By Dr. Julie Damron
Stockton Record July 26, 2009
Trail riding with your horse can be a magnificent activity for the both of you. Depending on the endurance of your horse, it can allow you to experience tremendous views and sites in nature that can be very difficult to explore by any other means. It is also great exercise for your horse. It is both mentally and physically stimulating, and can help to improve the training of your horse for almost any other modality that you and your equine participate in.
There is some additional gear that can be very helpful for trail riding. I suggest a pommel pack. This is a bag that attaches to the front of the saddle, and gives you easy access to your items such as water bottles, Kleenex, etc. These range in size from small to large. Make sure it is securely attached, and doesn't bounce a lot when you are trotting with your horse. Other packs are available for the back of the saddle, as well as for specialty items. I also recommend a breastplate, which is a strap that goes across your horse's chest and prevents the saddle from slipping a lot when you are climbing hills. The Australian Connection website www.theaustralianconnection.us is a great resource for gear. It is also nice to bring along a disposable camera to capture the beautiful sites, without the worry of damaging expensive equipment. Many endurance riders use saddles and bridles made of synthetic materials because these products are not as affected by water and sweat, and often weigh less.
We are fortunate to have many horse trails in our area to choose from. Some of these venues also have horse camping. The website www.horsetraildirectory.com gives lots of information on California horse trails and campgrounds. Camanche, Pardee, and Hogan reservoirs are all within an hours trailer ride. Mount Diablo is also reasonably close, and quite a climb. At Point Reyes you can walk with your horse along the ocean shore. It is one of the few locations that has wonderful bed and breakfast venues that also provides stalls for your horse. Because many of these trails are fairly remote, it is best to ride with a trail buddy.
"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail"--Ralph Waldo Emerson