Plan the Ride, Ride the Plan

Many of the riders I work with are learning for the first time what their specific needs are for their horseback adventures. This is a good thing. Horseback riding is meant to be enjoyable and there are many different ways to approach it. One of the ways to always insure your safety and pleasure is to include specific goals and plans to keep it that way. When you want to raise your level of experience and fun for yourself or your horse here are some tips that I've used that may help:

Story originally posted by: Robert M. LinerCopyright 2008. All rights reserved.

See the ride in your mind.

Visualizing the way you would like the day to begin and end can help you stay within the frame of the pictures in your mind. A clear focus and detailed view of the way you want your day to start including breakfast, hooking up the trailer, loading your horse or horses, and traveling to your destination can be very important when you see it first as a successful plan of action.

Write it down and script it.

A script is like a map and it can include your goals for each stage of your ride and perhaps a few challenges you've been wanting to approach. Be sure to include safety procedures such as paying attention to any distracting things or situations that may disturb you or your horse's focus. Even include what your plan B would be for that type of situation and even a plan C,D, and E wouldn't hurt. Remember always have a back-up and be prepared for anything.

By sticking closely to your script, and including your riding partners input of their strengths and weaknesses, everyone is literally on the same page.

*NOTE: Your script or plan doesn't have to ruin the day if things change but a good plan of references helps you and everyone feel like a team.

Keep it fun in the saddle.

Your whole day can be a joy no matter how hard or mundane the task. Make friends with all facets of the ride. Most of the rides are fun anyway, they don't all have to be super challenging. Some of the most back, leisurely rides are the ones I enjoy the most. Too often, people feel the need to push their limits trying to get their moneys worth or making up for lost time. Slow down, take it easy. Have fun and you'll live longer when you and your horse are bonding.

Avoid costly mistakes.

Everyone of us has heard that little voice in our head telling us to back-off or be careful. Then later when we're injured or our horse is, we confess the fact that we ignored it's loud warning calls. That's where your written plans and visualization exercises can help you avoid this. If that voice is clear now, it really will be when you've included it with your script.

This helps you tune in and become more aware of the subtle cues that can help improve your ride and riding.

Include how long you want to be in the saddle.

If you're new to trail riding it's best if you build up to it. Even though your horse may be able to endure the trail, your muscles and conditioning need to be built up slowly. An hour ride for someone who is just learning may not sound like a long time, but when you include tacking up and all the other preparations, the whole thing can leave you physically wiped out.

After a while, not only will your fitness improve, but your dexterity for getting tacked-up and mounted will, too. Before you know it, your rides are longer and easier.

Keep it simple and honest.

I've learned that and easy going approach, good riding buddies, and an honest appraisal of me and my horse's abilities mean a better ride and a more enjoyable future on the trail. Example: If you set out to prove something to your-self, other riders, or even your horse, your setting yourself up for disaster.

You can read many of my articles were I describe not getting lost in a battle of the wills or egos. Riding beyond you or your horses skill levels is only a recipe for trouble. There are easy to follow steps and procedures to raise a horse and riders abilities. Use your mind and be intelligent and build a stronger, safer, reliable mount, and you'll be a more effective rider, too.

Be smart and honest with your horsemanship and your ride will always include a good story with a happy ending. After all is said and done your reputation on the trail and with your horse and riding companions is something you all can be proud of. Create a journal of rides you'd like to take and the ones you've completed. Log your observations of your horse's mental attitude, and rate your comfort zone as well. It doesn't all have to be technical data. Write about the sunsets, sunrises, or certain birds and animals that you've seen.

By adding the positive things that made the ride a success and highlighting the pitfalls or challenges that you'd like to avoid or re-examine, you'll get a better feel for your next ride before you go. And remember there is no ride worth doing that can get you or your horse scared or hurt There are lots of great rides ahead for both of you.

Instructor/Trainer – Robert M. Liner has helped thousands of people improve their understanding of horses through his Intuitive Equine Guidance(tm) seminars, clinics, and lessons. For more information, see his Spirit of the Horse(tm) Demonstrations or visit

Until next time, Ride the Wise Ride.