Animals that Mourn Their Dead

[Image:] Chimps are animals that mourn--here they line up to see their deceased friend, Dorothy, carried away.

[Image:] Chimps line up to see their deceased friend, Dorothy, carried away.

Within the last few decades, scientists have began speculating whether or not animals mourn their dead. Animals that mourn and grieve for lost ones isn’t as far fetched as some might think. Most mammals have evolved to have bonds and social order similar to humans. Let’s say two sister cats were raised together. One day, one sister passes away, leaving the other one suddenly alone and confused. Cats in situations such as this have been known to become depressed for long periods of time. In this article, we will explore comprehension of death in the animal kingdom and which animals experience grief in times of loss.

Chimpanzees and Gorillas


First on the list is Dorothy, a chimpanzee from Camaroon. After her mother was killed by hunters, Dorothy was sold to an amusement park where she would spend the next 25 years of her life chained up, forced to drink and smoke cigarettes for the amusement of humans. In May 2000, Dorothy was rescued and relocated to the Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center, where she lived out her years making bonds and forming relationships with other chimps. Dorothy died in 2008. She was in her late 40s.

“Her presence, and loss, was palpable, and resonated throughout the group,” a volunteer told Jeremy Berlin, author of The Story Behind National Geographic’s viral Chimp Funeral Video from the Huffington Post.

Dorothy’s chimp friends were allowed to see her dead body carried away, almost as if it were a funeral procession.

“Some chimps displayed aggression while others barked in frustration, but perhaps the most stunning reaction was a recurring, almost tangible silence,” the volunteer said.

This is one of many examples of animals who mourn. In some situations, zookeepers will leave the corpse in the caged area so animals could come touch the body and stay with it for days.

“All great apes feel sorrow when they lose someone in their family,” Patti Ragan, director of the Center for Great Apes in Florida, said to ABC News.

animals that mourn


Ragan says that human and ape DNA sequences are 99 percent similar.

Another primate that makes its way onto our list is gorillas. Like chimpanzees, gorillas bare a striking resemblance to humans in many ways. A few years ago, another viral image of a primate made its rounds on the Internet that showed a mother grieving the death of her newborn baby.

Three-month-old Claudio died suddenly in the arms of his mother, 11-year-old Gana. According to The Daily Mail, who reported the incident, Gana, initially puzzled by his death, began to stroke and shake the corpse for hours in hopes of giving it life again. She then caressed the corpse before placing it on her back and walking around while stopping to stare back at it every few steps. Gorillas have been observed keeping their dead loved ones close to them sometimes until the body starts to decompose.


Man’s best friend also has feelings. It’s no secret that dogs have emotions. We see their happiness when they bark loudly, jump around and wag their tales. We know when they’re sad by how they hang their heads low and make weeping noises. Many have seen videos online of dogs taking court next to the grave of their owners. Dogs are also known to grieve their canine companions. They’ll forego food and sometimes fall ill.



It’s no secret that dolphins are one of the most intelligent animals on Earth. Like humans, they form bonds, have social structures and communicate with each other. In perhaps one of the most surprising cases of a dolphin grieving, photographers captured a mother dolphin holding her dead baby above water so it could get oxygen.

The Daily Mail reports that every time the dolphin fell off its mother’s back, she would pick it back up and continue taking it farther out in the ocean. Some speculate the dolphin was taking the calf out to lie it to rest in deeper water. The calf had a visible gash on its body, indicating it was hit by a propeller.



Go to a Car Show at a State Park

If you love cars, from antiques to shiny and new, come out to one of these state parks to view these unique cars and potentially register your very own car in a car show. Doesn’t get cooler than that! Download your state’s Pocket Ranger® app to use the events calendar as a reminder for these car shows and to use the Nearest Me map, so you can find the state park in a jiffy! You can also read more about these state parks and what they have to offer.


People looking at cars at a car show


Fort Boonesborough State Park

4375 Boonesbor Road,

Fort Boonesboro – Main Park,

Richmond, KY 40475

Boonesboro Boogie Nationals Car Show

Friday, October 10th – Sunday, October 12th, 2014

8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.

