Tips to Save Time and Money When Riding
by Wendy Croney
Do you love a trot out on the trails, riveting ranch sorting practice, or a creative trail challenge event? Whatever the event, here are a few tips to save you time and money.
Before loading into the horse trailer, I love to groom and saddle my steed in the comfort of our own barn. It’s easier on both of us— familiar, dry and clean—and definitely nicer than saddling at your destination if (often when in the Northwest) the weather turns windy or rainy. Tacking up away from home in possible inclement weather just isn’t the type of the therapy I’m looking for on a ride! Saddling at home also helps save time in there are unexpected delays. Perhaps you’re supposed to meet friends at the trailhead at a predetermined time, but are delayed by road construction. You arrive late to find everyone is waiting on you; not a lot of fun. Had you saddled at home those impatient eye rolls will turn to smiles when you unload and everyone sees your horse is saddled and ready to go.
Now that you are saddled and ready to load your beauty, be sure to check your cinch and snug it up if needed. Keeping it relaxed may seem like a kindness for your horse, but having to re-saddle after reaching your destination due to slippage will defeat the purpose of tacking up at home. And you definitely don’t want the saddle scooting too far back or even ending up underneath the horse during transport. This will cause big problems!
There are many potential problems involved with successful trailer loading. Some can be avoided with a few simple tricks. Your horse reluctant to hop in the trailer? Try sprinkling a few handfuls of shavings over the matts. Black floors in horse trailers can seem like a bottomless pit from a horse’s perspective. Shavings help to show them the surface is solid. (If shavings aren’t available, even grass, dirt or something else handy can remedy this particular problem).
On to securing your best friend safely inside the trailer. Some people tie their horse while others leave them loose. More important than the decision to tie or not is this- always unclip the lead rope from the halter. If you like a horse tied, use a short lead. Why? If the end of the lead rope manages to come out the window and is long enough to get caught in the wheel while attached to the halter…there are no words. This tragic event has actually happened to horses and is totally avoidable.
If your destination is the trailhead, here are a few suggestions to help ensure a pleasant and safe excursion.
When Galloping Horse Equestrian teaches students to trail ride here are some of the things we carry and recommend come along for the ride: lunch or snack, water, horse treats, halter, lead rope, pocket knife and, of course, we wear our helmets. Some other inexpensive saddlebag items I like to add include a first aid kit, duct tape and twine. Many emergency repairs can be accomplished using only a pocket knife, duct tape and twine, saving the permanent repairs for back at the barn.
The first aid kit can be outfitted with useful and thrifty items such as a disposable diaper and some antibiotic salve. A diaper makes a large inexpensive bandage, has its own fasteners, or can be cut into smaller sizes. The salve can soothe, reduce friction and medicate. I also like to carry inexpensive drugstore antihistamine tablets. Encountering a wasp or hornet’s nest during a trail ride happens occasionally. Remember that it’s always best to have medications on your person (not packed in saddlebags) should you become separated from your horse. This also applies to your cell phone. (Note: The above isn’t a complete list, just a few good ideas.)
When finished riding for the day cool the horses down slowly. I have my students dismount and walk the last quarter mile back to the trailer. Once there, we tie the saddled horses and let them stand for at least 30 minutes. When unsaddling, leave the saddle pads on while brushing and cleaning hooves. This method is great if you don’t own a cooler, or didn’t bring it. A slow cool down allows muscles to relax naturally and aids in reducing painful contraction. Give the horse a short walk after grooming to stretch and offer them water.
With a few little tricks this season, you can save time, money and enjoy a safer more enjoyable ride. Until next time!