I’m glad you asked! There is an unspoken code among riders on the trail that will stand you in good stead on your next horse riding adventure. Whether you’re a beginner rider or just haven’t ridden out as part of a group for a while, you may not be aware of the etiquette that helps keep everyone happy and safe when blazing a trail on horseback. After years of guiding and participating in oodles of horse riding holidays myself, here’s the universal set of riding manners that I’ve picked up along the way.
- If someone is opening or closing a gate, walk your horse through the gate and come to a halt, leaving enough space for others to pass through behind you. Wait until the gate is closed before riding off.
- Never pass your lead guide, whether at a walk, trot or a canter. Your guide knows the track and their environment intimately, while you’re a visitor under their care. Also, passing other horses can lead to a race mentality among the herd.
- If your guide signals to stop, be quiet or point out something, follow their instructions and pass the information on to your fellow riders behind you, who may not have seen or heard.
- When riding single-file or along a narrow track, maintain at least a ‘one-horse gap’ between your horse and the horse in front. This gives everyone room to manoeuvre if necessary and prevents tiffs between horses.
- Be aware of your fellow riders and their horses. If a rider has a horse that needs to be at the front of the group to prevent it from jogging, try not to pass that horse.
- Horses who are a bit on the cranky side, and horses who don’t get along with each other, should be given ample space and ridden in the order recommended by the guide.
- Encourage your horse to stride out in the walk, rather than slipping behind to the back of the group and trotting to catch up. It’s not good for your horse’s education and will become exhausting for you, the rider.
- At river crossings give the horse and rider ahead of you plenty of space before entering the water yourself. This will prevent the horses from swimming on top of each other, which can be extremely dangerous.
- A special rule for Africa: the quieter you are, the more likely you are to have amazing wildlife encounters. So leave the loud conversations for the campfire and you’ll be amazed at the animal experiences you’ll be privy to.