Who’s Your Riding Buddy? Choosing the right Trail Riding Partner.
As published in the May 2016 issue of Western Mule Magazine
My best riding partner also happens to be my much much better half, Celeste, my bride of 17 years. Celeste doesn’t like it when I ride alone, if we can’t hit the trails together. And in the interest of family harmony it’s sometimes best to do what is asked of me. It’s not too hard to find someone that is willing to take an afternoon ride on the local trails. The hard part is finding the RIGHT someone to ride with.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a self centered kind of guy. I want to do everything that I can to ensure that I’ll make it home in time for dinner after a ride. Finding the right companion goes far beyond having a furry backyard beast and a few spare hours. What follows is my list of interview questions to ask of any potential riding partner.
First Aid Certification – My life is important to me and I would like to know that whomever I’m riding with can help if I’m hurt, in the event that a ride moves past memorable and becomes eventful. I ask to see the card because unfortunately, everyone thinks they’re knowledgeable. Sadly, being up to date with the latest episodes of ER isn’t quite what I’m looking for. Please please please learn how to provide immediate care in cardiac, breathing, and first aid emergencies. Please. You and I may never meet but but someone in your family or a random stranger may one day desperately need your help. Be able to provide it.
Medical Issues / Allergies – Bees and I are not friends and I want all of my riding partners to know that, as well as in which of my pocket the EpiPen lives. Some of my riding partners have cardiac issues. I want to know about those issues and where they keep their tiny vial of nitroglycerin pills.
Don’t be overeager and accept an invitation from just anyone with a first aid card. Ask what is their idea of good ride. Make sure your prospective companion’s answers match your ideas when it comes to an enjoyable trail ride.
How Fast? Some people like to ride fast. Others like a slow steady walk. Both options are great. Just make sure that you both enjoy the same thing. There’s nothing more annoying than wanting to step out and being held back by a laggard, or wanting to enjoy the scenery and being constantly prodded to move along.
How Long? Agree on how long you want to ride before you set out. Some riders think 45 minutes makes for a fine trail ride. I like to spend a few hours in the saddle to justify the hassle of hooking up the trailer. Make sure that you both are happy with the decision.
Where? One of the reasons that I founded www.TrailMeister.com was to find different types of trails to explore. Some riders aren’t fond of hills; others find water crossings to be more of a hassle than they want to deal with. Take the time to discuss where the both of you want to go to find the perfect area for both of your needs. With well over 2,000 trail areas listed and described across the U.S. and Canada www.TrailMeister.com can help you with this!
What’s Your Animal Like? I’m not a fan of using the trails as a training area and so may be dis-inclined towards going out with a green beast that hasn’t yet mastered the basics of Whoa, Go, and Steering at all gaits. Use your best judgment about what equine emotions you choose to deal with. Nervous, high-strung animals tend to bring out the worst in my yellow horse, while my bay mare takes it all in stride.
Where to find the mythical unicorn who fits all of your ride buddy criteria? Thankfully there are many opportunities for most of us to connect with a like minded rider. With over 10 million owners of equines in the U.S. you’re bound to find the perfect match if you look in the right places. Here are some of the best spots to look for a potential trail ride partner.
Riding Clubs – There are many equine communities here you can meet other riders. These groups range from breed specific organizations such the American Quarter Horse Association to trail advocacy associations such as Back Country Horsemen, state horse councils, and even social clubs such as the 40 Something Cowgirls. Most organizations have regular meetings where you can get to know your horsey
(muley?) neighbors. At the meetings you’ll find when and where various activities are taking place, including group trail rides. Start participating in the group’s events, and in the process, you’ll make friends with people who are probably just like you—looking for someone they can ride with.
Before you sign up for any group ride, be sure to ask questions to determine if the ride is suited to you and your animal’s abilities. Find out how long the ride will be, the type of terrain and the pace of the ride. If you aren’t comfortable with the pace, distance or terrain, keep searching for a club that is more in line with what you are seeking.
Prize Rides – A very popular type of group ride is the Prize, or Poker ride. Many of these events are held every year to raise funds for a club or charity. At a prize ride, participating riders are given playing cards as they pass points along the trail. The object of the ride is to end up with the best hand. The rider with the best hand wins!
Prize rides are a fun way to meet other trail riders, and to enjoy an outing on the trail for a good cause. Socializing is often the biggest part of the rides, and it’s hard to come away from one without having made a friend or two along the way.
You can find a nationwide directory of prize rides at www.TrailMeister.com/events .
Trail Competitions – Competitive trail events are a popular and growing phenomena across the U.S. Depending on how competitive you are and how much time and energy you want to put into preparing for an event, you can choose from a number of competitive trail activities.
The North American Trail Ride Conference (NATRC), American Competitive Trail Horse Association (ACTHA), and Equine Trail Sports (ETS) all sponsor trail competitions across the country. The rides are anywhere from four to 10 miles long and feature judged technical obstacles along the trail. If your horse knows how to back up, sidepass and drag a light object, you’re probably ready to participate in a trail competition. Most rides of this type are leisurely with plenty of socializing built into the day.
You can find a national list of competitive trail rides at www.TrailMeister.com/events .
Well there you have it, my take on what to look for in a riding partner and where to find a trail buddy. For me trail riding is the most enjoyable of all equine activities. Riding with friends makes it even more wonderful.
As always for more information on trail riding, the world’s largest equine trail and camp guide, and much more please visit www.trailmeister.com!