Freedom, fearlessness and living in the moment – trail riding how to’s

Tara Jevon speaks to us about how she likes to pack up and head out on horseback for days at a time, something we consider very brave! Here she explains how and why she does it…

I feed my soul by packing up, saddling up and heading out onto the trail with my horse from 2 hours to a whole day, to 5 days. My philosophy and practice when doing this is this: keep it simple. Bring the necessities and remain as light as possible. The more you carry with you, the slower you go and the more held back you feel.


How I prepare…

I always start by figuring out what I need before I go. If I plan to tie my horse while resting, I bring a halter worn beneath the bridle and a lead rope worn around the neck. I’d say it’s essential insurance, because tying your horse with the bridle and reins may end badly if the horse were to spook and pull back. You do not want to be walking for the next 5 days because of a snapped bridle.

When carrying a saddlebag, I ensure it is one that fits securely without flapping against the side of the horse. I make sure that there is nothing hard in the saddlebag, such as a lunchbox container, that pokes against the side of the horse. I wouldn’t want something jabbing into my back if I were going for a hike and I know my horse wouldn’t either!

For overnight riding, I pack the bare minimum. At least one change of warm clothes is imperative, a rain jacket and rain pants if the weather shows some uncertainty. I keep my sleeping bag covered in a waterproof casing. I carry a torch and always keep it in a place I can find it once it gets dark. I keep a candle with me too (I prefer its ambience when I am in nature) and make sure matches and lighters are also kept dry.

I either use soft rope hobbles  or a high-line when tethering my horse to camp for the evening. A high-line can only be used if the area where I plan to camp has trees. A foldable bucket may also be required for water for my horse.

What I eat

For long outrides, particularly overnight camps, I have found that snack bars are not enough to sustain me. A fellow hiker I met while riding through New Zealand, where I had packed food for approximately eight days, directed me along the lines of wraps, peanut butter and cheddar cheese. Hard cheddar cheese lasts longer out the fridge than any other cheese. It provides a fulfilling nourishment and sustains me from lunch through to the evening with sufficient energy.

Choosing my route

In choosing the route, I make sure the ride has water points along the way for my horse. I had to train my horse to grow accustomed to drinking water when he got the chance. It took some time as my horse tried to eat the reeds, look around or try and move away. I allowed my horse time to realize it was safe to drink from an unfamiliar place. I allowed him to take a drink, and when he finished and began grazing, I moved him on. It was important to allow my horse to feel it was okay to relax and put his head down when riding past water. A horse comfortable with drinking water in nature will maneuver their own way toward water, letting the rider know they are thirsty. I make sure I pack plenty of water for myself and join in when my horse is drinking – nothing is more uncomfortable being out for hours at a time and feeling parched!

Preparing my horses for long trail rides and overnight rides

There are several things I needed to get my horse accustomed to when preparing to ride out for long periods. First, consider that there is a lot of stimulation on an outride as opposed to in the arena where the horse may feel safer and more at home. I started by taking my horse for shorter rides, especially if I’m alone and it is a green horse, because with all that stimulation, too long a ride may overwhelm the horse.

Horses can be habitual, going back to what they know. I give my horse confidence by not making the process tiresome. If my horse is not having fun, then neither will I and vice versa. I do what feels good for both me and my horse. Remember, you and your horse are a team when out on a trail ride.


It will take a good while to get your horse used to being hobbled (which may be necessary for an overnight ride). When training mine, I had to introduce the hobbles slowly without freaking my horse out. I introduced them one leg at a time and sat with my horse as he got used to the hobbles. I speak to them gently and reassure them. I put the hobbles on for a short time and then take them off. I let my horse walk about and then do it again. I let my horse gradually become used to the idea that the hobbles restrict but do not hurt. I prefer soft rope hobbles instead of ones with chains. They are lighter, kinder and less noisy. I will do a more detailed post on this process in a later blog.

Tent training

If camping in a tent, I need to get my horse used to my tent blowing in the wind before taking him out overnight. I set the tent up in the paddock where he is comfortable. I shake the sides and climb in and out. I allow my horse to sniff it and make sure he is trained to step away when he gets too close. You do not want your horse getting tangled in your tent.

Starting out…

I find the best feeling about horse riding is that feeling of freedom. The lightness, the breeze, the breath. Be careful you don’t take that away from yourself or your horse by weighing yourself down.

Take a breath before mounting. Breathe out and release any tension, anxiety and overthinking. If there is a thought I’m obsessing over, I focus on it and try and understand what’s causing the obsession and then let it go. I allow myself to feel the calm, be mindful and be present in the moment. I let my horse know I am there with him or her. I say ‘hello’.

I adopted a greeting with my horses, that horses use with one another. An exchange of breath, a oneness of connection. You may have noted one way that horses ‘speak’ with each other. They bring their muzzles together and breathe in the others’ breath. It is our life force, a connection with every being. It roots us to the earth we stand upon.

I do this gently, slowly, with a manner that respects the space of my horse. Without thrusting my face into their face, I allow the horse to come to me. I breathe in their scent, nostril to nostril. The horse breathes, I breathe. They stay, I stay. They leave, I move away. A reciprocation of energy, an exchange of fellowship.

I then calmly tack up with ease. Be careful of rushing or forcing this part, it merely creates tension in both rider and horse. Ease the girth tighter ever so slowly to allow your horse to breathe and adjust. No one enjoys forced restriction. Show love and kindness and you will discover that what you give is returned.

On the trail…

I need to be constantly vigilant of the environment, aware of all potential hazards as well as cues from my horse to release the tension and just let the two of us have some fun being on a magnificent adventure.

Outriding is a balance between remaining in control but also allowing my horse to think and do for himself. It is the give and take of remaining in form and letting go. It is trust from both sides. An outride is expression. A practice that gets better as trust grows and my ability to release overrides my need to apply pressure.

About Tara

Tara describes herself as blessed to have grown up and lived on a farm for the whole 25 years she’s been alive. After completing her studies in environmental science and geography at Rhodes university, this brave and daring young woman set out on a 7-week solo journey on horseback, through New Zealand wilderness on a green ex-pacer standardbred.

When she can, Tara will often head out into the wilderness on a solo trail ride for 1 hour, 1 day or 1 week. She is a very grounded, lively and spiritual woman who says she has always enjoyed the outdoors and the philosophy that we are here as caretakers for our earth. Luckily for us, she is a regular visitor to The Whole Horse and we admire her strength, courage and soulful nature.

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