Stay Safe on the Trail

Tips for leading a group horseback ride for your church, school, or camp 

While trail rides can be fun for people of all ages, great care must be taken when taking a group of people horseback riding. Sometimes horses can be unpredictable and accidents can happen on the trail. To prepare for these risks, here are a few guidelines to consider if you’re planning a trail ride for a church, ministry, school, or camp.

Enlist the Aid of an Outfitter

Unless everyone in the group is an experienced horseback rider, consider enlisting the aid of a commercial outfitter to lead the trail ride. Select a qualified organization that possesses the experience, equipment, stock, and training necessary to make the experience go smoothly, even for new and inexperienced riders. Make sure the outfitter has adequate liability insurance to protect a group of your size. Outfitters can take the worry out of a trip, since they generally know the trails in a particular area, as well as how to obtain help in an emergency.

Research Your Destination

If your ride will cross private land, a state park, or a national forest, you may need to pay a fee, obtain a permit, or abide by certain restrictions. Before leading a group outing, be sure to research your destination and obtain the necessary permits or approvals. Then, ride the trail ahead of time to confirm its suitability for your group. The U.S. Forest Service may have different regulations than the U.S. Park Service or a nearby recreational area, so doing research on the place you’re planning to ride is always a good idea.

Check All of Your Gear

Before hitting the trail, be sure that both your riders and your horses have the proper equipment. Also, it helps to keep a few items with you in case of emergencies along the trail. Some suggestions include:

  • Cell phone
  • Water and some snacks
  • Maps of the trail and a GPS device or app
  • A first-aid kit
  • An ASTM-approved helmet, fitted for each person
  • Appropriate clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, pants, hiking boots

Be sure that you have a signed waiver from all group members (or their parents), saying that they understand and accept all of the risks involved in the trip.

Review Safety Measures

Before hitting the trail, brief all members on safety measures to follow during the ride. This applies to both experienced and novice riders. If you’re leading a group of new or inexperienced riders, it would be beneficial for all participants to receive a short training session regarding horseback riding.

Remain Alert

Stay aware of your surroundings while riding. Sometimes difficult terrain or wild animals may provide unexpected risks during an otherwise enjoyable ride. If you encounter difficult terrain, stay on the trail. If circumstances force you to leave the trail, be sure to find the trail again as quickly as possible. Also, remind riders to pay attention to their horses, making sure that the animals aren’t exhausting themselves or eating something they shouldn’t along the trail.

Horseback riding is a great way to get into the outdoors and experience the wonders of God’s creation. With a little planning, it can provide a great time of fellowship for your group.