Kayak Fishing Tips For Catching Large Fish

A man catches a big fish while kayak fishing

Image: Alex Vail

More and more people are catching bigger and bigger fish from kayaks every day. Kayaking fishing for big fish isn’t just a challenge, but also a rush. Hooking and fighting big fish from the ‘yak is one thing, but landing those fish is a whole different story entirely. So here are a few kayaking fishing tips to consider when it comes down to the final step of landing your trophy.

Consider Your Safety When Kayak Fishing for Large Fish

There have been numerous instances in my life where I simply feel unsafe bringing a fish aboard the kayak. Situations such as rough seas, strong currents, sharp teeth, and flailing fins have kept a few fish in the water and away from my body. Sharks are a prime example of fish like this. Sure it’s great to get a hero picture of one before I let it loose, but if I’m feeling even remotely unsafe about the situation, I’ll just cut the line boatside. Especially large fish such as tarpon might not need to be brought aboard in order to prevent something like capsizing. Sure the picture might be awesome, but losing all your gear when it flops isn’t ideal.

Leg Sweep Method

For instances such as catch and release, the leg sweep method to land fish works fantastically. Just as the name implies, one simply brings the fish along side of the boat and uses their leg to get underneath the fish and lift it into the kayak. Getting a lip/gill plate hold helps ensure the fish’s head isn’t going anywhere, while the leg does the heavy lifting from below. Just be prepared to get slimy.

Someone has caught a large fish while kayaking

Image: Alex Vail

Gaffs

What can I say? Gaffs are sort of the be-all and end-all of landing fish. There’s no catch and release with these tools, and a good gaff shot can almost guarantee a successful landing. One thing to consider, however, is how to hold the gaff. Gaffing from a kayak is a little different than gaffing from a boat because of how low in the water you already sit. From my experience, I find it safer to actually gaff from underneath the fish rather than from above. This way, the actual gaff acts as some protection between you and the fish. Gaffing from above can quickly send an angry, toothy fish right into your lap.

A fisherman uses a net to get a fish into the kayak

Image: Alex Vail

Nets

I see more and more people using nets to land large fish from the kayak and I have to say that it’s a very good method. You instantly eliminate the chances of the fish getting away boatside the moment that it’s in the net. Also, when using a net, you don’t hurt the fish at all. Sadly, I’ve yet to see a net big enough to easily handle 100+lb tarpon from the kayak, but for slightly smaller fish, it’s a perfect method.

Other tid-bits

Always remember that safety is the most important thing. With that said, toothy critters such as king mackerel, wahoo, sharks, etc, should be landed with their business end pointed away from you. The last thing anyone wants is some razor sharp teeth chomping around in their lap.

A man kayak fishing while a llarge fish rests in the bottom of a kayak

Image: Alex Vail

As stated before, when your kayak fishing it isn’t always necessary to pull the whole fish into the boat. Often merely lipping the fish or using a lip gaff will suffice. The picture gets taken, the fish swims free, and you (and your gear) remain safe and sound.

So when you’ve done everything right and are about to land the fish of a lifetime from the kayak, just remember these tips for the final step. With these methods you can safely land big fish and avoid the horrible feeling of losing a fish boatside before getting to at least snap a picture. Just don’t forget to bring the camera!

Horseback Riding in State Parks

While riding around an arena is a necessary step for any beginner learning the basics, riding alongside the unpredictability of nature is something you can’t experience while in an enclosed space. It’s time to venture out. After all, horses are meant to run in open spaces as are humans.

Girl and horse resting while on the trail.

Resting while on the climb up to the Pastoruri Glacier in Huaraz, Peru [Image: Cynthia Via]

If you’re done practicing riding techniques and have confidence behind the reins, then horseback riding in state parks is the ideal next step. While on trails one can witness the varied wildlife and landscape. Imagine riding through the woods, maybe near a beach or by a waterfall. The opportunities are endless! But first make sure to get properly acclimated to your horse. Most state parks don’t offer guided trail rides, so plan out your exercusions. Do check for parks offering horse rentals, stables, parking for trailers, and equestrian camping. We’ve compiled a list of northeastern state parks offering some of these amenities. Which state park will you visit?

