Fall is in the air! The crisp mornings are upon us as the summer heat begins to cool and have a bite. The bugs start to disappear with the nightly frost and the trees are brilliant with color. Everything feels fresh with the scent of pine trees and wood burning in the wood stove. Everything comes to life in the fall with all of the beautiful colors and crisp air that brings an excitement that has been slumbering for months. This may very well be the best time of year to trail ride!
This time of year can bring some challenges if you don't go out prepared. Here are some tips to stay safe this fall and enjoy some of the most beautiful trail rides of the year.
Be mindful of your clothing and wet conditions
You may set out on a fall ride in the warm sun, but within a few hours, especially if you gain altitude, the temperatures will drop dramatically, especially in shaded areas. You may also quickly become wet from rain or possibly an early snowfall.
You may think your ride will be a short one. Then you find a trail closure that requires a long detour. Or, far worse, you or a companion, human or equine, gets sick or hurt.
Suddenly, everything has changed. You may be involved in a waiting game that will test your clothing and preparedness to the extreme. Most outdoor survival situations occur relatively close to trail heads and people who have been through them stress how quickly they can occur.
Soaked skin at chilly temperatures can bring on hypothermia. Even if you have a waterproof jacket, rain will find its way in and something warm underneath is essential to avoiding a situation. Make sure you layer your clothing and don't wear cotton. Once cotton gets wet, it stays wet and loses all of it's insulating capacity. Also avoid down. It is cozy and fluffy, but once it gets wet it turns into a soggy mess. Make sure you have layers that will maintain their properties like wool, silk or a blend of the two and layers of fleece.
Watch for Wildlife
During fall, moose, bear, and elk spend less time fighting flies in the deep shadows, as they do during the heat of summer, and migratory birds are on the move.
Most animals are intent on feeding and acquiring that layer of fat that will nourish them during winter. Very few pose any real danger, but stay out of their space.
A cow moose with a calf can be extremely protective, and you don't want to get between a bear and her cubs. If you ride in grizzly country you learn to be particularly watchful. Autumn is a transition season, and you must be prepared for instances when the transition occurs more suddenly than anticipated.
Consider Your Horse
Our horses, too, are in transition. If your summer season has been active, your horse is likely to be in fine condition, much better than he was on those first spring rides. Hooves tend to harden and slow in growth as winter approaches, and that's all to the good.
Be mindful of the traction on the trail. Much of the footing can turn to mud or ice and make it very slippery going. Make sure that you have the right shoes to help your horse navigate these trails and different terrain.
With the crisp air comes the time when your horse will be starting to grow his winter coat. Make sure that you don't start blanketing your horse and inhibit his winter coat growth if you are going to to be doing a lot of train riding. He needs t the insulation to keep himself warm in the changing climate just as you need your layers of clothing.
Be mindful of the hunting seasons in your area
Fall is also a great time to hunt and can put you and your horse in harms way. Make sure you know your area and what hunting is done when. For more information about how to stay safe during hunting season visit www.myhorse.com and enter "hunter season safety guide" into the site's search engine.
Enjoy the ride!
Get out there and enjoy the ride! There is beautiful scenery and wild-life to be seen, less people out an about which makes for a more peaceful ride and a crisp new sense of adventure! What are you waiting for!