Horse lovers looking for riding trails and all things equine need to look no farther than the 600 horse farms, hundreds of miles of riding trails, and 45 national racing champions to come from Ocala/Marion County. Named the “Horse Capital of the WorldTM,” this central Florida region is familiar with the equestrian community — an estimated nearly five million people throughout the United States, according to www.theequestrianchannel.com. Avid riders and beginners alike will appreciate the following information about the best riding tips and trail breeds for your next visit to Ocala/Marion County.
Choose the Right Breed
For comfortable and safe trail riding, pick a horse breed that can be easily trained to stay calm with a sturdy foothold on adventures that involve uneven surfaces and surprises. The Appaloosa, with its stout body and obedient disposition, is steady on slopes and known for stamina. The Quarter horse’s tough hooves and gentleness complement its power and speed for easy training on trails. The Arabian horse breed is another smart choice, especially for beginners, while the Tennessee Walking Horse also has a good temperament and a comfortable gait.
Learn the Proper Approach
Since all breeds tend to be wary of unfamiliar humans, a proper approach is an important first step to an enjoyable trail ride throughout Ocala/Marion County. Riders should walk toward the horse without making eye contact with the animal so it can feel safe. Once the horse looks at the rider, the rider can offer the back of a hand for smelling and a few gentle pets. Only then can a horse be safely haltered, groomed or simply given a treat.
Mount the Horse Safely
A safe, properly mounted horse should be more willing to be guided along a trail. Always mount from the left, hold the reins in the left hand the entire time. With the same hand, rest your hand on its mane while facing the back of the horse. Place the left foot in the stirrup and the right hand on the back of the saddle. With a few hops of the right leg, swivel to face toward the horse and stand up on the stirrup with the left foot. Swing the right leg over the horse and gently sit while the right foot slips into the right stirrup. Check to make sure the saddle to make sure it is still centered on the horse.
Start with a Group Ride
With scores of group rides on the trails of Ocala/Marion County, new riders can help their horses (and themselves) gain confidence in trail riding. Always have the most experienced rider leading, and always maintain at least one horse-length in between horses. Horses should stay together in a team, especially while crossing roads or stopping for water. For horses distracted by a snack of grass, a firm pull left or right on the reins will help encourage them to move along. Finally, be safe — approach slippery rocks slowly, pack first aid for both humans and horses, and be sure the tack is in good repair.