The following information was given about horseback riding activities to guests at a ranch in Colorado. It was written by Kristen Swenson, who operated the ranch with her husband, Rock. Kristen is a member of the AAHS Board of Directors and is safety-certified as an Instructor and Trail Guide by AAHS.

Ranch Trail Etiquette and Safety

Riding is a sport, just like tennis or skiing. You are a participant, not a passenger, so when you ride, be riding all the time. Be aware of your horse and what you are doing. It has a mind; it will use it. Learn to guide it safely.

As an animal of flight, the horse is startled by sudden movements, loud noises and unfamiliar objects. Don’t throw things (hats, cameras, etc.) to or from a horse. Please ask the wrangler to stop to put a jacket or slicker on; dismount for this process. If you would like to take pictures, ask the wrangler to stop.

A group of horses tied up together is a potentially hazardous situation. Please wait for the wrangler to bring your horse to you when it is time to mount up. By the same token, when arriving at the barn after a ride, wait for the wrangler to tie the horse (we use quick release knots). The reins are not for tying up a horse.

Don’t let your horse eat or graze on the trail. Just one mouthful leads to many more.

If your horse fails to keep up with the others, has tricks you don’t like, or is lazy, before you blame him, figure out how much you really know about riding. Riding is a lifelong study, and a good rider always looks to himself first.

Don’t follow the horse ahead of you too closely. A horse finds tailgating about as annoying as you do — and he may kick. A good following distance is at least a horse length.

Don’t pass your wrangler. He or she is up front to maintain control of the ride and to watch for things that might spook or trip your horse.

It is unsafe to continue down the trail when a member of your party is dismounted. Wait for the person to get back on their horse before moving on. If your wrangler is opening a gate, move through the gate enough to get the entire party through, and then stop and wait.

Another rider’s leg or horse does not make a good head scratching post for our horse, even if he thinks it does.

No smoking is allowed around the barn area or during a trail ride.

A nice pleasant walk is suitable and required for riding here at the 4UR. We cover many trails that are not suitable for running. This is for your safety as well as your horse’s safety. Control is the key factor, not just "staying on.,"

Please ask questions before leaving if you have any doubt about reining and controlling your horse. These rules/guidelines are written with your safety in mind.

If you feel that you need a riding lesson or refresher session before embarking on a trail ride, we can arrange instruction accordingly.

Remember, Henry Ford has invested the only thing that works without rest and without much need for brains on the part of the person in control. Horses are not machines!

There are hidden dangers on the trail and the rider needs to be alert at all times and in control of his/her horse.

We hope that you enjoy your stay here, and that your have many pleasant memories on horseback.

Contributed By: Kristen Swenson

Reprinted with permission of the copyright holder and the American Association for Horsemanship Safety.  P.O. Box 39, Fentress, TX 78622.