New York

A guy and a lady riding alongside in Allegany State Park.

Operators of a group camp for girls. [Image: Allegany State Park Historical Society]

Allegany State Park has 55 miles of trails, mostly for summertime equestrian use. The horse trails are interconnecting loop trails going through gravel park roads, abandoned town roads and railroads. Riders will get a chance to venture along hillsides, rolling and level trails plus woodland views. There’s also a primitive horse camping in the Red House area with self-contained trailers and 3 sets of 4 horse stalls with water available. Though they don’t have rentals, the Enchanted Mountains of Cattaraugus County offers riding clubs and equestrian events. 

Image: https://www.flickr.com  by Kathy Hinkaty

Among the leaves in Caumsette State Historic Park [Image: www.flickr.com by Kathy Hinkaty]

Caumsett State Historic Park, surrounded by the Long Island Sound, is a scenic little peninsula, divinely made for horseback riding. Its bridle paths go through woodlands, meadows, rock shoreline and salt marsh.  Within the park, a polo pony barn offers lessons and boarding as part of the Lloyd Harbor Equestrian Center. Here you can practice classical horse training (dressage), cross-country, hunt courses and jumping rings. They also offer educational clinics, rides through miles of trails, horse shows, and leasing. Other activities within the park include fishing, hiking, bird watching, nature photography, and nature study. You might just hear a couple of birds while trail-riding.  

Highland Forest in Onondaga County has horseback riding trails, which are open between May 1 to October 31. It’s one of the oldest country parks and contains more than six square miles of rugged forest terrain. The forest has trails especially singled out for horseback riding. They also have a Skyline Lodge lot where you can park. Riders must register inside the lodge. If you don’t have your own horse, you can visit Highland Outfitters where they have rentals for $30 per person per hour, available for ages five and up, by appointment only. 

Pennsylvania

Marsh Creek State Park, located in north central Chester country, has fishing, sailing, horseback riding, and is a rest stop for waterfowl. The bridle trails are on the western side of the park and have loops of various distances. There are also hunting areas in use during some seasons, so be aware. If you’re not bringing you’re own ride, luckily Hope Springs Farm, located within the state park, offers boarding, training, lessons and trail rides through the meadows and woods.

Elk County [Image: http://www.pinterest.com/thepawilds/]

Elk County [Image: www.pinterest.com/thepawilds/]

Elk State Forest in Cameron and Elk County has unlimited opportunities for horseback riding just about 30 miles on a little trail called, Thunder Mountain Equestrian Trail. Most of the trails encircle Dark Hollow and Gas Well Equestrian Camping Areas in two separate loops. The remaining trail mileage expands from these two loops. The park name is not a trick; there really are elk! The elk scenic drive starts in Benezette, a small township in Elk county. As of now, the herd number is 600 in that area. We hear its quite the 127-mile route with much potential for wildlife viewing. When mating season comes around, make sure to catch bull elk males battling each other over the ultimate prize at the forests’ edge.

Virginia

Horse riders mounted off and walking through high bridge.

Riders must mount off to cross the bridge. [Image: blogs.progress-index.com]

High Bridge Trail State Park is a multi-use, 31-miles long trail for hiking, bicycling and horseback riding. There are five trails to look for when you’re out there. Now for the history nerds. High Bridge Trail State Park is named so for its majestic High Bridge, which is more than 2,400 feet long and 160 feet above the Appomattox River. The bridge was built in 1853. Where the bridge stands now looked much different in April of 1865 when Union soldiers and Confederates fought at the Battle of High Bridge before it ended at Appomattox. After the Civil War, attempts were made to fix the damaged bridge, but it took many years before the High Bridge was restored. It is now fully open to the public. 

