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Trail Etiquette and Racing Etiquette
EHT Trail Courtesy Image 1.JPG

Rules of the Road:


  • Share the trail - We do not "own" the trail - we merely borrow it for a short time. When you ride the trail, act like you are a guest among a crowd of guests.

  • Be friendly and courteous - we are all in the sport together, and while we all choose to travel at our own speeds down the trail, the common courtesy of being accepting of others should be primary.

  • Don't block the trail. If there is room for you to move off the path at the request of an oncoming rider, you MUST do so, or you risk being disqualified for interfering with the progress of another competitor. That also includes stopping for water. If you want to water your horse, you must move out of the path of other riders. Don't stop right in the middle of the trail and expect everyone to wait for you and your horse to finish. YOU CAN BE DISQUALIFIED for deliberately blocking the way of an oncoming rider, if there is room for you to get off the path. When a horse and rider are coming up on you from behind and wish to pass, you don't have to stop, just give them enough room to get by safely. If your horse is a kicker, however, pull over and face your horse hindquarters away from the trail, or stop and turn the horse perpendicular to the trail to prevent it from kicking out at the oncoming horse.

  • Warn others of your approach. If you are riding up on someone and wish to pass, call out your intentions from several yards back so the rider has a chance to move over. If you don't think the rider has heard, call out again. Never blast past someone who isn't aware you are approaching -- this can spook a horse or rider and may cause an accident. The only time you don't need to call out your presence is in the last mile or two of the trail, if you are racing in. Stealth is the object here, when the finish is in view.

  • Downhill traffic yields to uphill traffic. When in doubt, give the other user the right of way.

  • Ride within your ability at all times. If you get out of control, you run the risk of injury not only to yourself, but to others who are also riding the trail.

  • Respect private property. Every trail is on private land -- whether it is owned by the government (of the people) or by private individuals under fee simple deeds. Be polite to all landowners, never fail to acknowledge with a friendly smile or wave. You are an ambassador to the sport, and your actions will be their vision of the sport.

  • Stay on the trail. Creating your own trail or cutting switchbacks creates erosion, damages habitat, and causes new trails which can't be maintained. "Cutting" trail (deliberately taking a shortcut to lessen the miles) is against AERC rules and is cause for disqualification.

  • Advise other trail users of your horse's temperament. If your horse has a tendency to kick, you should tie a red ribbon on their tail. Stallions often will have a yellow ribbon, and it is not uncommon to see a green ribbon in a novice horse's tail. Never assume, however, that everyone will know what these ribbons mean, so be prepared to explain or take the necessary precautions to avoid trouble.

  • Remove your horse from the trail if you begin experiencing severe behavior problems. Trying to discipline a badly behaving horse while there are others around you, is not a smart idea, because if your horse throws a fit, it may endanger others. Get out of the way, get off the trail, and settle the differences between you and your horse without involving everyone else on the trail.

Dealing with Obnoxious Horses and Road Hog Riders

There will come a time when you run into this type of obnoxious horse on the trail:


  • Kickers - Don't assume that you, or your horse, will be immune to something harmful a kicking horse will do. If you see a ribbon, any color, in the horse's tail, stay far back, and if you get to a wide spot, move your horse into a gallop and get away as soon as you can.

  • Tailgaters - If the obnoxious horse is a chronic tailgater, warn the rider to either pull back or ride ahead. Don't tolerate tailgating because that horse is not paying attention and may step on your horse's heels. If the injury is bad enough, it may lame your horse.

  • Stop 'N Go-ers - If you meet a horse that tailgates to get in front, runs past, then slams on the brakes ... or... a horse that hurries past, then once in front throttles back to a plodding pace, there is only one thing you can do -- get away as fast as possible. Take off at a fast rate and leave this troublemaker long behind. Chances are good the rider won't try to follow and you won't have an on-the-gas/on-the-brakes trail company that will drive you insane.

  • Road Hogs - This can be either the horse, or the rider, that subconsciously (or deliberately) will drift to the center of the trail blocking your way as you try to pass. It will also happen as these horses (or riders) pass you -- pushing into your "space" until it is too close for comfort. Tell the rider to move their horse over, otherwise you'll find yourself being pushed right off the trail.

  • Riders Demanding Babysitters - Unless you have committed your time on the trail to your friends, your ride should always be your own ride. You aren't obligated to babysit riders who can't, or won't, ride by themselves. If someone tries to hook up with you when you wish to ride alone, simply tell them so. You can't forbid someone from following you on the trail, but you can ask them not to tailgate. To stop at the water while other horses are drinking, or to stop and keep someone company as they are adjusting tack, is merely a courtesy, nothing more. It is not obligatory. Many riders who are only going for the miles and treat the ride as a pleasure jaunt will often stop and wait for others, but, that is a personal choice. Never forget that endurance is really a race, and that you are in competition. So if you like to stop for everyone's horses to drink, don't expect that everyone will do the same.

The First Five Miles ... The Last Five Miles

    The first five miles are where you rate your horse for the miles coming up. Keep to your strategy. Remember, the race is rarely won in the first five miles. Historically, more front runners that race the start are pulled from competition than the middle-of-the-packers. Your horse may disagree, but it is important that you keep your speed and your horse's heart rate down and under control. The whole distance is in front of you, and once your horse is warmed up to the task -- be it in five miles or after the first vet check -- you can then throttle up the speed.

    The last five miles is where races are won, and where riders going for top ten will turn on the speed. If you have ridden your horse wisely throughout the ride, and still have plenty of gas left in the tank, now is your chance to move up in the placings. It is always a good idea to pre-ride the finish -- that way you will know the territory, and the landmarks, for when you want to put petal-to-the-metal. This is the time to show how well your conditioning program and your riding strategy have worked. If you want to gallop in, go for it.

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