Part 1: 5 Tips for Trail Riding with Kids
Riding with kids...It can be super intimidating to trailer out somewhere new. Like those first outings you had with them as babies. So much to remember...then add horses in! Whew!
But you can do it, here are my top 5 tips for trailering out with kids to new places:
No electronics on the way there – we’ve all heard the bits of science surrounding electronics and I’ve seen it play out with my own kids. When they have an electronic in the car on the way to the trail or event, their brains rely on the stimulus the electronic is creating, making it difficult for them to transition from the electronic to the work of getting on the trail. Psychology Today states that, “By depleting mental energy with high visual and cognitive input, screen time contributes to low reserves. One way to temporarily “boost” depleted reserves is to become angry, so meltdowns actually become a coping mechanism.” On the trail, this translates to kids reacting negatively to a challenge versus problem solving, lots of tears and a mad momma. Limit screen time the day of your ride and eliminate electronics in the truck on the way there.
Build their riding stamina – not every ride should be long and strenuous. Mix tougher terrain rides with ones that you know have a swimming hole or a picnic spot. After a long day of working cattle in hot country, I always plan a beach ride shortly after where the kids can swim (tie towels on the back of your saddle or in a backpack you carry) so they are excited to go out whenever you suggest a trail ride. We have even done Geo caching on horseback and when they were younger we did a visual scavenger hunt to keep things fun!
- Have a routine – Most kids thrive with routine, so when doing something as unpredictable as trail riding on your horses, have something that happens every time. For us, we get donuts or a treat at our favorite gas station. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, just consistent.
Make your own playlist – Sometimes, we just love to jam out to music on the way to and ON the trail. I’ll either play the list from my phone or bring a bluetooth speaker. It seriously makes it so fun and can be one of the best things to turn a bad mood around! Some of our favorite songs are “Song of the South” by Alabama, “Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks and “Fly” by Maddie and Tae. I even encourage dance parties on horseback!
- Talk to your kids about your route and “test” them on smaller trails – Having conversations about your route on the way to your trail can cause a lot of anxiety. Have those conversations the day before as you’re showing your kids the trail you’ll be taking. Start small with short, well marked and traveled trails and have ample conversations about spotting land marks, trail markers and safety procedures. As your kids get older and you venture to poorly marked trails, bring bright pink trail markers and help those exploring after you. This is also a fun activity for kids and a great way to teach them maneuvering on the trail as they tie the ribbons on.