Rhode Island

horseback riding at state parks at Goddard Memorial State Park

Riding by the beach in Goddard Memorial State Park [Image: www.myparkphotos.com]

The state of Rhode Island conjures up beautiful images lighthouses, calm beaches and pastel-colored homes. Goddard Memorial State Park joins the breezy scenery with its expansive fields and forested areas including 18 miles of bridle trails.  Goddard is nestle in between Greenwich Cove and Greenwich Bay, and lined by deciduous and evergreen species. The park also has a golf course, picnic tables, games fields, and equestrian shows. If you’re not bringing your own horse, C and L stable provides trail rides overlooking East Greenwich Bay and beach bayside.

Suggested Gear:

  • Mindbender Trail Run Shoe
  • Marmot Minimalist Jacket
  • Lucy Lotus Pant

Check out our Pocket Ranger® gear store for these items and much more!

Rock Climb at Foster Falls Recreation Area

Contributed by Justin Fricke of The Weekend Warrior

Finding an outdoor climbing spot in the southeast is tough to do when the warm and humid, summer air starts rolling through the region in April. Lots of places become overgrown with Poison Ivy and Poison Oak, the holds get slimy, insect swarms are inevitable, and it’s so flippin’ hot. What’s a southeast climber with a hankering to climb some real rock to do, aside from head out west?

Go climb at Foster Falls Recreation Area.

Foster Falls is located about 30 minutes to the west of Downtown Chattanooga, TN, giving climbers the choice to pay $17/night to camp on-site or find a cheap place to stay in Chattanooga and make that daily commute to climb. If climbers choose to camp onsite, they’ll be welcomed with clean bathrooms, a water spigot, and spacious campsites with a fire ring at each site. Just park your car at an open site and the land manager will cruise by in her golf cart to pick up your camp fee.

Be aware that weekends, especially holiday weekends, bring big crowds that are sometimes just looking to camp. If all the camp sites at Foster Falls are occupied, climbers can camp offsite at the Nickajack Lake Campground or park their car at the Foster Falls parking lot and hike their gear to the primitive sites just down the trail, after getting an access pass from the land manager.

Even though the days can get warm, the tall trees provide plenty of shade around the campsites and climbing walls. Climbers can expect temperatures to comfortably dip into the 50’s at night, making for perfect tent camping and hammock camping weather.

There are two trails that climbers can take from the Foster Falls campsite. The first one is just off the observation trail and provides easy access to the climbing walls nearest the waterfall. The trail becomes more technical and requires some precise foot placement the further climbers go, until it evens out towards the back climbing walls.

The other trail is gentler and takes climbers around the waterfall and eventually intersects with the trail that’ll take climbers to the primitive campsites. There are two distinct trail markings that’ll take climbers down to the climbing areas. While this trail’s gentler, it also takes twice as long (30 minutes) to get to the climbing areas.

Three my favorite climbs that I try to hit every time I go to Foster Falls are: Gravity Boots 5.7, Jacob’s Ladder 5.8, and Premarital Drilling 5.10.

I like to start my climbing day off with Gravity Boots. It’s a slab route with great holds and great feet the whole way. This route’s right near the trails and it’s a great route for a beginning climber to gain some confidence.

On a climb at Foster Falls Recreation Area

Climbing at Gravity Boots [Image Credit: Justin Fricke]

From Gravity Boots, I’ll start making my way towards the back of the climbing area and take a lap on Jacob’s Ladder. This is a longer single pitch that finishes out at 80 feet of climbing. A stick clip would be helpful to start this route since the first bolt’s at least 20 feet off the ground. Halfway up the route climbers pass by some climbing history, a big piton wedged into the rock. Whatever you do, look, don’t touch or use that piton.

Whenever I climb at Foster Falls Recreation Area, I like to end my day by climbing Premarital Drilling. This route’s close to the waterfall and has some great holds for a 5.10. The first few moves are by far the crux, since climbers start the route by heel hooking their first move up to a decent hold, followed by a mantle before pulling a jug of a flake the rest of the way to the finish.

Climbing Premarital Drilling at Foster Falls Recreation Area

Climbing Premarital Drilling [Image Credit: Justin Fricke]

Shorter climbers will probably need to stack some loose boulders on each other to be able to reach the start holds. Stick clipping the first bold on this route will also put a lot of climbers minds at ease.

