Honesty – the Best Policy

Shawn Hamilton shares tips for your next horse-riding adventure holiday


Horseback riding vacation outfitters have many tasks to juggle including keeping the horses healthy and shod, maintaining trails, and supplying sufficient amenities for their clients, but most admit that the hardest part of their job is making the right choice in pairing you, the rider, with your mount. Dewy Mathers of Anchor D Outfitting in Alberta Canada once told me “If my client doesn’t want to steal their horse after the trip, then I didn’t do my job right”. The most important thing you can do to help the outfitter in choosing the right horse for you is to be honest about your riding skill level. First and foremost be honest with yourself. Ask yourself these key questions

  • How experienced of a rider am I?
  • How much do I really ride at home?
  • How many hours do I want to spend in the saddle each day?
  • How experienced am I in ALL situations on the trails?
  • What type of horse do I prefer to ride?
  • What speeds am I comfortable with in the saddle?
Comfortable riding
Ask yourself what speeds are you comfortable riding at. (Photo credit www.clixphoto.com)

These questions are of the utmost importance when filling in your riding skill level form and telling the outfitter or wranglers the type of mount you prefer.  What you say can make or break your riding vacation.

Firstly, when choosing a riding vacation look at the itinerary and note the number of hours per day spent in the saddle. I have seen both ends of the spectrum on rides, clients who are disappointed that there are not enough hours in the saddle and those who would prefer shorter days and more breaks. You decide what is best for you. It is best to choose a riding vacation that suits your preference rather than attempt to fit in or change one that doesn’t.

Be sure of the horse you choose
Knowing what you expect from your mount is crucial  (Photo credit www.clixphoto.com)

Many outfitters put you to the test before heading out on the trails to make sure that you have the experience level that you claimed to have, some however do not. It is in your best interest, to be honest and upfront in the beginning before you head out on your ride. If you are unhappy with your mount for any reason, be sure to speak up early in the ride. This is especially true for progressive rides as it is not always possible to switch your mount once you have left the home stable.

Be honest with yourself about your riding skill level. If you ride in an indoor arena around in circles one hour a day three days a week then it is not advisable to sign up for a fast advanced ride in the rugged mountains. Be advised that an advanced ride means an Advanced Ride!

Honesty; The best policy
Advanced rides often have steep terrain to contend with. (Photo credit www.clixphoto.com)

Be prepared to gallop on a moment’s notice, go up and down incredibly steep terrain and negotiate challenging, yet exhilarating, obstacles on the trails. On the other end of the spectrum if you want to gallop and be challenged every day in the saddle then don’t sign up for a beginner ride. This is your vacation so choose wisely.

What kind of horse do you prefer? Do you prefer to be in the back of the herd plugging along quietly or in the front ready to go? These are important questions that will help the outfitter choose the right horse for you. If you want to be in the back plugging along and you let them know then you will be given a horse that doesn’t mind being at the back of the string. If you don’t mention this then you may end up with a horse that always wants to be in the front of the pack and you will spend your entire vacation holding them back at a jig which is not fun for you or the horse.  If you prefer to be closer to the lead then ask for a forward moving horse that you don’t have to keep coaxing to get near the front.

Honest; The best policy
Be as specific as you can about the kind of horse you prefer  (Photo credit www.clixphoto.com)

The more specific information you can give the outfitter about your level of expertise and experience combined with the type of horse you prefer the easier you make their job and the more likely you will be given the horse of your dreams that you will want to purchase and bring home with your luggage!

Happy Trails

Honesty; the best policy
Dewy of Anchor D Outfitting (Photo credit www.clixphoto.com)


This article was written by Shawn Hamilton (www.clixphoto.com) for the Unicorn Horse Trails blog page

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