We’ve noticed that equestrians who enroll in Top Trail program tend to attract be those who truly care about and appreciate their equine partner(s).
Even so, it’s important to take a minute to remind everyone that Top Trail’s official position on the use of equines for our “challenges” is that they only be ridden according to their level of fitness. Please — always put your equine first! Don’t go out and wear your pony out for the sake of winning a challenge. The true Top Trail winner has a great relationship with their equine and as a team you’re growing together in trail skills and in partnership — that’s what it’s all about!
It’s important to remind ourselves that our horses are living, breathing creatures who experience good days, bad days, and so so days. Remember to take them into consideration when you’re chasing those miles.
Top Trail’s official position on the use of equines for our “challenges” is that they only be ridden according to their level of fitness.
In other words, don’t over-ride or put the health and soundness of your equine partner in jeopardy under any circumstances to win a challenge or meet a riding goal. But do ride with a mind toward conditioning and fitness for both you and your beloved equine.
Tips From Our Resident Pro
Robin Morris is one of our highest mileage riders and she has logged nearly all her Top Trail miles on her beloved mule, Beau. Of her 9071+ miles logged to date, Beau has shared 8759+ miles with her (as of 7/29/19).
Robin runs through a pre-ride check before she and Beau head out on the trail: “Before every ride, I check Beau over from head to tail and especially the legs and hoofs. I check pulse rates on his pasterns, and run my hands along the length of each leg. I also run my hands across his top-line—looking for any hints of soreness. I learned most of this habits the hard way. Tacking up an animal and/or untacking and putting out to pasture without a thorough check as to their condition is trouble.
The Current Average Top Trail Ride is 7.2 Miles
“Beau is in excellent condition, but that took time. The 1st 6 months our rides averaged 7.5 miles; 2015 averaged 12.25 miles; 2016, 14.5 miles; 2017, 11.5 miles; and 2018, 11.75 miles. While I get some occasional good long rides in, the average is much smaller. I also ride a lot of different terrain. Beau excels on goat-trails that take us up and down extremely steep terrain. However, if I don’t think it is safe — and he has indicated that a few times, I hop off and lead him.”
Robin adds, “I often let him set the pace for the day. There are days when he simply mosies along and other days he wants to get his trot-on. Our rides are a partnership and while I ride a lot and log a lot of miles — Beau is up to it. On the few occasions he has not appeared “on his game” I have changed my expectations and even cancelled a ride. His health comes first.” This is true horsemanship
Never Ride Hard and Put Away Wet
Long time Top Trail member Dawn Hagen also advises, “Over the years I watched good horses be run into the ground from hard riding, and putting away hot and sweaty horses. The ride doesn’t end with untacking! You must take the time to untack, walk out (or use a hot walker) AND be properly groomed prior to being putting up in their stall. A sweaty horse being put away in cold weather is like putting a wet blanket on yourself in the cold — in other words, it’s an invitation to cause untold illness in your horse; not to mention the fact that it’s bad habit forming behavior on the part of the rider. Many riders, I expect, know this already to be true, but in the case that even ONE cold horsies doesn’t have be put up wet tonight, I decided, why not?”
You Know Your Horse Best
It’s important to know when your trail partner may not be feeling up to a long day on the trail or even a day on the trail at all. You know your equine best so pay attention to the signals he or she may be trying to convey. It’s up to us to properly steward our equines. Their well-being is absolutely in our hands.
Post Ride Checks Are Important Too
Post ride, check your horse’s back, run your hands down his legs to feel for any heat, swelling, or trail injuries, galling and if you find anything, address it right away. Pick out all the hooves, and if it’s hot out, treat him/her to a rinsing off with the hose. Thank your partner for the ride—and reflect on the time you have spent together! Your equine will appreciate the care!
What are your tips for taking the very best care of your Top Trail partner?