Before heading back to camp for dinner, I always find it relaxing to cool off at the bottom of the waterfall. Anyone can jump into the cold mountain water for a quick swim, but the real fun starts behind the waterfall. Swim to the bank to the right of the waterfall and start climbing your way behind the waterfall. It gets loud really fast and the holds disappear. I like to jump for, what I think’s going to be, a huge hold, only to plunge into the water from about 10 feet up.

climbing at Foster Falls Recreation Area

When you climb at Foster Falls Recreation Area, don’t miss out on taking a dip in the waterfall!

Foster Falls has climbing for all skill levels from beginning to seasoned climbers. With grades from 5.5 to 5.13+ with the real fun starting with 5.10 graded routes. Any sport climber in the southeast is bound to have some fun climbing at Foster Falls during the summer months.

Are Snakes Really That Bad?

Indiana Jones and a snake

Image: www.travelingwanderlust.files.wordpress.com

Snakes. The word alone can make you bristle. But are snakes really that bad? If you’re one of the five people killed annually by snakes in the United States, then yes, they’re really that bad. In reality, snakes are just like any other animal – they live to eat, sleep and reproduce. They mind their own business, except on the days when they eat. So, why aren’t they well-liked? Sure, the public’s disdain for snakes can be attributed to the Bambi Effect, but it’s all a matter of reputation.

Let’s go over two possible reasons for our fear of the slithery serpents.

A baby snake coiled in the palm of someone's hand

Some snakes can be cute! [Image: broccoleafveins.tumblr.com]

Lots of people have never seen a snake in person, but still the fear is there. Some have argued that our fear of the slithering serpents is innate – that over time, humans learned to fear snakes due to natural selection. That theory was tested in a 2011 study reported by ABC News. In that study, babies didn’t recognize “potentially harmful” things such as snakes. Instead, they had to be conditioned to fear them. But there’s more to the story. Monkeys raised inside a lab that had never seen a reptile didn’t fear photographs of snakes, but they did “visually detect” snakes faster than the images of “harmless” animals. The researchers said this was due to an automatic fear response from the brain that has been ingrained in primates throughout evolution.

While they can be venomous, snakes can also be beautiful

Image: www.dwellindarkness.com

Now that we know our fear of snakes is due in part to evolution, let’s talk about conditioning. Let’s think of all the scary snake stories we’ve heard throughout our lifetimes. Maybe you’ve heard the urban legend about snakes crawling through the toilet, or the story about the snake that ate an entire crocodile. Even The Jungle Book depicts Kaa, an Indian Rock Python, as a coil-y eating machine who’s up to no good.

A beautiful yellow snake coiling around a branch

Image: giphy.com

Maybe you’re familiar with the phrase “reptiles are abhorrent.” It refers to the use of reptiles as villainous characters such as in The Jungle Book, The Return of Jafar, Anaconda and Snakes on a Plane. This trope, however, isn’t only limited to snakes. What are some movies or books you’ve read where an alligator or lizard represented the bad character?

A woman faces off against a giant snake in a horror movie

Image: www.i71.servimg.com/u/f71/16/09/70/40/clipbo52.jpg

It comes as no surprise that the correlation between snakes and something bad is ingrained in our minds. This is not to say that you should go outside and play with the first snake you see (here are signs to help you discern the venomous snakes from the non-venomous ones), but do note that they are not as bad as you may think.

Luckily, only four types of venomous snakes are found in North America: the copperhead, coral snake, cottonmouth and rattlesnake. To see if any of these snakes have made their way to a state park near you, download the Pocket Ranger® mobile app, which contains valuable information about wildlife in the state parks.

Want an Apple Recipe for Fall?

There’s no better way of spending a September afternoon than gorging on cider donuts and picking apples at the local orchard. But once you’re home, what do you do with all those bushels you picked? We’ve scoured the interwebs for the best ways to cook apples, and these four apple recipes fit the bill. From no-bake to crowd-pleasers, why not give one of these delicious apple recipes a go?

