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Safest Trail Walking Equipment

I have a horse that I think will trail ride, but I’m unsure if he has had any trail riding experience. We’re starting to walk around our property etc, but our next step takes us along a semi-busy road with a LOT of crazy things (dump trucks, people with dogs, cars flying down the road etc.). There is no real in between.

I was thinking of going on foot, since I’ll be able to manage him a little bit better, but he is a big horse (16.3h) and I want to be sure I can keep hands on him if he does get a little loopy because it’s a populated area. Just to be clear, this is probably me being super concerned and he’ll be fine, but still…

Would you trail walk him in:

a. His bridle
b. A stiff rope halter
c. Some other thing that I haven’t thought of?

The other thing that concerns me is the park - it’s full of people, some of whom take things like RC cars etc. Again - I think he’ll likely be fine, but I want to be able to hold on to him in case he does find the whole situation entirely too stimulating for comfort.

Every other horse that I’ve trail ridden, I’ve had the luxury of heading to miles of trails on a dirt road. This is the first I have to head to a public park along a busy road, and it’s, quite frankly, giving me some heebies. I know that there are horse trails in the park, I just have to get to them.

Is there anyone with a steady eddy that could go with you the first few times?

Personally, I don’t like the idea on being on the ground in a situation like that. I’d rather be up on a horses back if they are going to get dancy because of traffic and wouldn’t want to chance getting underfoot or someone getting pushed out into the busy road.

I’d start by riding him to the point where you start having traffic and see what he thinks. I’d also start during times that there may be less traffic than say rush hour time. Even if you just stand and watch vehicles go by for a few times, then venture out a little further.

Our last barn had trails across the road a couple hundred feet down. Not far, but it was a 55mph road with everything from motorcycles to semis. I would not have felt safe hand walking that stretch.


Nope. No one with a steady eddy around (actually, I don’t know anyone with a horse I would even qualify as a steady eddy anymore) and no one that I would trust to be a groundsperson either.

Rush hour would likely be better, as that’s when we don’t have dump trucks - they all go home for the day. Just the average traffic, which is residential. Speed limit is 35, but people often feel that is optional.

The issue is I walk from a quiet side street and then I’m right on a street which is still technically a side street, but the park is at the end of the road, as well as several neighborhoods, a quarry, and the municipal building.

And where am I, right at a bend in the road where once I’m on the “bigger street”, I’m committed. I’m ON that street. There’s not really a turning back. There’s a tight section, where I either have to walk across the street and traffic is behind me, but there’s a berm, OR I have to stay ON the road (there is no berm) and face traffic, but once I get up the hill then it opens up to where there is a grassy area which is much safer.

It’s the tight section that worries me, but it is between me and the grassy section.

I do plan on walking him down to the end to see things, and the dump trucks do occasionally come down our street - he doesn’t care. But it’s different not caring and being in your pasture next to the road, and not caring and being alone with “your mom”. He is top dog in the herd and not at all herd bound, and I think we’ve developed a pretty good confident relationship in-hand, but still.

If it was the grassy section the whole way up, there’d be no question in my mind, but it’s that tight stupid section that has me the most concerned.

When I trail walk babies, I do a rope halter, a long heavy lead rope that attaches to the halter without hardware and an in hand or dressage whip


Yep, rope halter.

Though personally I would start by trailering to somewhere safer but with traffic, and hopefully with a pasture fence between the horse and a busy road.


Yep, I had considered that, but my truck and trailer aren’t available at the moment and likely won’t be for another month, so it’s either do this, or don’t go out until the heat of summer, and he’s a black horse so that’ll be miserable. Not exactly the nice intro to trails that I had hoped for for him.

People used to trail ride directly from this property - just to be clear - but it’s MY heebies on this road. We’re not talking busy like a 55mph highway or anything, but there is a tight section that gives me pause, and unfortunately that’s the immediate left between my property and a really nice section that leads to the park.

Fwiw - a tired sweaty miserable horse may be more apt to think with his brain instead of his feet.

You can buy a cheap rc car for 30 bucks and get him accustomed to it in the meantime. :slight_smile:


Typically, yes, but not this horse. When he is hot and sweaty he is an absolute pill. We’re working on that too - he can be hot and sweaty and live. He really needs to be a northern horse.

I appreciate all the suggestions, but this is kinda what I’ve got. He’s already fine with things like the blower, the lawnmower, the tractor, random scary trucks that show up on our property, the guy who randomly shoots a gun, he’s not SUPER keen on the underground quarry blast, but is manageable, and mailboxes, the trash truck that picks up our dumpster etc. are no problem. He also had no issue with dudes roofing and shooting nail guns the other day on our property whereas the other horses were losing it. The other horses will bolt away from most of these things, and he just…keeps eating.

He’s really a calm guy, which is why I’m even considering attempting it. I typically prefer trail walking when I have a horse who has never been on the trails, I just have this one little section of road to tackle, and it’s literally like 50 feet.

Wow, you live where horses are allowed in public parks? That is pretty rare these days. Are you required to pick up any manure after the horse?


I’d add that you and your horse should wear hi viz- a rump rug on your horse will draw a lot of attention and people really do slow down when they see it. I’ve had people actually stop me on the road to thank me for having it on and being so visible. If I were you, I might consider a helmet and gloves too just in case things get spicy.

I’ve always found that horses actually react the worst to people who think they are being courteous…the kind souls who slow wayyyy down and then creep behind you at 5mph, refusing to pass, or who swing into the other lane and take forever to pass you, leaning out the window to tell you what a pretty horse you have. Basically, the creepers are like predators on wheels and horses get really worried. So you might have someone creep behind and next to you in a car in your driveway to have that experience a few times before being on the road.


Yep! I live near a large city, and the public parks are large with many hiking trails. It’s pretty awesome. No, we’re not required to pick up manure, but there are only a few trails available at each park.

Great points! I’ll want high-viz for riding too. And I always wear a helmet and gloves when leading out - just in case.

I can get my husband to creep behind us, pass us, (although the thought of asking him to be a creep is making me giggle) and also hoot and holler. :slight_smile:

Horse has already been exposed to gaggles of kids, random dogs, etc. so he’s pretty good with all of that.


Another vote for rope halter and a good lead rope of a length you are comfortable using.

Unlike @FjordBCRF, I would much rather be on the ground for a situation that worries me (and traffic worries me after a very bad experience when I was younger). There is a section of road I often have to go down when I ride and many times I am still dismounting to do that section on foot because of the traffic chaos. All of the reins we use have clips that allow them to easily convert from the bridle to being a lead rope, so it’s easy for me to ride to the road, hop down and handwalk, then get back on and continue on my way.

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I would not use a bridle, wouldn’t want to be yanking on the bit.
I would try the rope halter. If that’s not effective, I know several people swear by using a leather lunging caveson to hand walk horses that are on stall rest and can be pretty fresh.

I would definitely go with a bridle. If a horse is really spooked they can pull right though a halter or rope halter. My long yearling would try to take off when being ponied by my mare, just because he felt like it. A halter was not going to stop him. I put the bridle on him and the first time he tried that he was stopped in his tracks.

He is also the one who left me on the trail and ran back to the trailer because the bugs were bad (and I’m only talking about a couple of deer flies).

I would actually prefer to be on him, then on the ground next to him. Especially since your horse sounds like he is at least under saddle, while mine isn’t yet. Ideally I would pay someone to trailer me to a park that is more “young horse friendly” until he gets used to traffic.

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