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Photo Credit: Estes Park Outfitters

Horseback Riding

Exploring the Estes Park area’s scenic trails by horseback is an experience you won’t forget, and it’s been a favorite thing to do since early visitors started coming to the valley and going out on trail rides in the late 1800’s!

Enjoy a trail ride whether or not you’re staying at a dude ranch.  Horseback riding near Estes Park on Rocky Mountain National Park trails is a wonderful way to view the wildlife and dramatic vistas, and don’t be surprised if a herd of Elk grazes right next to you.

Don’t worry if you’re a beginner – the local outfitters will match you with a horse for your level of riding experience, and you can always enjoy a shorter ride.

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8 Tips for your first horseback trail ride

 

  • What to wear.  Wear long pants to protect your lower legs from rubbing against the saddle, and shoes with toes and a small heel to keep your feet from slipping out of the stirrups. Hiking boots are ok, but cowboy boots offer better protection. Wear layers so you can shed clothes as the day warms up, or add a rain jacket during afternoon thundershowers.
  • Most stables provide helmets.  They are a good idea to protect your head in case of a fall or when going under a low branch.
  • Drink up. Bring a water bottle to stay hydrated throughout the ride, especially on a warm sunny day.  Wear sunscreen!
  • All horses, even the best-trained trail horse, are by nature prey animals and their instinct is to run when they sense danger. They have sharp eyes that can see almost 360 degrees around their bodies, ears that pick up the smallest sound, and they sense fear.  It’s always a good idea to approach a horse confidently from the front, speak in a calm voice, and avoid sudden movements or noises.
  • When you walk towards the horse, walk in an arc so that it is easier for them to recognize your location. If you’re approaching them from the front,  stretch out your hand to allow the horse to recognize your scent.
  •  When walking behind a horse, always touch it from the side first and run your hand with constant contact along the horse’s rump as you pass behind. This will help ensure you don’t inadvertently startle the horse and cause it to kick while you’re behind it. If they don’t know you’re back there and move suddenly, you could be hurt.
  • When meeting a horse for the first time, stay towards the front and if possible, the left side. Horses have blind spots in front of their nose, under their necks, and directly behind them.  Horses are  trained to expect human activity (leading, saddling, mounting) from the left side. When leading a horse, stand to the left of their head and hold the long leather straps, called reins, with the right hand below their chin and with the left hand a little bit down the length of the reins so they don’t drag on the ground.
  • When you mount your horse for the first time, you’ll likely need to adjust the position of the stirrups. Position each stirrup so that it rests on the ball of your foot for the duration of the ride. Take the time to make sure they’re in the right position and comfortable.