End your trail ride on a pos­i­tive note.

Make the post-ride ex­pe­ri­ence a pos­i­tive one to end your trail ride on a high note.

Horse & Rider - - Contents -

You’re headed back from your trail ride. You reach the trailer, un­sad­dle, brush off your horse, get him loaded, and head down the road. Twenty min­utes! It’s a new record time.

This is ex­actly the be­hav­ior that gets rid­ers in trou­ble. Af­ter a long day of rid­ing, and es­pe­cially af­ter mul­ti­day trips, it’s tempt­ing to hurry up and get on your way. When you do this, you cre­ate chaos. You hur­riedly go through the mo­tions and leave your­self open to for­get im­por­tant things, such as a sad­dle left on the ground. You over­look the once-over that en­sures that your horse is in­jury-free and your equip­ment is in good re­pair. Over time, your rushed process causes your horse to be­come anx­ious at the trailer, which makes your ride back more dif­fi­cult and puts a sour tone on an oth­er­wise-pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence. Here I’ll share how you can make the post-ride trailer ex­pe­ri­ence a safe and pos­i­tive one.

Make a Check­list

At home, make a check­list be­fore you leave on your trip. In­clude tack, an emer­gency kit, feed, buck­ets, and any­thing else you’ll need. Your emer­gency kit should in­clude Banamine (as pre­scribed by your vet­eri­nar­ian) and ban­dage ma­te­ri­als to treat mi­nor cuts and scrapes un­til you make it to a vet.

Af­ter your ride, use your check­list to en­sure that ev­ery­thing you’ve brought is ac­counted for and put away. If you break tack or lose a hoof boot, make note of it so you can re­place it.

Post-Ride An­tic­i­pa­tion

As you head back to your trailer, men­tally pre­pare your­self so you don’t be­come overly anx­ious and af­fect your horse’s emo­tional state. If you get anx­ious your horse will, too. You don’t rush him through the trail ride; so don’t rush him headed home.

At the trailer, work your horse be­fore you dis­mount; not into lather, but you don’t want him to think his job is over as soon as the trailer’s in sight. This think­ing is what leads to the ride­home jig. Trot cir­cles, bend, flex, back up, then walk him out. Make sure he’s cooled off, calm, and fo­cused be­fore you call it a day.

One Step at a Time

Be­fore you load your horse, he should be re­laxed and com­fort­able. If you rush him, he’ll feel as you do when you’re rushed in and out of an ap­point­ment—emo­tion­ally run-over. In­stead, tie him to the trailer and loosen the cinch, but don’t get in a hurry to jerk the sad­dle off. Let him re­lax as you prep your tack room.

Or­ga­nize your tack room so that when you take off your horse’s gear you don’t have to strug­gle to put it away. Hang up your bri­dle, pull out groom­ing sup­plies and wa­ter buck­ets, and make

sure ev­ery­thing’s clean and ready to use.

Un­sad­dle your horse, then run your hands over his body to check for sore spots, bro­ken hair, and other in­juries. Then groom him thor­oughly. I like to give my horse a lin­i­ment rub­down, which helps with mus­cle sore­ness. I also dis­in­fect my cinches and hang them up ex­actly how I want to take them back down. This pre­vents girth itch and fu­ture skin ir­ri­ta­tion, and will make it eas­ier to sad­dle next ride.

Af­ter your horse has cooled off, but be­fore you load up, make wa­ter avail­able. Of­fer it once, and don’t let him play in it. If you let him guz­zle it, he can get a gut ache.

Prep Your Trailer

Check your sur­round­ings be­fore you park your rig to give your horse the best op­por­tu­nity pos­si­ble to load and un­load. Some­times trail­heads don’t give you many op­tions. Choose the most level and least ob­structed area pos­si­ble.

Af­ter your ride, in­spect your trailer and the load-up po­si­tion. Not all trail­ers have good in­ter­nal lights so bring a flash­light or head lamp if there’s a chance you’ll load up af­ter dark. Lights in the door help il­lu­mi­nate the door­way. Though horses have great vi­sion at night, they don’t seem to mind a lit­tle help.

Fi­nal Thoughts

Keep safety top of mind at each stage of your ride. Make sure you haul in a safe trailer, free of sharp edges, poor gate latches, and other haz­ards. Drive smoothly; don’t jerk around cor­ners, slam on brakes, or ac­cel­er­ate abruptly. Be mind­ful of your horse’s ex­pe­ri­ence, and you’ll avoid trailer balk­i­ness, an­tic­i­pa­tion, and other un­sa­vory post-ride trou­bles.

Make sure your horse is re­laxed and com­fort­able be­fore you load him into the trailer fol­low­ing your ride.

LEFT: Keep a tidy, or­ga­nized tack room in your trailer, with ev­ery­thing put away, so you don’t have to wres­tle with your gear as you pack. RIGHT: Com­plete a thor­ough check of your horse by rub­bing your hands over his body af­ter your ride to look for in­juries.

Trainer, clin­i­cian, and life­long cow­boy KenMcNabb hails from Lovell, Wy­oming. He helps rid­ers and horses build and en­joy part­ner­ships work­ing on the ranch and rid­ing on the trail. His show, Dis­cov­er­ing the Horse­man Within, airs weekly on RFD-TV. Learn more about McNabb and find his clinic sched­ule at ken­m­c­n­abb.com.

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