If you love to go horseback riding, trail riding in the Smoky Mountains is one of the most pleasurable outdoor experiences you can have! It is a wonderful way to enjoy an activity that you love, while exploring hidden nature trails and taking in picturesque mountain scenery!   Before you tackle those mountain trails, however, it is wise to review some trail-riding safety tips. Trail riding requires more awareness than when riding in a controlled environment and demands that you be ready when something unexpected happens. The following safety tips will not only help keep you and your horse safe on the trails, but will help you relax and enjoy your ride!

Check the Weather

This is the first safety tip when trail riding. If there is a chance of thunderstorms, consider rescheduling the trail ride.

Know Your Level

Trails can dramatically differ in their level of difficulty, ranging from beginner, intermediate to advanced levels. The level of the horse’s knowledge as well as your riding experience plays a role in mapping out the trail. If your horse is inexperienced, consider trailing on a wide path with less debris and fewer ditches.

Groom Your Horse

Do not leave your barn without brushing the horse and picking out their hooves. Also, check the condition of the horse from the hooves to the ears and the tail. To prevent injuries, check for scrapes, cuts or inflammation before you begin trail riding.

Pack Your Trailer

If you are transporting your horse by trailer to your trail riding spot, make sure that you have packed the necessary supplies. These supplies include a first aid kit, a broom, a pitchfork, grooming equipment, proper tack, hay bags, leg wraps and treats. Also, you may need to use halter and lead.

Bring Bug Spray

Neither you nor the horse enjoys bugs. Fly and mosquito spray will keep mosquitoes and flies off the horse.

Don’t Forget the Sunscreen

Trail riding is a fun activity where one can easily lose track of time. However, spending hours outside leaves you susceptible to the scorching sun and will leave you with a sunburn. Therefore, generously lather on the sunscreen (SPF15 or higher) before hitting the trails.

Tighten the Tack

Before mounting your horse, double-check all the tack and any other equipment. Be sure to check and tighten the girth, and adjust all equipment.

Wear Protective Clothing

Helmets are recommended when trail riding, as well as proper footwear such as riding boots or cowboy boots. When trail riding at sunset, make sure to bring a light jacket or sweatshirt because the temperature can drop quickly after sundown.

Use the Buddy System

Horses are herd animals, meaning they love traveling in groups. Trail riding with a buddy not only enhances your experience, but can also be vital during emergency situations!

Check the Terrain

Beware of your surroundings and the condition of the trails. If the footing is too muddy or too steep, stay away. Also, check for fallen branches that can make your pathway unclear. A general rule when trail riding is if you cannot step on it yourself, then your horse will certainly not like it either.

Stay in Contact With Your Horse

Nature is unpredictable and you never know what may suddenly jump out of nowhere and spook your horse! For this reason, you should stay alert and keep the reins held in such a manner that you can easily gain control when necessary.

Climbing Up and Going Down Hills

You can help your horse when climbing up hills by leaning forward.  You can also help them when going downhill by keeping your weight over their center. Both of these actions help reduce negative pressure felt by your horse and helps the horse maintain it’s balance.

Bring Water and Snacks

Be sure to bring some water and snacks for both you and your horse! Your horse will appreciate the extra carrot or apple you brought him after the long day. Water and a snack will also help you stay hydrated and rejuvenated during the ride!

Bring a Fully Charged Cell Phone and Keep it Turned On

This will help you in case of an emergency. Also, use GPS to mark the trails you are exploring. Make sure to carry the cell phone in your pocket so that in case you get separated from your horse, you have immediate access to use it to call for help.

Cool Down

After a long day of trail riding, your horse is bound to be tired and sweaty. It is important to walk him the last few minutes of the trail to help him cool down and cool down his muscles.  It is a good idea also to walk your horse at the beginning of your ride to help your horse warm their muscles up.

In Summary

Whether you choose to ride at sunrise, sunset or anytime in between, trail riding in the Smoky Mountains is a wonderful activity! Be prepared by remembering the above trail riding safety tips and you will have an amazing experience!

After a long day of trail riding and other outdoor activities in the Smoky Mountains, it is important to have a comfortable, welcoming place to come back to for some rest and relaxation.  Creekside Lodge in Maggie Valley is just such a place! Enjoy the peaceful, family atmosphere at Creekside Lodge and unwind after a long day of activities! Our friendly staff will make you feel right at home! Call us today at (800) 621-1260 and reserve your date! Come visit us and get ready to hit the trails in the beautiful Smokies!