Safe off-road - the way out

A relaxed ride in the great outdoors is the dream of every riding student. But cross-country riding is also at the top of the list for horse owners. Recreational riding is booming and more and more often equestrian sports are being moved outdoors. As a stress-ridden office person, variety, joy and relaxation are just what everyone needs.

But we should not forget: Every trip into the countryside brings new challenges for horse and rider. This guarantees not only relaxation and fun, but also excitement. Sound training of both(!) is important to avoid a riding accident. You have to grow together as a team!

Requirements of rider and horse

Since there are significantly more difficulties to overcome when riding out than in a segregated riding arena, a solid basic training must precede. Ask yourself: Am I saddle fit? Can I keep my horse under control in all three gaits? Does he trust me? Do I know his psyche and instincts (e.g. innate flight behaviour)? Does my horse react reliably to my aids?

Because: You are dealing with an independent being! Unpredictable reactions on the part of the animal must always be expected. Your horse is not a piece of sports equipment! The better you know your partner, the less you will be surprised by his actions. Riding horses requires more than breeches and a helmet. Especially when riding out. Otherwise you put yourself and others in danger.

Basic instincts play a big role

Whether flight behaviour or herd instinct - the natural instincts of these noble creatures extend all the way back to domestication. It is simply innate that your friend suspects a predator behind a rustling bush. Does your horse perhaps not feel like moving away from the stable? This is also a basic instinct. The herd gives him protection. It has learned this over thousands of years in its evolution. That's why we should take it seriously. Punishing such reactions would be a mistake. It is better to build up trust and show the horse that it can rely on you.

So to speak: with you, there is no threat of harm. For example, ground work with a horse is a great way to do this. Just riding horses will bring you to your goal more slowly. Communication starts on the ground. Your horse reads your body language and learns from you. You in turn get to know his moods and behaviour. This is a wonderful win-win situation.

Alone or a group ride?

Inexperienced riders should always be accompanied by one or more experienced pairs of riders. It is very important that your horse feels the calmness of experienced horses. This gives a nervous horse in particular the opportunity to relax and gain confidence. If it does not have these prerequisites, it could, in the worst case, go off the rails and cause a riding accident.

No matter whether it is trail riding, orienteering or daily cross-country riding - safety in the form of an experienced accompanying horse is worth its weight in gold! In addition, "in case of an emergency", a helper is immediately on hand.

So please always ask horse owners who have a calm animal themselves and take your inexperience seriously. The following applies: The weakest rider sets the pace! With this approach, your friend is well on the way to becoming a reliable horse.

If you go for a ride unaccompanied, it would be a good idea to always leave a note at the stable. In it, you note your planned route and the time from the start of the ride until your expected return. In case of an emergency, they can look for you.

Good equipment is essential

The saddle and bridle must be intact. When trekking, everything should meet the requirements and be safe. It would be fatal if, for example, a saddle girth broke or the reins came apart during a group gallop. It is also important that the equipment fits. Horse and rider. An ill-fitting saddle quickly causes chafing and pressure points that are painful for the horse. In the worst case, the animal will bolt.

As a responsible rider, you pay attention to such things. Also note: You should never do without an approved riding helmet and heeled boots!

Correct behaviour in the countryside

It doesn't matter whether you are riding western style, show jumping or dressage. Your horse should stand well on the aids and be allowed to balance himself outdoors. It therefore makes sense to get your horse used to a loose rein. This way, the horse has its neck free as a balancing pole and overcomes rough terrain effortlessly.

The right-hand riding rule applies on roads. Traffic signs and traffic lights also apply to riders. Hand signals are given as when cycling. If you are riding in the dark, adequate lighting must be provided. Reflective gaiters and waistcoats are recommended. It goes without saying that you should be considerate and friendly towards other road users and pedestrians.

Always consider the weather conditions. Wet field paths and meadows are slippery and in winter ice can form quickly. Adapt your gaits! Riding horses in the country means covering at least 85% of the distance at a walk anyway. In addition, a good, diligent walk keeps your horse healthy.


In order to positively face obstacles such as bridges, brooks and everyday noises, ground work with horses is again a good option. You can prepare your favourite in the riding arena. With a flutter curtain, rattle bag, umbrellas and a small bridge made of wooden planks, etc., he can be gently introduced to these things. This kind of ground work will be well received by the horse and will strengthen your trust in him. The next step towards a reliable horse has been taken.

The way is the goal

Riding horses in the countryside is wonderful, but it also requires knowledge and work (in the form of solid training of horse and rider). Once you have laid a solid foundation, going out into the open countryside will be a great, relaxing change for both of you.

Enjoy it!