Don't Be That Guy!
by Garry Stauber
(Portions of this article were first published in Ride! Magazine, February
Have you seen the commercial "Donít be that guy?" Itís a clever marketing campaign with a guy doing things so goofy he stands out like a clown in an executive board meeting.
Weíve all seen him on trail rides. You know, the guy who shows up for a trail ride wearing tennis shoes, saying he doesnít wear a helmet because he has ridden all his life and he used to ride bulls. He ties his horseís reins to a barbed wire fence and yells, "Hey yíall! I brought beer for the trail!"
His back cinch is hanging a foot under his horseís belly. "That Guy" throws his raincoat over the saddle so wildly his horse jumps and almost rips the bit out of his mouth. When "That Guy" climbs into the saddle, it slips halfway around the side of his horse. He laughs loudly as he tumbles to the ground. With a big grin he shouts, "Hey yíall! I forgot to tighten my cinch!"
So you hit the trail faster than a teenager hearing the word "chores," hoping to get as far ahead of that guy as possible. Just as your horse has settled into a comfortable pace, you hear what sounds like a tornado coming up behind you. Itís "That Guy" yelling at the top of his lungs, making more noise and stirring up more dust than a buffalo stampede. As he passes, he yells "Haw!" You canít help but notice his toes pointing straight down with those tennis shoes jammed tightly into the stirrups.
Somehow he hangs on when his horse surprises him and jumps the creek. But when he bends backwards at the low-hanging branch and his worn-out latigo canít take the pressure, his eight-second ride finally comes to an end. You try not to grin as you approach him sitting in the dust, his horse running off into the sunset. And he wonders aloud, "Howíd that happen?" I want to remind you: "Donít be that guy." Here are some simple tips for group ride etiquette and basic trail safety.
1. Check your tack regularly for possible problems or weakness (especially latigos, cinches, stirrup leathers, bridles and anywhere leather meets metal).
2. Wear proper footwear (a boot with a heel) and place the ball of your foot on the stirrup. Never wear flat shoes without a heel (such as tennis shoes) when riding.
3. When approaching creeks, logs or other obstacles in your path, be prepared for your horse to jump. Many riders are caught off-guard while crossing such trail hazards. Coming to a complete stop before starting to cross, keeping a tight rein on your horse and holding onto the saddle will help you stay in the saddle, should your horse jump. A big jump is less likely to frighten you or other horses, if you are prepared and ready for it.
4. When riding in groups, never change to a faster gait without asking permission from all riders. Though you may feel safe, those around you may not be as experienced or comfortable at holding their horses back, should they decide to join in the run.
5. Donít smoke or drink alcohol on trail rides. Save these activities for a proper location.
6. While others are opening or closing gates, keep your horse standing still and do not ride off until they have mounted again. If anyone in your group dismounts for any reason, ask if everyone is ready before riding on.
7. When riding in groups, do not allow your horse to run up hills or run up behind other horses. Surprised horses may kick or buck when others suddenly run up behind them.
8. Always greet hikers and bikers with pleasantries and represent equestrians well.
9. If a straggling rider drops out of sight, pass the news up to the ride leader to stop until the group gathers again (unless this situation has been discussed before the ride).
10. Never ride more difficult trails or a faster pace than the greenest rider or horse in the group is comfortable with. This will provide safer and happier trail rides for everyone.
11. If you see broken glass, barbed wire, large holes or anything dangerous on the trail, pass the news down the line to the other riders. It is also a good idea to alert other riders of oncoming cars, cyclists, hikers, animals, or anything that might frighten a horse.
Remembering these tips will help you to not be "That Guy" when trail riding with friends. See you on the trail!