Etiquette when taking part in when horseback trail riding

Krishona Martinson
University of Minnesota Extension
In Minnesota, more than 1,000 miles of horseback riding trails are managed by the state Department of Natural Resources

Minnesota has an active equine industry with an estimated 145,727 horses, ranking it 18th in the nation with a $1 billion impact on the state's economy annually.

In Minnesota, more than 1,000 miles of horseback riding trails are managed by the state Department of Natural Resources, with more than 200 miles of additional trails on other lands. Minnesota is home to over five million people, of whom 4.5% participate in horseback riding. In a survey of Minnesota horseback trail riders, they identified seven major reasons for trail riding including:

  • To view the scenery.
  • Be close to nature.
  • Get away from the usual demands of life.
  • Experience nature.
  • Explore and discover new things.
  • Relax physically.
  • Be physically active.

To ensure all can enjoy the benefits of horseback trail riding, riders should remember basic trail riding etiquette including:

  • Ensuring your horse is properly conditioned for the trail ride and hoof care is appropriate for the terrain.
  • Checking tack regularly for proper fit.
  • Ensuring at least one rider carries a working cellphone.
  • Packing basic horse and human first aid kits and a trail map.
  • Suggesting all riders, especially youth, wear helmets.
  • Encouraging all riders to wear appropriate clothing and foot wear (e.g. boots).
  • Riding at the level and speed of the least experienced rider.
  • Maintaining at least one horse’s body length between horses.
  • Announcing trail hazards including low branches, holes, dogs, other trail users, and rocks.
  • Checking with other riders before changing gaits.
  • When passing other horseback riders or trail users, ride single file.
  • Ensuring horses depart and return to the trailer at a walk.
  • Allowing horses the opportunity to drink at water crossings and waiting nearby until all horses have drank.
  • Waiting for other riders in your group who have dismounted, for any reason, to remount.
  • Placing a red ribbon on tails of horses known to kick.
  • Avoiding drinking alcohol while riding.
  • Leaving campsites, parking areas, and stalls clean.
  • Purchasing required passes and permits. 

Many trails are open to multiple users (i.e. hikers or bicyclists) and part of good trail etiquette is ensuring horseback riders are respectful of trails and other trail users. This includes:

  • Parking only in designated areas.
  • Riding only on trails designated for horseback riding.
  • Not littering.
  • Greeting other trail users.
  • Announcing your presence and passing other trail users slowly, in single file, and on the left side.

Good horseback trail riding etiquette includes ensuring safety of horses and riders and consideration for fellow horseback riders, other trail users, and the environment. Remember to expect the unexpected and be prepared to cross paths with other trail users. Finally, make sure to enjoy the ride.