So you want to go trail riding....
Good! I encourage you to. I happen to think it is one of the most fun things to do in the world. But, a little bit of planning and thought, will make the experience more fun and safe for you, and more importantly, your horse.
Before you go..
Know where you are going. That seems simple, right? Map Quest, directions off the site, or plotting on a road map will get you to the trails. But planning where to go, involves so many other facets.
Do you know the trails? If not, you will need a map. Often park trails connect to trails on private land. Without a map you could inadvertently trespass. Or get lost, or take a hikers only trail and get stuck on the side on a mountain with no way to turn around. The mind boggles at the number of things that could happen. It also helps if you can read a map, but that is another discussion.
Is this trail appropriate for you and your horses level of condition and experience? Are you ready for 10-15 miles of hills and rocks? Is your horse? If you have never ridden more than an hour in the ring, neither you nor your horse is ready for the outback yet. Start with one of the smaller beginner friendly parks so that you are never more than 30 min. from the trailer. If you ride for an hour or so, and feel you both can go on, you can ride another loop, or take another trail.
Has your horse ever crossed water? Best not to find out when faced with 10 yards of belly deep water. Pick a park with small stream crossings and make sure one person in the group has a horse that has crossed water. (follow that horse!)
Do you have appropriate preparation? Shoes, insect repellent, etc. Walking back to the trailer because your horse is footsore from the rocks is not fun. Nor is riding a horse constantly fretting and fighting flies.
Have you checked the trail conditions? If it has rained recently, and you are thinking of lowland trails, you may be facing knee deep mud. If there has been a storm, there may be downed trees. If there is a river to cross, think not only of how much rain we have had, but also upstream from the park. Rivers in flood are not safe to cross, not just because of the current and water depth, but also hazards swept down stream by the water, sharp metal, tires, etc. Often you can call the park and check on conditions, but usually it is left to your own judgment. When it doubt, ride somewhere else! It's not worth risking yourself and your horse.
But wait, there's more..