails and camps in the world, it’s full of riding and camping tips, reprints from TrailMeister magazine columns, gear reviews, and much more.