View over 1,000 cars for three days. There will be vendors and live entertainment. Cost is $2.00 per person of $5.00 per carload. If you would like to pre-register your car, please contact Art Bigelow:

Phone: 502-863-3960





Antique black and white car in state park


Standing Stone State Park

1674 Standing Stone Park Hwy.

Hilham, TN 38568

17th Annual Car Show

Saturday, October 11th, 2014

8 A.M – All Day

Spend the day enjoying antique cars, trucks, hot rods, music and food. There will be 200 vehicles that will be judged. You can also show off your own car. For more information, contact Ranger Stevie Plumlee at 931-823-6347.



Kids of all ages standing next to red and white car in park


Tannehill Ironworks State Park

12632 Confederate Parkway

McCalla, AL 35111

Car Show

Friday, September 26th, 2014

There will be a variety of vintage and new cars at Tannehill Ironworks State Park. Admission for adults is $3.00 and children are $2.00. Children five and under get in free and seniors pay $3.00.

Contact the state park directly through Alabama’s Pocket Ranger® app for more information on this event.



Joe Wheeler State Park

4403 McLean Dr., Rogersville, AL 35652

Joe Wheeler State Park’s 2014 General Joe’s Car Show

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

If you are interested in cars from classic, custom, street rod and the good old muscle, you cannot miss this event. Register your vehicle if you would like to be part of this car show. For more information, visit:


Car show in park with roller coaster in background


Falling Waters State Park

Caches, Critter & Cars

Saturday, October 11th, 2014

9:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.

This event welcomes all families where many antique cars and campers will be available for viewing. There will also be animals on display, food, and much more. Visit the park’s website for more information on this event: – 12162


Several cars in state park at car show


Hammonasset State Park

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

9:00 AM to 3:00 PM

This car show includes street rods, antiques, trucks, show cars and bikes! All proceeds will be generated to the CT Women’s Breast Health Initiative. Donations are $5.00 per person, and there will be 50/50 raffle with giveaways. For more information, call 203-697-9113.

Halloween Events at the State Parks

Jack o'lanters glow under a tree and night sky


Don’t let the cooler temperatures keep you indoors just yet! Autumn is in full swing and the state parks are ready to celebrate with Halloween events all month long. So, pull on a comfy sweater (or your Halloween costume) and check out these fall-tastic happenings.

Fall Farm Festival
Sky Meadows State Park, Virginia
Happening every weekend in October

Pumpkin Patch at the Fall Farm Festival in Virginia

Pick Your Own Pumpkin at Sky Meadows State Park [Image:]

Sky Meadows State Park invites you to celebrate the harvest at their Fall Farm Festival. Every weekend in October, there will be live music, history demonstrations, and great food. The Fall Farm Festival will have a different theme for each weekend, from Relaxation and Rejuventation to Wildlife and Agriculture. Favorite activities at the festival include choosing your Halloween pumpkin at the PYO pumpkin patch. You can also learn about the park’s spooky history on the Ghosts of Mount Bleak House tours, and later get lost in the corn maze!

Newton Hills State Park, South Dakota
October 4, 2014

Rows and rows of jack o'lanterns on a porch for Halloween Events at Newton Hills State Park


The annual Festifall is a great way to explore Newton Hills State Park and get into the autumn spirit. All of the activities at Festifall are free, thanks to park staff and volunteers. Take a ride on the hay wagon, listen to the live bluegrass and gorge on kettle corn. Head over to the Arts & Crafts tables to make popcorn hands, trick or treat bags, and apple prints. There will be a craft fair with prizes, and a Halloween decorating contest at the campground. Festifall will also have a decorated pumpkin contest, parrots, and pumpkin catapulting! End your day by joining in the candlelight walk. The paved walk is lit solely by candles and carved pumpkins, and along the way expect interesting characters from the past, music, and telescopes to view the night sky.

