How to Prepare for a Horse Trail Ride

May 8, 2015

Looking for an adventure outdoors? A trail ride may be just the thing! Here in the southwest, horseback riding is a part of life. Descendants of cowboys who used to ride around town by horse and frequent the old saloon are still a part of the rural towns around Phoenix. This means you have plenty of horse stables and trails to choose from!

Once you find a convenient spot to go horseback riding, it’s time to get ready for the ride. To help you get saddled up and on your way, we created this article on how to prepare for a trail ride. Keep reading for tips on what to bring, what to wear, when to go, and even how to stay safe during your ride. And if it’s your first trail ride, don’t be scared! In the words of John Wayne: “courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway”. A trail ride on a horse is fun, and after reading this post you’ll be ready to go like a real cowboy (or cowgirl).

What to Bring

Pack your saddlebags with the appropriate supplies and you’ll be prepared for a fun, comfortable ride!

Water

Often times, people don’t bring enough H2O! Staying hydrated is important, especially here in the desert. Three quarts per person is typically recommended for hiking, but up to two may be sufficient since your horse will be doing most of the work, depending on how long you’ll be going for. Know where ponds or streams are located on your trail, if they are available at all. If they’re not, plan to bring a jug of water for your horse.

Food

It’s always a good idea to bring some snacks along, such as granola bars, fruit, or trail mix. If you’ll be riding for over an hour, you may also want to pack a lunch. Stopping for a picnic in a shady spot is a great way to relax and let the horses rest. Don’t forget to bring some baby carrots and apples for the horse!

First-aid

The desert is full of rocks, thorny trees, and cacti. Bring a small first-aid kit just in case, especially if you’re bringing the kids. We also recommend bringing a pair of pliers or a multi-tool along with you to pull cactus spines should the need arise.

Rain Gear

Though we do live in the desert, where rain is usually scarce, it may be prudent to bring a poncho. Check the weather report before you go, and step outside to take a look at the sky. If there’s not a cloud to be seen, you may be OK to leave the rain gear at home.

Cell Phone/GPS/Compass

An old-fashioned compass may be good to bring, just in case your phone or GPS device doesn’t get service. If you have someone guiding your trail ride, you may be fine without it since they’ll know the area inside and out. In any case, it’s good to have your cell phone and keep it on you by wearing a holster on your belt for easy access. If you get separated from your horse for any reason, having the cell phone in the saddlebag won’t do you much good!

Whistle

Another safety protocol for the trail is a whistle. If at any point you get separated from the rest of the group, using a whistle will help them find you!

Bug Spray

One drawback of the great outdoors is the mosquitoes. Spray yourself with some bug spray so you’re not bothered throughout the day.

Sunscreen

Next to water, sunscreen is one of the most important items to bring! Lather it on before you leave the house, and reapply later if you tend to sweat or if it’s a warm day. Nothing ruins the fond memories of a great trip like a blistering sunburn the next day!

What to Wear

Trail ride attire includes comfortable denim riding jeans and boots with a heel to prevent feet from coming out of the stirrups. A western shirt or regular cotton t-shirt will work on top. If you’re going early in the morning, especially during winter, remember to bring a light jacket, too. Never wear shorts—saddles tend to get hot, and don’t offer your legs any protection if you happen to brush against a cacti!

Also, don’t forget the sun protection: a hat and sunglasses that cover well (a cowboy or cowgirl hat does so and is very appropriate!) will keep you from bringing home a nasty sunburn.

When to Go

Winter is the best time to go for a trail ride, followed by spring and fall. If you go during the summer (June-August), just be sure to go either early in the morning or later in the evening. You don’t ever want to go during the heat of the day—it’s too harsh on you, and your horse!

Safety Tips

A trail ride should be fun and relaxing. Nevertheless, accidents happen!

Follow these safety tips to keep the ride smooth no matter what:

  1. Bring more water than you think you’ll need.
  2. Protect yourself from the intense Arizona sun with sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses.
  3. Never go on a trail ride alone.
  4. Bring snacks for yourself, and your horse, to keep energy up.
  5. Double check your saddle and equipment before mounting your horse to make sure everything is tight and tucked in.
  6. Avoid going for a trail ride during the middle of the day, unless it’s wintertime. Ride early in the morning, or take a sunset ride in the evening.
  7. Check the weather before you go. If there’s a chance for thunderstorms, reschedule your ride!
  8. Keep your cell phone in your pocket or a holster, rather than a saddlebag, just in case you are ever separated from your horse.
  9. A helmet may not be required, but is recommended, especially for children or novice riders.
  10. Always be aware of your surroundings and on the lookout for potential threats, such as a water crossing, low tree branch, or wildlife.

You’re Ready to Hit the Trail!

Now that you know how to prepare for a trail ride, you’re ready to hit the trails! Before you go, stop by your local Shoppers Supply to find all the items you’ll need. From cowboy hats, to jeans and boots, as well as feed and equipment for your horse, we’ve got everything you need under one roof. Visit our Apache Junction or Chandler location today!