Deep-Dish Apple Pie

Courtesy of Ina Garten at FoodNetwork.com

baked apple pie on cooling rack

Try making this apple recipe: Deep-Dish Apple Pie [Image: barefootcontessa.com]

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, quartered, and cored
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1 orange, zested
  • 2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2 Cup sugar, plus 1 teaspoon to sprinkle on top
  • 1/4 Cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. ground allspice
  • 2 pie crusts
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp. water, for egg wash

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Cut each apple quarter in thirds crosswise. Combine apple slices in bowl with orange and lemon zests, juices, 1/2 cup sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.
  3. Place one of the pie crusts in the bottom of a 9″ or 10″ pie pan. The crust should extend about 1/2″ over the rim of the pan.
  4. Fill the pie with the apple mixture. Brush the edges of the bottom pie crust with egg wash so the top crust will adhere. Top the pie with the second pie crust and trim the edges to about 1″ over the rim. Tuck the edge of the top crust under the edge of the bottom crust and crimp the two together either with your fingers or using a fork. Brush the entire top crust with the egg wash, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of sugar, and cut 4 or 5 slits in the top crust.
  5. Place the pie on a sheet pan in case the juices from the apples should bubble over. Put pie in the oven and bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until the crust is browned and the juices begin to bubble out. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Pocket Ranger® Tip: The freshly squeezed and zested lemon and orange in this apple recipe are key! They give this apple pie a bright, citrusy note that will have you coming back for seconds.

Apple Mosaic Tart with Salted Caramel

Courtesy of Deb Perelmen at SmittenKitchen.com

An apple mosaic tart all ready for eating

This apple recipe is a keeper! Bake your own Apple Mosaic Tart with Salted Caramel [Image: smittenkitchen.com]

Ingredients

Tart base:

  • 14-ounce package of puff pastry, defrosted in fridge overnight
  • 3 large or 4 medium apples (about 1 1/4 pounds)
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cold, cut into small bits

Salted Caramel Glaze:

  • 1/4 Cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tsp. flaky sea salt (or half as much if using table salt)
  • 2 Tbsp. heavy cream

 Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet or a 10×15-inch jelly roll pan with parchment paper.
  2. Lightly flour the counter and lay out the puff pastry. Flour the top and gently roll it until it will fit inside the baking sheet. Transfer the pastry onto the baking sheet.
  3. Peel the apples and cut them in half top-to-bottom. Remove cores and stems. Slice the apples crosswise as thinly as possible, or to about 1/16-inch thickness with a mandoline. Leaving a 1/2-inch border, fan the apples around the tart in slightly overlapping concentric rectangles. Each apple should overlap the one before so that only 3/4-inch of the previous apple will be visible. Do this until you reach the middle. Sprinkle the apples evenly with 2 tablespoons of sugar, then dot with the 2 tablespoons of butter.
  4. Bake the tart for 30 minutes, or until the edges are brown and apples begin to take on color. If you sliced your apples by hand, they may be thicker and need a bit more time in the oven to cook them through. If the puff pastry is bubbling up dramatically, simply poke with a knife or skewer to deflate it.
  5. When the tart has been baking in the oven for 20 minutes, start to work on the salted caramel glaze. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, melt 1/4 cup sugar; this will take about 3 minutes. Cook for another minute or two, so the liquefied sugar turns to a copper color. Off the heat, add the sea salt and butter. Stir until until the butter melts and is incorporated. Add the heavy cream and return to the stove over medium heat. Cook another minute or two, stirring constantly, until the syrup is a bronzed, caramel color. Set aside until needed. (You may need to briefly rewarm over low heat before brushing over tart.)
  6. After the tart has baked, transfer it to a cooling rack, but leave the oven on. Using very short, gentle strokes, brush the entire tart and exposed pastry with the salted caramel glaze. Make sure to brush on the glaze in the direction of the apples, so as not to mess up the design!
  7. Return the apple tart to the oven for 5 – 10 more minutes, until the caramel glaze bubbles. Remove from oven. Let tart cool completely. When cooled, cut into 12 squares. Serve the tart plain or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Pocket Ranger® Tip: This dessert is a real stunner. After cutting up the cooled tart, wrap individual pieces in either wax or parchment paper and store in a tupperware container. Take it along with you on a picnic to the State Parks or share this apple recipe with friends and family.