24th Annual Autumn Festival
Sizerville State Park, Pennsylvania
October 4, 2014

Rows of painted jack o'lanterns atop a picnic table


A celebration of old-time skills and crafts is in store at the 24th Annual Autumn Festival at Sizerville State Park. From 11AM to 3PM, there will be plenty of make ‘n take crafts, such as pumpkin painting, and butter and bannock making. Besides noshing on some great food, visitors can also check out old-time crafts and demos, such as quilting, tatting, bee-keeping, and woodcarving. Sizerville State Park is considered by many as “the gem” of the Pennsylvania State Parks, and in autumn this park bursts with terrific foliage. Make sure to take plenty of great nature photos to share with other nature enthusiasts on Pocket Ranger®’s free Trophy Case app!

9th Annual Fall Festival & Pumpkin Float
Parker Dam State Park, Pennsylvania
October 18, 2014

A jack o'lantern with a deer head and "Parker Dam" carved into it

The festival’s pumpkin carving demos will help you become a jack o’ lantern pro! [Image:]

The Annual Fall Festival at Parker Dam State Park is chock-full with great leaf-peeping and family activities, like pumpkin carving, cidering, candle-dipping and pioneer games. There will be a craft fair and demos on traditional hide tanning and primitive fire-making. Meet ‘n greets with animals will give visitors close but safe encounters with creatures, such as bats, snakes and spiders. In the evening, kids can participate in the Halloween costume parade, and adults can lounge in lawn chairs by the Beach Bonfire. At 7PM, lighted jack o’ lanterns will be set out on the lake to create the festival’s iconic pumpkin float. End your day with fireside storytelling and star-gazing.

Halloween Family Weekends
General Butler State Resort Park, Kentucky
October 17 – 19, 2014 and October 24 – 26, 2014

Three menacing figures wait with weapons on a train track in the woods

Get ready to scream at the park’s Haunted Train Track of Terror! [Image:]

General Butler State Resort Park has Halloween-themed weekends that are sure to thrill the whole family! Evening Halloween events include the Haunted Train Track of Terror & Haunted Maze Shelterhouse as well as 18 holes of Glow in the Dark Mini Golf. Those staying at the park, can take part in the weekend’s daytime activities, such as Creepy Fingers Pottery Workshop and Trick or Treating. By using Pocket Ranger®’s Official Guide for Kentucky State Parks, you can easily reserve a campsite, cabin, cottage, or room at the lodge, so you won’t miss a moment of the fun.

22nd Annual Haunted Woods Event
Hillsborough River State Park, Florida
October 24 & 25, 2014

A creepy, wooden sign reads, "Enter this way, if you dare!"

Are you brave enough to enter the Haunted Woods? [Image:]

There are so many ways to have spooky fun at the Annual Haunted Woods Event in Hillsborough River State Park! Remember to bring flashlights and glow sticks for your walk down the Haunted Woods Trail. For a chance to win great prizes, wear your best Halloween costume to the Costume Contest. On Saturday night only, summon the courage to take part in the haunted Family Tram Ride, complete with ghouls, goblins, ghosts, zombies, and more.

23rd Annual Halloween Festival
Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park, Alabama
October 25, 2014

A campsite decorated with Halloween decorations like jack o'lanterns and hay bales

One of the 200 fully-decorated campsites at Tannehill [Image:]

The Annual Halloween Festival is perfect for families, featuring non-scary, fun-filled Halloween activities in the campground at Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park. Daytime Halloween events include moonwalks, face painting, balloon animals, a kid-friendly bungee jump, pony rides and train rides. The campground is fully decorated for Halloween, and costumed kids can trick-or-treat at over 200 campsites! Since this is an immensely popular event (over 6,000 visitors!), make sure to reserve your campsite using the Pocket Ranger® Official Guide for Alabama State Parks.

Bird Poems to Color Our Days

Birds are a fascinating sight, but what happens when poets encounter birds? Do they take on a bird watcher’s approach or get lost in metaphors? Throughout literary history, writers have taken these images to translate something personal. Amusingly enough, a poet’s fascination goes unnoticed by the muse. We find ourselves thinking: “It flew away without saying goodbye!” The thing of admiration for poets or bird watchers comes from our ability to attach meaning to nature. Birds can be a symbol of freedom, wisdom, patience, an omen or whatever our creative mood fancies. Our connection to nature influences our writing, and our interpretion of reality comes out in pretty verses. Try writing your own! There are so many ways to go about it. But first see what wonderful ways the poet’s from below interpreted their encounter with birds.

