Trail riding can be the epitome of social distancing so there’s no need to forgo that activity this year.
Scientists say contracting the virus is less risky out in the open air. Many trail riders are traveling separately to a set location where they wave to each other, saddle up and maintain the social distancing that responsible horse people always observe anyway.
Step one of any successful trail ride is preparation.
I annually restock my horse trailer by following a check list of necessities and possibilities. This helps me be prepared for whatever pops up. I’ve learned the value of several of these items because I was out in the middle of nowhere and needed one or all of them.
Horses need 10 to 12 gallons of water per day. Even if you are riding near and through water it’s important to bring some with you, too. Some horses won’t drink unfamiliar water but will gladly sip the usual stuff from home. It helps to bring their familiar bucket, too.
And, make sure you drink enough water or something with electrolytes. I’ve ridden with people who got very sick or actually fainted from dehydration on a hot day.
If you are a wilderness rider, see if the area you are entering requires certified weed free hay. This is needed to keep weeds from being spread in pristine areas. Weed free hay is readily for sale on the internet. Your vet also might be able to suggest a supplier.
You will need fully stocked first aid kits for both you and your horse. “First Aide for Horses” is a very affordable and handy book to answer all sorts of health issues. Mine lives in the door of my trailer.
For long rides, I also pre-dose my horse with a probiotic to keep the digestive tract working. I like a supplement called Forco that is very palatable and almost immediately effective.
Salt-laced grain supplements for a snack are also helpful because it causes thirst and encourages drinking more water.
“Just in case” tack is a valuable precaution against all sorts of malfunctions because there are no tack shops on the trail. Bring an extra saddle pad, reins, girth, lead rope and the tools to do tack repairs.
Bug spray is a very real necessity. I use spray insect repellant on my horse’s body but prefer a product called “Swat” for around their eyes and in their ears. It has a Vaseline-like texture and stays on all day.
A hot horse can travel home much more comfortably if he is sponged off with cool water before being loaded for the ride home so bring supplies for that.
Some riders carry a set of hoof boots in case their mount loses a shoe. I take along a small piece of fiber board and duct tape as a cheaper option to for a thrown shoe. Step the horse’s hoof onto the fiber board to get the shape. Cut the shape out and tape it securely with lots of duct tape. It’s not a longterm solution but it can allow you to complete your ride or at least get back to the trailer.
Of course, when traveling, you must always have your horse’s brand inspection, health certificate and proof of a negative coggins test.
The prep time needed to get everything ready is well worth the time and effort.