When was the last time you hit the trails with your horse? Nothing beats the feeling of exploring new terrain on a beautiful day with your four-legged partner, and it can be very beneficial for you and your horse! Our beautiful state of Maryland and surrounding areas have tons of horse-friendly routes you can ride solo, with a friend, or in a group.
Why should I trail ride?
Here are some of the benefits of trail riding your horse, whether you ride for pleasure, compete regularly, or anywhere in between!
• Increased responsiveness: Trail riding can help horses become more responsive to their riders' cues and aids.
• Quicker recovery from distractions: Trail riding can help horses learn to recover more quickly from distractions and stay focused on their riders.
• Practical environment to practice maneuvers: Trail riding provides a practical environment to practice maneuvers such as backing, turns on the haunches and forehand, leg yield, gait transitions, and more.
• Ability to better negotiate obstacles: Trail riding can help horses learn to better negotiate obstacles such as logs, streams, and rocky terrain.
• Better balance: Trail riding can help horses develop better balance and coordination. Horses have to learn how to carry their own weight and balance themselves going up and down hills and be mindful of their feet as they cross uneven terrain.
• Improved muscling/conditioning: Trail riding can help horses develop better muscling and conditioning. Just walking up and down hills does wonders for their hind end and topline. Try riding in two-point and you’ve got a full horse and rider workout!
• Offers a change of scenery: Trail riding can offer a change of scenery and a chance to explore new trails and areas.
• Ability to enjoy the horse without the stress of competition: Trail riding is a low-stress discipline that allows riders to enjoy their horses without the pressure of competition.
• Quality family time: Trail riding can be a great way for families to spend time together and enjoy the outdoors.
• Ability to socialize with other horse lovers: Trail riding can be a great way to meet other horse lovers and make new friends.
• Build confidence in new environments: Trail riding can help riders build confidence in new environments and develop their riding skills.
• Experience the wilderness: Trail riding can offer a chance to experience the wilderness and see wildlife such as birds, deer, and flowers.
• Increased stamina with long, extended rides: Trail riding can help riders develop increased stamina and endurance with long, extended rides.
Where do I go?
Maryland has a lot of great trails for trail riding. Here are some resources to find a trail for you and begin planning your ride today!
What do I need?
You might be asking, but what do I need for a trail ride? Aside from a horse, yourself, and a way to get there, here are some must-haves for your ride, whether it’s your first or one hundredth time out! If you're going on a long trip and have a guide or outfitter, they may help with carrying your tent, fencing, grain, etc.
|Riding Out from Home||Away or Multi-Day Trips|
|ASTM-approved equestrian riding helmet||ASTM-approved equestrian riding helmet|
|Closed-toed shoe or boot with a heel||Closed-toed shoe or boot with a heel|
|Long pants||Long pants|
|Sun screen, sun glasses, and chapstick||Sun screen, sun glasses, and chapstick, plus any other toiletries you need for an overnight trip|
|Drinking water, amount depending on the weather and how long you’ll be out||Bottled water or something you can refill, and a portable water filter|
|First-aid kit (for horse emergencies, too!)||First-aid kit (for horse emergencies, too!)|
Your cell phone, fully charged. Do NOT attach it to your horse or your saddle. If you fall off or get separated from your horse, you’ll want your phone handy
|Your cell phone, fully charged. Do NOT attach it to your horse or your saddle. If you fall off or get separated from your horse, you’ll want your phone handy|
|Light snack such as a granola bar or fruit||Sufficient food for the trip. Nutrient dense foods or dehydrated camping food is light and lasts longer|
|Insect bite cream||Insect bite cream|
|Small Nippers or Shears||Small Nippers or Shears|
|Small folding saw||Small folding saw|
|Small plastic poncho||Small plastic poncho|
|Pocket knife||Pocket knife|
|Bear spray||Bear spray|
|Piece of baling twine in case your reins break||Piece of baling twine in case your reins break. Leather cording or quality boot laces work as well!|
|Hoof pick||Hoof pick|
|Sponge for hot days clipped to your saddle||Sponge for hot days clipped to your saddle|
|Bug spray, for you||Bug spray, for you|
|Fly spray, for your horse||Fly spray, for your horse|
|Halter and lead rope|
|Portable phone charger or charging pack|
|Tent and sleeping bag, if you're staying outside|
|Portable fencing or a place to keep your horse safe and secure|
|Feed and supplements for your horse|
|Emergency electrolyte paste (not a must but highly recommended)|
|Extra clothing and layers, especially if camping, even in the summer!|
Being safe is your top priority! Whether you're going with a friend or flying solo, be sure to do the following, every ride.
- Wear and helmet and proper footwear. Even the most bombproof horse can spook, and trails are full of rocks, roots, and steep terrain. In the event you fall or need to get off your horse, be sure your head has protection and you're ready to walk.
- Tell someone your plans. Especially if you're riding alone, be sure to let someone know when you're leaving, where you're going, and when you'll be back. Always take a fully charged cell phone attached to you, not your horse, but be prepared to lose reception.
- Check the weather. Be sure you and your horse are prepared for whatever conditions you're heading into. Wear appropriate clothing and bring water. Check the radar if there's bad weather in the forecast - no one wants to get caught in a storm!
- Inspect your tack. This is an important practice every time you get ready to ride, but especially if you're riding out or in unfamiliar conditions. Check buckles, elastic, and leather for signs of wear, rust, loose stitching, and dry rot.
How do I get involved?
Looking to get more involved in a group dedicated to hitting the trails? Check out these organizations:
Don’t have access to a horse or trails, but still want to learn more about horses, the Maryland horse industry, and the history of Maryland? Check out a self-guided tour on the Maryland Historic Horse Trail by the Maryland Horse Industry Board (MHIB), which has destinations accessible by horseback, bike, foot, or car.
There are also some stables that allow you to use their horses or take a guided trail.
What if I'm feeling competitive?
Riding across country isn’t just for pleasure, there are also ways to be competitive in the discipline. Try one of these!
Judged Pleasure Riding
A Judged Pleasure Ride (JPR) consists of a planned course averaging 6 to 10 miles. Riders and horses are judged on their ability to navigate several obstacles over the course of the ride such as water, bridges, and gates. A similar Leisure Division is offered at select events. For more information, check out The North American Trail Ride Conference.
An Endurance Ride is a long-distance competitive speed event over natural terrain covering 50 to 100 miles in one day. It is a test of a well-conditioned horse’s stamina and fitness, as well as the horsemanship and management skills of the rider. For more information, check out The American Endurance Ride Conference
Competitive Trail Riding
Competitive trail riding (CTR) is a timed distance ride, usually between 15 and 40 miles per ride. Unlike an Endurance Ride, in which the fastest horse wins, CTR focuses on pace management by setting an optimum time range the ride should be completed in. For more information, check out The Eastern Competitive Trail Ride Association.