Bird perched over a branch with red flowers.


by Emily Dickinson

A Bird came down the Walk –
He did not know I saw –
He bit an Angleworm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw,

And then he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass –
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall
To let a Beetle pass –

He glanced with rapid eyes
That hurried all abroad –
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought –
He stirred his Velvet Head

Like one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him a Crumb
And he unrolled his feathers
And rowed him softer home –

Than Oars divide the Ocean,
Too silver for a seam –
Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon
Leap, plashless as they swim.

The Sunlight on the Garden
by Louis McNeice

The sunlight on the garden
Hardens and grows cold,
We cannot cage the minute
Within its nets of gold,
When all is told
We cannot beg for pardon.

Our freedom as free lances
Advances towards its end;
The earth compels, upon it
Sonnets and birds descend;
And soon, my friend,
We shall have no time for dances.

The sky was good for flying
Defying the church bells
And every evil iron
Siren and what it tells:
The earth compels,
We are dying, Egypt, dying

And not expecting pardon,
Hardened in heart anew,
But glad to have sat under
Thunder and rain with you,
And grateful too
For sunlight on the garden.

Invisible couple dancing while birds fly above.


A Rescue
by John Updike

Today I wrote some words that will see print.
Maybe they will last “forever,” in that
someone will read them, their ink making
a light scratch on his mind, or hers.
I think back with greater satisfaction
upon a yellow bird—a goldfinch?—
that had flown into the garden shed
and could not get out,
battering its wings on the deceptive light
of the dusty, warped-shut window.

Without much reflection, for once, I stepped
to where its panicked heart
was making commotion, the flared wings drumming,
and with clumsy soft hands
pinned it against a pane,
held loosely cupped
this agitated essence of the air,
and through the open door released it,
like a self-flung ball,
to all that lovely perishing outdoors.

Man letting go of bird, so it can fly.


The Dalliance of Eagles
by Walt Whitman

Skirting the river road, (my forenoon walk, my rest,)
Skyward in air a sudden muffled sound, the dalliance of the eagles,
The rushing amorous contact high in space together,
The clinching interlocking claws, a living, fierce, gyrating wheel,
Four beating wings, two beaks, a swirling mass tight grappling,
In tumbling turning clustering loops, straight downward falling,
Till o’er the river pois’d, the twain yet one, a moment’s lull,
A motionless still balance in the air, then parting, talons loosing,
Upward again on slow-firm pinions slanting, their separate diverse flight,
She hers, he his, pursuing.

Bird in cage hanging from a house.


The Parakeets
by Alberto Blanco

They talk all day
and when it starts to get dark
they lower their voices
to converse with their own shadows
and with the silence.

They are like everybody
—the parakeets—
all day chatter,
and at night bad dreams.

With their gold rings
on their clever faces,
brilliant feathers
and the heart restless
with speech…

They are like everybody,
—the parakeets—
the ones that talk best
have separate cages.

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Geese flying over Waneka Lake, Colorado. Image:

Geese flying over Waneka Lake, Colorado. Image:

For more bird poems, read a bird watcher’s stream of consciousness while on a trail or a silly story about birds arguing: The Virtue of Birds. Interested in bird watching? Check out our Pocket Ranger® mobile Apps to find a park with bird watching, and to document your findings use the new, Pocket Ranger Bird Feed™ App.

Climbing Mt. Rainier

Contributed by Michael Restivo of Mike off the Map

A hiker climbing Mt. Rainier in WA

Image: Michael Restivo

Mount Rainier is one of the most celebrated ascents in North American mountaineering. At 14,411-feet, the semi-active volcano dominates the Seattle skyline, and its glaciated slopes are a proving ground for climbers who dream of Denali, and ultimately, the Himalayas. Climbing Mt. Rainier is a serious undertaking, and while it’s not the tallest or even the hardest peak, it has dangers that have been both trying and deadly. The mountain is so massive and isolated, it forms its own weather pattern. It may appear calm on the lower slopes, but often the upper mountain is raging with snow and wind. This post is about my observations as I made my second attempt on the summit. It should not be taken as a guide on how to climb Rainier, but about the experience it entails.

