5 Tips on Sustainable Horseback Riding

Some considerations when planning your horseback adventure from guest blogger Miranda Phelps


5 Tips on Sustainable Horseback Riding

People have used horses to travel for centuries. Horseback riding on trails is a great way to get into the outdoors and spend some time in nature. Sustainable horseback riding is something you might want to consider when researching your next  horseback riding adventures.

Sustainable Horseback riding
Horseback riding is the ideal way to appreciate nature
Image: Unicorn Trails’ Alberta Rockies Trail Ride holiday


Sustainable tourism means practicing sustainable living while traveling to different places to reduce negative impacts on the environment. It also means participating in activities that don’t negatively impact a community’s social and economic aspects.

Here we have some sustainable horseback riding tips for you to keep in mind when booking your next adventure as well as many more articles about sustainability, community and horse welfare on our blog.

1. Find a Horseback Riding Company that Supports Sustainable Horseback riding

When looking for a horseback riding experience, you might want to consider the practices of the specific horseback riding tour. Make sure your sustainability expectations are reflected in the practises of the operator on the ground.

Sustainable horseback riding
Image: Unicorn Trails – Kujwana Camp, Botswana


Unicorn Trails offers many different sustainable horseback riding adventures. While travelling on horseback is intrinsically more sustainable than vehicle travel, it is important to research which ranches and horseback riding tours support further environmentally friendly practices. This will lead to a more sustainable horseback riding adventure.

Things you can look for in sustainable horseback riding experiences could include checking out what kind of trails the company offers, community projects supported and how the horses are kept (outdoor or indoor).

A horseback riding business that follows the area’s guidelines is a good sign of responsibility and sustainability. There are often many rules for trekking out in nature, all of which should be followed and brought to the attention of riders so they can comply.

You should expect healthy horses in good condition with healthy feet – shod or unshod. Riding unshod does less damage to some trails but may not be sustainable from a welfare point of view on other ground conditions, or for the condition of their hooves.

Horseback riding gear that isn’t worn and appears in good condition is good sign. It means the business cares about not only their horses’ backs but also the comfort of their visitors. Supporting a business that cares about its horses, staff, and visitors can help you have a sustainable horseback riding experience.


Sustainable horseback riding
Image: Unicorn Trails’ Moroccan Oasis Camping Trail


2. Respect Your Natural Surroundings

Horseback riding is a great way to relax and take in all that nature has to offer. You can encounter all kinds of wildlife and beautiful flora while horseback riding in various locations around the world.

Whenever we’re out in nature we should respect our natural surroundings, this allows everyone to continue venturing out into the wild and enjoying all that it has to offer, which in turn is important for a sustainable experience.

If you encounter wildlife while horseback riding it is important to observe and appreciate the animals from a distance and not interfere with their daily habits and activities. You can bring a camera along to snap a picture of all the critters you see.

Disturbing the wildlife can be harmful because it can affect their behaviour. Always avoid feeding wildlife as this could draw certain animals outside their home range. Human activity can cause animals to change their natural behaviours, which can affect an entire population.

Leaving things where you’ve found them is also key to a sustainable adventure. Although it may not seem like it could make a big difference by taking just one plant as it could negatively impact an ecosystem if everyone did. This is why it’s best to leave things where they belong in the wild.

Sustainable horseback riding
Image: Unicorn Trails’ Tabaqueros Trail – Cuba

3. Don’t Go Horseback Riding When It’s Wet and Muddy

Planning your trip around dreary weather can be difficult sometimes but riding on wet and muddy trails can lead to trail degradation. Sustainable horseback riding trails are made to be resistant to erosion. Water is one of the main causes of erosion on trails.

Riders can practice sustainability by saving horseback riding for another day when it’s very wet. Riding on trails when they’re wet can lead to increased rates of erosion and damage to trails. Post holes are another problem when people or animals travel on wet and muddy trails.

Post holes appear as small holes in the ground from an animal track on a smooth trail. These holes can cause injury to horses and people when they dry up. It can lead to quite a bumpy trail if it isn’t smoothed out, which leads to trail degradation. This causes the trail to not be very enjoyable or useful in the future.

While you’re planning your horseback riding trip, try your best to keep the weather conditions in mind so you can have the most fun!

Sustainable horseback riding
Leave only footprints… Image: Unicorn Trails’ Crossing the Mercantour holiday – France

4. Practice Leave No Trace Behind Principles

Leave No Trace Behind is a popular list of guidelines that many outdoor enthusiasts follow to support sustainability. There are seven principles of Leave No Trace Behind that offer a framework for what people can do while they’re in nature.

These principles are: planning ahead and preparing for your trip, traveling and camping on durable surfaces, disposing of waste properly, leaving what you find, minimizing campfire impacts, respecting wildlife, and being considerate of others.

Planning ahead and being prepared for your trip can help you have the right gear and know what to pack. It can also reduce the amount of waste you may have to carry.

Being prepared can help you be more eco-friendly while having little worries about forgetting anything you may need. For example if you plan on packing some snacks, you can use eco-friendly storage containers to reduce waste. Using a reusable water bottle and other containers for your drinks and food are also a great way to minimize waste and plastic usage.

Sustainable horseback riding
Keeping to the trail – Altai Mountain Trek – Mongolia

5. Follow Any Trail Rules and Signs Posted

Every horseback riding trail is different. The location of the trail is important: it should avoid disturbing wildlife at critical times of year. The area the trail is in should have guidelines or regulations for visitors to follow.

If you plan on horseback riding in a park, be sure to check the park’s guidelines. This information is to balance the visitors experience with protecting the natural landscapes and wildlife in the area.

Signs posted on trails often provide useful or need-to-know information for hikers and horseback riders for their safety and to preserve the trails.

Wishing you safe and sustainable travels


Miranda Phelps – Guest Blogger


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