Baked Apples with Almond Cream

Courtesy of Mimi Thorisson at MimiThorisson.com

Mimi Thorisson's beautiful photography of apples

Baked Apples with Almond Cream [Image: mimithorisson.com]

Ingredients

  • 6 apples (medium to small-sized)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. honey
  • 3/4 Cup ground almonds
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/3 Cup + 1 1/2 tsp (for garnishing) salted butter, at room temperature

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Rinse apples and pat dry. Cut the top “hat” off the apples and set aside. (Do not throw them away!) Core the apples, but do not cut all the way through to the bottom. Place apples in an oven-proof dish or cast iron pan.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, mix ground almonds, egg yolk, butter and honey together.
  4. Spoon this almond mixture into the center of each apple. When done, place the “hat” on top of each apple. Dot each apple with butter.
  5. Transfer apples to oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until apples are tender and golden. Serve immediately.

Pocket Ranger® TipDon’t just limit this amazing apple dish to dessert! Try this apple recipe as a side dish for breakfast or dinner, alongside some sausage, pork, duck or wild boar.

No-Bake Apple Cookies

Courtesy of Rachel Schultz at RachelSchultz.com

apple recipe using chocolate, nuts, and peanut butter on sliced apples

No-Bake Apple Cookies is the perfect apple recipe to get your kids to eat something tasty, yet healthy! [Image: rachelschultz.com]

Ingredients

  • 1 apple
  • 2 Tbsp. peanut butter
  • Pecans
  • Shredded Coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
  • Chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Slice apple into thin rings. Remove core.
  2. Spread peanut butter over one side of ring.
  3. Top apple ring with pecans, coconut, and chocolate chips.

Pocket Ranger® Tip: While we know these would be perfect for eating while watching the final season of “Boardwalk Empire,” these no-bake apple cookies make a great camping snack, too!

What Happens to Animals in Forest Fires?

forest fire blaze

Image: www.ecoforumjournal.org

Wildfires wreak havoc every year in forests and grasslands around the world. These seemingly devastating events, whether natural or intentional, may overwhelmingly negatively impact local neighborhoods, but plants and animals in forest fires have acclimated in areas of common fire occurrences.

“Wildlife have a long-standing relationship with fire,” according to ecosystem ecologist Mazeika Sullivan in an article from National Geographic. “Fire is a natural part of these landscapes.” Plants and animals in areas of naturally occurring wildfires (fires caused by hot temperatures and lightening), have adapted. Animals in forest fires know when it’s time to flee. Plants, which seem to be greatly disadvantaged in this situation, have developed certain reproductive and regenerative abilities during fires. There are even some plant species that spread their seeds only after a wildfire.

animals in forest fires

Image: www.http://media3.washingtonpost.com/

NatGeo says sometimes wildfires are important because they help restart life in certain areas, however, this does not mean wildfires should be started purposefully.

According to the National Park Service, ponderosa pines, giant sequoia and slash pine trees have adapted thick barks to ward off extreme heat during wildfires. Some plants like longleaf pine have evolved protective layers of nonflammable foliage to protect their buds.

Animals in forest fires run. Smaller, slower animals such as moles, snakes and lizards burrow deep into the ground to avoid heat. Predators use wildfires as a chance to feast on fleeing animals. Wildfires have been happening probably for millions of years, so these animals know how to react in order to survive. That’s not to say all animals make it, though. Smoke inhalation and the inability to flee means doom for some animals in forest fires.

“In those short-term situations,” Sullivan said in his NatGeo interview, “there’s always winners and losers.”

Although there are quite a few animal deaths with each wildfire, there has never been a case of an entire population wipeout due to a fire.

Below are U.S. wildfire statistics for acres burned  in 10 years ending in 2012.

Image: Michael Hansberry

Image: Michael Hansberry

Suggested Gear List: 

  • Brunton Eterna Compact Binocular
  • Ultimate Survival Technologies 15 Day Flashlight
  • Brunton Nomad V2 Digital Compass

Check out our Pocket Ranger® Gear Store for these items and more!