Climbing Mt. Rainier

There is no such thing as training too hard for the climb. The focus for Rainier preparation is less about strength, and more about endurance and having the resilience to perform in difficult conditions. For the entirety of the climb (which involves a day of travel to the basecamp and then a long day to the summit and back), climbers are usually carrying a pack of upwards to 60-pounds or more. For those interested in climbing Mt. Rainier, the training usually involves running small hills with weighted backpacks, taking long distance treks, and moving on uneven terrain in rapidly changing weather.

Mount Rainier is covered in snow

The view while Climbing Mt. Rainier [Image: Michael Restivo]

Mount Rainier is the fifth highest, and most glaciated peak in the lower 48 states. While many climbers ascend to the crater rim at 14,150-feet, the true summit is on Columbia Crest, the highest ridge around the crater. The routes to the summit vary in remoteness, difficulty, and popularity. The most travelled route is Disappointment Cleaver, which travels from the trailhead at Paradise to Camp Muir, crosses the Ingraham Glacier, and travels up the ridge that provides access to the summit. The most treacherous route is Liberty Ridge; with its steep, frequently shifting blocks of ice, it requires advanced alpine knowledge and ideal conditions the entire way up.

Climbing Mt. Rainier takes commitment and fortitude, ranging from two to four days of travel. The first day involves crossing the lower snowfield, whether it’s the steady, gently rolling slopes on the way to Camp Muir, or the pockmarked crevasse lined glaciers of the Emmons. The higher climbers ascend, the more the altitude takes its toll. The route is never straightforward, as the weather closes and opens crevasses and bergschrunds, forcing rerouting in order to avoid objective hazards, such as rockfall and avalanche chutes.

A hiker tents near the summit of Mt. Rainier National Park

Image: Michael Restivo

A typical summit day starts between midnight and 2 AM, when the freeze point locks snow and large boulders into place. While other parties usually define the path, marking the trail with their boot prints, it doesn’t make it any easier. Climbers alternate between using switchbacks, crossing the fields in a zigzag motion, or pushing directly up the snow bank, all navigated by headlamp.

The air above 13,000 feet is cold, but the more that you’re moving, the faster the body warms and eventually the chill is forgotten. While climbing for an extended period of time, the mind is blank, thinking only about footwork or the next break point. Breaks are short and only provide enough time to rest your calves and take a quick drink before continuing on.

A sunrise view after climbing Mt. Rainier

Image: Michael Restivo

One of the most memorable moments of climbing Mt. Rainier is watching the sunrise from the upper slopes. Mount Rainier stands alone above the range, but the smaller peaks of the Southern Cascades and the jagged skyline of the Tatoosh surround it. The sunrise signifies both an end to the night climbing and a sign that the summit isn’t too far off. Its one of the most talked about moments for any climber.

After over 12 hours of continuous uphill, a small rocky ridge leads to Columbia Crest, proudly nestled high above the crater. On my particular experience, clouds and snow prevented us from seeing the magnificent panorama, but we could make out the icy divot of the crater. The summit plateau is wide, and the view looks across to Mount Adams and St. Helens, and even the skyline of downtown Seattle.

A hiker in a blue jacket has made it to the top of Mount Rainier

Victory pose after climbing Mt. Rainier [Image: Michael Restivo]

Climbing Mt. Rainier is the proving ground for bigger expeditions. Its architecture and glaciers help prepare climbers for the bigger ranges, and a first-time ascent is an achievement in and of itself. For inexperienced mountaineers, it’s recommended to take advantage of a professional guiding service. Climbing Mt. Rainier requires top skills in glacier travel, route finding, and immense fortitude. It is a challenge, but ultimately worth the reward.

Loyalsock State Forest: A Hidden Gem

Contributed by Katie Levy, Adventure-Inspired

When I moved to Philadelphia seven years ago, I didn’t have any trouble finding day hikes. With White Clay Creek, French Creek, and Ridley Creek State Parks accessible within an hour’s drive, getting up and getting out for adventure nearby has never been an issue. But when it came to finding backpacking options, I had a tougher time.

