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We partnered with the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) to come up with tips to help you host a safe horseback riding experience. These are best practices, but you’re the expert on the activities you lead. A great Host always thinks about what more they can do to keep everyone safe. 

Set the right expectations

If there are health, fitness, or other requirements needed to safely enjoy the experience, make this clear in your experience’s description. This includes providing details about the length of time, exertion and fitness required, and skill levels needed. 

Here’s a guide from the ATTA to help you communicate to guests what skill level is needed for your horseback riding experience: 

Beginner

Guests should be comfortable around horses, and are willing to be led on a short trek on designated bridleways or horse trails, where the speed is kept to a walk or potentially a trot with instruction.

Intermediate

Guests should be comfortable around horses and are willing to be guided on a full day trek over a variety of trails, terrain and ground. Depending on experience level in the group and individual ability, instructors may allow horses to canter for short periods on appropriate terrain. 

Advanced 

Guests should be comfortable around horses and willing to be guided and ride for several days at a time. This will be over a variety of trails, terrain and conditions and may involve additional factors such as viewing large game if on a horseback safari, or for rustling or managing cattle and other livestock if on a Western style ranch tour.

Communicate with guests often 

Communication is key to a safe and enjoyable experience. Once a guest books, check in with them to find out if they have any health concerns that may affect their participation. This may be anything from a food allergy to a heart condition. Make sure you’re clear on what modifications you’re able or willing to make to accommodate them.

It may seem obvious, but confirm that all guests are comfortable around horses and willing to ride them. Guests should at a minimum have the physical ability to mount the animal (may need assistance), hold on and impart basic commands to the animal. 

You can also anticipate common points of concern before the experience begins. This could include practical matters like if there will be food, snacks, or water provided, if they should bring their own water bottle, and which bathroom facilities are available. It’s a good idea for you to know if and where you’ll have cell service coverage, and let your guests know in advance. 

Try to address concerns before guests have to ask. Some guests may be horseback riding for the first time, so your communication is key to a safe and enjoyable experience. 

Follow local regulations & check forecasts

You should have the local knowledge to know if and when it’s acceptable for you to ride and what rules or regulations apply to areas in which you may ride. You should know the weather forecast, and know the area well enough to be able to anticipate the conditions.

Set expectations with a pre-trip briefing

Before you head out onto the trail, take some time to teach or review skills with beginners, like safety around horses, basic commands, and riding techniques. To make sure guests of any level are comfortable before you ride out, talk about the ride first, and any tips for riding on the local trails how to cope with the conditions or any particular mannerisms with the individual animals. 

As a riding host, you should be constantly assessing your guests’ skills–while talking in the yard, mounting up and then riding out onto the trails. Once you’re on the ride, keep checking in: ask guests how they’re feeling and observe them to see if they’re comfortable and their skills match the conditions. 

Provide the right gear

Confirm with your guests that they’re comfortable with the horse that you have matched with them based on their level of experience and ability. Check that the tack fits well and the guests are ok with the saddle, reins, and stirrups. 

If you provide the helmets, they need to be regularly cleaned and inspected for any damage and must be a certified horse riding helmet. For novice riders, you may need to communicate with them about what clothing is appropriate for the ride and they may not have gear. For more experienced riders, they are likely to bring their own riding gear, which should be checked for the condition and suitability. On advanced rides, you may ask riders to bring back protection, which again should be checked before the ride starts, and if they do not have a set, this should be provided, and if so, it should be clean and of a certified design. 

Always have a comprehensive first aid kit easily accessible with the lead guide.

Choose the proper conditions

Before riding out, talk to guests about conditions and hazards they may encounter such as any water crossings, steep and loose terrain and if weather conditions have affected the trails. Clearly communicate expectations from the start about where these hazards may be faced, and how they should be overcome.  Keep an eye on conditions throughout the experience in case they change and you need to head in. 

You should be able to tell when conditions are too dangerous for your guest’s riding level. Don’t ride out if there is an unreasonable or unexpected risk to your guests.

Always choose safety

As a riding host, you should have rescue skills of an up-to-date First Aid and CPR certifications. You should have extensive riding experience in the areas and conditions you lead guests. 

You also want to have an emergency action plan and share it with your guests: let them know what they should do in case of emergency, which could include injury, unexpected weather, poor trail conditions or stubborn or misbehaving animals. Find out more about making an emergency plan

Partner disclaimers

Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA): Courtesy of the Adventure Travel Trade Association. ©2021 Adventure Travel Trade Association. All rights reserved.

The Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) name and logo are used with its permission, which in no way constitutes an endorsement or vetting of, express or implied, of any product, service, person, company, opinion or political position. The ATTA does not select or approve, and is not involved in the selection or approval of, Airbnb Experiences or hosts. For more information about the Adventure Travel Trade Association, visit adventuretravel.biz.