How to go Horseback Riding

Horseback riding in a state park can be a ton of fun but it can also be a dangerous activity if you are not careful or if you do not know how to go horseback riding. Here is a simple guide to follow to learn how to ride a horse.

Step 1: Location

Three horses in riding stable who want to go horseback riding

Image: cedarcreekcabinrentals.com

The first thing that you need to do is find a good riding stable. Some riding stables have an experienced riding instructor to help you. Download your state’s Pocket Ranger® app to find a state park that offers horseback riding and equestrian trails.

Step 2: Prepare Your Horse

Grooming brown horse

Image: www.reinsofthenight.com

Before you go horseback riding, it is important to groom your horse if it is dirty and to prevent your horse from feeling too warm. The next step is to tack your horse by putting on the saddle, the girth and then the bridle. You will have to know how to tie rope knots. An instructor will be there at your chosen location to help you with these steps, so don’t panic.

Step 3: Mount Your Horse

Woman mounting a horse

Image: www.caaequestrian.com

Always mount your horse on the left side. Hold the reins in your left hand and turn the stirrup (a pair of devices attached to each side of a horse’s saddle for the rider’s foot), towards you with your right hand. Put your left foot into the stirrup, hold the saddle and bounce gently on the stirrup. Then swing your right leg over the horse and sit down gently on the saddle.

Step 4: Find Your Balance

Horseback riding with instructor

Horseback Riding at Lake George State Park [Image Credit: Lisa Narine]

Once you are on the horse, the instructor will lead you until you are comfortable to ride on your own. If you feel unbalanced, hold onto your horse’s mane until you are steady. You will feel a rocking motion as you ride and the seat should naturally move with the motion. Your arms need to move with the motion of your horse while keeping your elbows light. Keep your back straight and look forward. One-third of your boot should be in the stirrup, keeping your heels pointing down.

Step 5: Using Aids to Control Your Horse

Woman holding horse reins, sitting on horse

Lake George State Park Stable [Image Credit: Lisa Narine]

Aids are considered to be your hands, legs and your seat. To make your horse move forward, squeeze your calves gently against the horse’s sides. If the horse doesn’t move, put more energy into it. Some horses also respond to clucks.

To make your horse halt, sit deep into the saddle and apply pressure with the reins. You can also say “whoa.”

To turn your horse, pull the left or right rein out to the side and apply pressure with your outside leg. If you don’t add pressure with your leg, your horse will not listen and it will continue moving forward.

Step 6: Trotting

English: Andalusian horse trotting with rider ...

English: Andalusian horse trotting with rider Deutsch: Andalusier im Trab mit Reiterin (Image Credit: Wikipedia)

If you are comfortable with the steps listed above, you can now learn how to trot with your horse! You have the option to either sit the trot or post the trot.

When you sit the trot, sit deep into the saddle and keep contact with your legs. Remember to keep your elbows relaxed. To post the trot, raise up in your stirrups every other step. Point your heel down and keep contact with the horse’s mouth. Make sure your hands stay still and don’t follow movements of the body because this is uncomfortable for the horse.

Horses trot diagonally, so when moving to the left, you should rise when your horse’s right shoulder is forward. When you are moving to the right, raise when your horse’s left shoulder is forward.

Step 7: Learn How to Canter

English: Andalusian horse cantering with rider...

English: Andalusian horse cantering with rider Deutsch: Andalusier im Galopp mit Reiterin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you have become well experienced with horseback riding, you can now learn how to canter, which is a rocking motion. To canter, move your outside leg slightly back and squeeze. When you sit the canter, your seat will roll with the canter while you remain in the position you are riding. Remember not to tense up and keep a steady contact with the horse’s mouth. You can also canter while in “half-seat.” To sit half-seat, incline your shoulders and rotate your pelvis forward.

Remember to be cautious and always wear protective gear when you go horseback riding!

brown and white horse running in grass

Image: venomxbaby.deviantart.com

Suggested Gear:

  • Helmet
  • Elbow/Knee Pads
  • Long Pants

For your safety, check out our Pocket Ranger® gear store for these items and much more.

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