The Appalachian Trail runs straight through a good bit of Pennsylvania, and though I’ve covered various parts of it on day hikes, backpacking on the AT typically means an end-to-end route that requires two cars. Though I thoroughly enjoyed the Pinchot Trail, especially given it’s only two hours from Philadelphia, I knew I needed to visit Loyalsock State Forest when I heard about the backpacking and other adventure opportunities there.

About Loyalsock State Forest and How to Get There

Sign from Loyalsock State Forest by a trail near pine trees

Image Credit: Katie Levy

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (PA DCNR), the forest gets its name from Loyalsock Creek, a 64 mile tributary of the Susquehanna River. The creek runs through the center of the forest’s protected lands, which have deep roots in the logging industry. As sawmill towns grew and disappeared, the Civilian Conservation Corps developed camps, one of which (Masten Camp S-80) hosts the starting point of a beautiful backpacking trail loop and primitive campground.

Loyalsock State Forest sits in a part of Pennsylvania Backpacker Magazine dubbed “Nowheresville.” Specifically, it’s due north of the state’s capital as the crow flies, and almost directly in between the city of Scranton and Allegheny National Forest. It’s a two and a half hour drive from Harrisburg, two hours from Scranton, two hours from Binghamton, New York, and just under four hours from Philadelphia. But its remote location makes it well worth the trip from just about anywhere in the state.

Activities and Things to Do

The two most significant backpacking trails in Loyalsock State Forest are what initially drew me in, specifically the Old Loggers Path loop (27 miles) and the Loyalsock Trail (59 miles). After completing Old Loggers Path this summer, I’m itching to go back for more hiking and backpacking. The trail took us over varied terrain, in and out of lush forests, over hills, to overlooks, and to some beautiful swimming holes. It felt like even Nowheresville was eons away.

Overlook at Loyalsock State Forest

Image Credit: Katie Levy

But backpacking isn’t the only way to make the most of a visit to Loyalsock State Forest. Hiking, mountain biking, snowmobiling and cross country skiing are all great ways to explore. The forest is known for its waterfalls and though some are accessible by vehicle, others, like Angel Falls and Jacoby Run Falls, require a short hike to access.

Most of Loyalsock’s trails are open to mountain biking and based on what I’ve seen, there’s no shortage of challenging options for all skill levels. Loyalsock Creek provides kayaking and canoeing opportunities when the water levels are high enough. Over 140 miles of roads and trails are open to snowmobiles and cross-country skiers in the winter.

Tips for Your Visit

If you’re hoping to camp in Loyalsock State Forest, you might find yourself as overwhelmed by the options as I did when I called the Hillsgrove Ranger Station to plan a trip. Campgrounds at Masten and Pleasant Steam have the only reservable sites in the Forest, and the permits are free. Nearby Worlds End State Park also has a campground, but there’s a fee associated with overnight stays there. As far as the rest of Loyalsock goes, the camping options are endless. The DCNR provides maps and camping policies by mail; be sure to give the Hillsgrove Ranger Station (570-946-4049) a call in advance of your trip.

Be sure you’ve got a sturdy vehicle with AWD and high clearance if you’re planning on driving on any of the state forest roads. The DCNR provides maps of all sorts to ensure visitors can find their way. If you go, get your Pocket Ranger® Pennsylvania State Parks and Forest app loaded and map out your route ahead of time; cell service is non-existent in and around the Forest.

If you’re hiking, be on the lookout for all sorts of flora and fauna, including rattlesnakes. My backpacking partner and I saw four rattlesnakes along Old Loggers Path in August. We also almost stepped on two toads and a box turtle as well as more juvenile red spotted newts than we could count.

Man hiking at Loyalsock State Forest near a stream

Image Credit: Katie Levy

It was such a wonderful surprise to find wilderness like that so close to home, and I can’t wait to plan a trip back. If you’ve been to Loyalsock State Forest, let us know what your experience was like!

