Whenever a group, either large or small, gets together to go for a trail ride, someone needs to be “trail boss.” For many years I have gone on a ride with many others that we call “Family Ride” and have ridden behind two brothers, Ray and Lester Sellnow. They have been great trail bosses and have taught me a lot on leading rides so that now it seems that I get to be “trail boss” on our annual Girls’ Ride.
It isn’t a well-defined duty to lead a trail ride, but it starts out with making a plan for the ride: where are we going, how long will we be out, and mapping out turning points where those who would like to return earlier than others can find their way back easily.
As we are riding along the trail, whoever is out front – not always the trail boss – should be constantly aware of the pace they are setting and if they are not, that’s when the boss steps in. The pace should be geared towards the ability of the least competent rider so that person doesn’t get either left behind or frightened by too quick of a pace.
There are some horses that are not happy with a space between themselves and the horse in front of them and get upset and "chargey." If this should happen then it’s up to either that person or someone behind them to call a halt to the ones in front so that the horse has a chance to catch up and calm down. The person in front of the ride should be glancing back periodically to keep an eye on those who are coming behind.
I have been on rides where a couple of people in the back of the group purposely hold back so that they can run to catch up; if there are riders in the group who want to do that then it makes sense to have the horse in front of them be a calm, steady horse who doesn’t get upset with a horse running up behind them.
There are some riders in our Girls’ Ride group who like a fast ride now and again but we ask that if they want to do that, to take a separate trail from those who want a slow, walking ride. I have been on a horse before - the mother of my current mare, Joon - who would act like an absolute idiot, jumping around and cantering in place, if a horse in front of her took off and I didn’t want her to go along.
The goal of all our rides is to be safe and for all to enjoy their time out on the trail.