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Discipline: LD/Endurance, CMO, Trail Rider, Cartoonist, Writer, Co-Director/ Green Bean Endurance

July 7, 2012

Newbie's Corner: Miss Manner's Guide to Distance Riding Etiquette

Officially I suppose there is no hard cast in stone set of rules how one acts out on the distance trail.  But these things that follow may work towards your welcome (then again...maybe not).  But probably, yeah! 

Early to bed, early to rise.  One thing I've noticed about my particular bunch of distance riding people is they seem to go to bed at a decent hour, camp is quiet at night, and they get a move on the trail early.  Having not acquired the ability to sleep like a normal human in the ride camp setting, I go to bed at daylight, legally drug myself, read until midnight, get up at two (uh-oh....significant breach of etiquette) to feed/ check on my horse.  I'm sorry people, but I feel compelled to make sure the horse is in the pen, the horse has food, the horse has water.  I try to be very very quiet.  I discovered by accident that you NEVER take the horse for a stroll in the wee hours of the morning.  The entire herd awakens, and they start screaming for breakfast! (I'm still traumatized by this particular incident and if you were there I'm sorry).

Decide your placing for  the start.  You've thought about it I'm sure.  But kind of have an idea where you desire to be placed in the herd dynamic at the start.  If you are racing you will be somewhere near the front, if you are ummm...sort of competitive and just want to see what happens, maybe mid pack.  If don't give a flying rat's pahtootie let the dust settle, and ride out in the back.  Greenies tend to live healthier with a back of the pack start too, but how you decide to ride is a personal choice you will make based on your circumstance.  If you sort of know where you want to be make a point to position yourself to get there. It is easier than pushing for it or holding back later.

Be a nice equestrian.  Chances are you will still encounter horses during the process of the ride, coming, going, passing, or lapping you.  If you are slower than the proverbial dirt, yield the right away, and yell have a good ride!  If you are coming up behind someone, and have any intention of staying behind them, ask that person if it is alright.  Your horse may in fact make that horse get all "wiggy".  If that happens the person in front of you will not like you much.  If they say "go on", do exactly that.  Try to find your own little pocket or someone ameniable to your company.  What I find most often has happened to me in this scenerio is the yo-yo effect.  I pass them, they catch me.  They pass me, and the next hill I catch them.  It can be a pain in the butt, or you can use it as a training opportunity.  No sense in anyone going all cranky pants about it, hey it can't last much over fifteen miles or so...

Ask permission.   When passing another horse and rider team, ask permission to pass.  Let the other rider know which side you plan to pass on.  Do not pass on a cliff, or in an area that could cause the other person's equine to be crowded in, step into a hole, or off an embankment.  Let the trail open up a bit then ask to pass, on the left, or on the right. 

Red Ribbons.  If your horse gets upset with another horse coming up from behind, be sure and put a red ribbon in that horse's tail.  We can't always know what our horses will do, but if you have a confirmed kicker I'm betting you already know that.  The gal riding behind you may not, and it may well be her that gets kicked.

Pack it out pack it in.  Sometimes we lose stuff on the trail.  I've lost a boot and never even known it, and was unable to find it even though I repeated the loop.  It probably became someone's spare.  That's okay, so long as I don't leave stuff out in the woods that shouldn't be there.  When I see beer cans, soda cans, empty water bottles on the trail it seriously ticks me off.  Trails are our most important resource.  If you pack it out, try your best to be sure and pack it back in.

The water hole scenerio.   I suppose this is the one I've had the most personal angst  and mixed feelings over.  I hate it when I'm trying to get my newbie horse to drink and folks come riding through or ride away, but on the other hand how can I expect them to spend five or ten minutes of their ride, waiting for my horse to drink and she may or may not?   I guess as a matter of courtesy a person should ask if it is okay to motor on down the trail, but I have a mixed bag of feelings on this.  I try to be courteous, but if I'm being hammered on time, I or they may not have ten minutes to spare waiting around.  It is the mannerly thing to do however.

Don't crowd.  Don't crowd other riders and their horses at the hold / vet check.  Keep at least a good horse length or better between you and them, or you may get face planted by someone's rear hooves.  I have seen a person dropped flat on this one.  She was kicked in the leg.  Thankfully she did not appear to have a fracture, but let me tell you she went down like a stack of brick, and it could just have easily been the face, abdomen, ribs.  Yeah, ugly.   So try to be cognizant of your space and other's space.

Make room at the water trough.  Yes your horse is thirsty but more than one horse get a drink at a big trough.  If it is a small one, don't crowd, and wait your turn.

Loose dogs.  Dogs are my favorite animal.  I think God created them to help us see how to love and be loved.  I know, I know anthropomorphizing and all that, but dogs just make me happy.  Until they are loose and running amuck through my electric pen.  Then I kind of wish you'd tie little Tippy up.  The worst kind of manners ever is the person who lets the dog run loose but is constantly screaming for it (all the while it is visiting you in your bunk).  Tie them up, leash them, and love them, but be a responsible dog person.  Don't complain if my horse should suddenly stomp Fido's brain like a squash. 

I really need to ride.....



  1. Really, REALLY good post....and a lot of these things can be applied to riding along ANY public trail :-)

  2. West riders drink heavy, party hard, then get up and ride like devils the next day. It's terrifying and awe-inspiring. One of the vets at the convention said three am is the metabolically optimal time to offer some more mash or grain, so keep checking on the Spotted Wonder in the middle of the night!