Trail Riding Tips For You

2014 is the year of the horse and autumn is the perfect time to go trail riding at the state parks! Be it woods, fields, desert or beach, the cooler temps make it easier for you and your horse to be out for a full day of trail riding without overheating. Trail riding is also a great way to bond with your horse outside of the riding arena. A trail ride offers unexpected obstacles that can challenge and strengthen communication between you. That being said, some of these encounters, while exciting, may test your own resolve and confidence as a rider. Here are a few quick tips for trail riding to make the most of your adventure.

Two people trail riding in a woodsy clearing in New Hampshire

Trail Riding around Lake Winnipesaukee, NH [Image: Jessica Feldman]

Trail Riding Preparation

Whether you’re just riding out from your backyard or trailering your horses to a trail ride destination, preparation for the journey is key. Do you feel you have control of your horse? Before hitting the trail, you should be able to stop, turn, and control the gaits of your horse. If you cannot control your horse, best practice would be to remain in the arena to sharpen those skills. You can prep your horse for trail riding by doing some ground work, such as creating obstacles within the arena. Ground work can include familiarizing your horse with new kinds of noises and movement, such as the rustling sound of a plastic bag. To simulate various kinds of terrain, do sets of serpentines through cones or try having your horse cross over a tarp or wooden poles.

Getting ready for a trail ride with Gypsy Vanners in Lisdoonvarna, Ireland

Prepping for the Mountain View Horse Riding Centre trail ride in Lisdoonvarna, Ireland [Image: Jessica Feldman]

For those trail-ready equestrians, dress accordingly for the weather. Wear a helmet. If you will be out all day, consider wearing a backpack, so you can bring along a first aid kit, compass, rain gear, insect repellent, your horse’s halter and lead rope, hoof pick, water and snacks. Whether you are trail riding in a group or by yourself, bring a fully-charged cell phone. If something bad should happen, you don’t want to be stranded on the trail without a way of communicating with the outside world. Let someone know where you will be trail riding that day and for how long you expect to be gone.

On the Trail

Women prepare for trail riding in Hilton Head, South Carolina

Trail Riding in Hilton Head, SC [Image: Jessica Feldman]

Equestrians know that after doing countless circles in the arena, it’s a wonderful feeling to ride out in the open. While many horses enjoy riding in the great outdoors, keep in mind that even the most bombproof horse can spook. Be cautious and set the right tone when you first begin your trail ride. Right from the start, be the leader; do not let your horse bully you! If your horse is not doing what you’re asking, move your horse the opposite way he wants to take you (i.e. he wants to keep moving forward, you make him stop). This will build trust and strengthen communication between you.

Trail riding down a street in a beach community in New Hampshire

Trail Riding in Rye, NH [Image: Tori Burton]

In the event that one of the trail’s obstacles (example: water, low-hanging branches, dogs, bicyclists, and the occasional incredibly scary mailbox or flag-pole) frightens your horse, stop and let your horse survey this strange, new thing. Do not rush this process! Allowing your horse to get used to these new things will continue to build that trust between you, and make your horse less skittish when encountered with similar things in the future.

After the Trail Ride

Just as after exercising in the arena, a horse needs to cool down after a trail ride to avoid colic, damaged muscles, and possible lameness. To cool your horse down, walk back on a loose rein to either where you parked your trailer or to your stable. If you’ve reached your destination and your horse is still hot, remove the saddle and saddle pad and slowly walk the horse around until its temperature sufficiently cools. If the weather is not too cold, consider hosing the sweat off of your horse. While grooming, check for any swelling or cuts the horse may have gotten on the trail ride, especially on his legs and hooves.

Girl hoses off her horse on a sunny day after a trail ride

Post-Trail Ride Cool Down [Image: Jessica Feldman]

Once you’ve pastured your horse, reflect on your adventure. What was the most rewarding part of the ride for you? And what was the most challenging? What did you learn about your horse and yourself as a rider? The more you ride, the better you both will be at fearlessly overcoming new obstacles. Happy trails!

Girl gallops a black horse across a New Hampshire beach

Jenness Beach Ride in Rye, NH [Image: Jessica Feldman]

Suggest Gear List

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