Horse and rider enjoying a moment in Canada

Ethical charter for riders

Ethical Charter for Riders

We at Equus Journeys have been lucky enough to spend many years travelling the world, meeting local riders and experiencing their traditions, many of which are different to ours. During these adventures we compiled some recommendations which you may find useful so that we can all better understand and respect our fellow humans, equine companions and the natural world we live in.

Over the next couple of pages we invite you to read our Ethical Charter for Travellers -  some points may seem obvious, but we feel that they are all worthy of mention. 

  • Striking up a conversation with a pedestrian whilst you are mounted could be interpreted as a sign of superiority over the walker. Dismount, stay between your horse and the person you are talking to - your conversation and the quality of your meeting will then be on an equal footing.
  • Ensure your horse is walking when you pass other horses or pedestrians - don’t race past others.
  • Horses riding through a town can be a source of curiosity for the inhabitants, particularly children. Take extra care controlling your horse, which could be affected by the bustle and activity. Listen to the commands of your guide.
  • When meeting a herd of livestock on horseback, there is a risk of panic by the herd or your mount - always listen to the commands of your guide. According to the situation it may be necessary to alter the itinerary, or stop, or dismount until past the herd. Additionally, always be careful to shut all gates/fences that you pass through, to prevent livestock from escaping.
  • The crops, fields and pastures you ride through are fragile places and precious to those who cultivate them. Damaging crops or letting your horse graze without permission can cause big losses for small farmers and their families.
  • Stick to designated paths and follow your guides lead.
  • Watering places are precious and essential to human, animal and farming life. Ask permission before letting horses drink from wells and do not soil the water and the surrounding area.

The horse - the heart of your travel

  • Respect the horse which is entrusted to you - treat him as you would your own horse, or even better!
  • In ethology, anthropomorphism signifies the projection of human motivations and feelings onto an animal. Avoid this practice with your horse and treat him with respect.
  • Some cultures with hard and demanding lifestyles, are also hard and demanding with relation to their animals. However, the owner of your horse will always appreciate that you take care of his horse.
  • Hitting or losing your temper with a horse is inappropriate. In Mongolia, a Mongol will tell you that if you hit his horse, it is as if you have hit him. If you are having problems with your horse then your guide will help you to solve it. Do not hesitate to ask him for advice.
  • Be careful when tethering your horse so that he is not afraid, hurt or can escape or cause damage. Choose a good place to tether him or ask another member of the group to help you. Always keep an eye on him.
  • Local guides, who know their horses, are the best placed to advise you on girthing, adjusting the tack, drinking, tethering etc…
  • Equestrian cultures are varied and all are good if they are done right. If your horse walks on your heels when you are leading him on foot, do not shake your reins or hit him - a gentle nudge in the chest should keep him back.
  • Wherever possible, start each day by leading your horse on foot to give him a chance to warm up.
  • Letting your horse trot to catch up whenever it pleases him is a bad habit which is very hard to correct. All horses should be able to walk on at a decent pace.
  • A good rider listens to his horse and adjusts his pace to his level of fitness and the ground conditions. Monitor him for tiredness, comfort (tack or horseshoe), hunger, thirst or lameness. If in doubt, alert your guide.
  • Sometimes a guide will initiate a canter to please a member of the group. If you feel that he asks too much of the horses, or the ground is not appropriate, you can talk to the guide (or tell him that you are tired!!). A Mongol will tell you that a Mongolian horse is never tired and will give you a whip. Your riding experience has to help you here: observe your horse and make your own decision on whether he is tired or lazy.
  • Help your horse by leaning forwards and standing up in the stirrups during steep ascents, and leaning backwards during descents. Remember that walking or rising trot is less tiring for horses than to canter or gallop.
  • Whilst walking, lengthen your reins so that your horse can relax and look about him.

(c) Philippe Dumas
(c) Philippe Dumas

Between riders…

  • Whilst riding, we have to remember to respect the other horses and riders who share our ride. We should always be conscious of our actions.
  • We advise you to always wear a hard hat/helmet, even if your guides and other riders do not wear one - it is your head!
  • You should ensure that your clothing is buttoned/zipped up so that it does not flap and startle your horse. Remember that pieces of jewellery (earrings, rings and necklaces) can catch and injure you - consider removing all jewellery before riding.
  • When mounting, ensure that everyone is mounted before you start moving off and wait for the guide to give the signal to depart.
  • Keep your distance from the horses in front of you or beside you. All horses can kick if they feel crowded. It is particularly important to maintain distance when moving at speed.
  • Be courteous to your fellow riders - point out possible dangers such as holes and low branches, and pass back messages from the guide.
  • Do not overtake another rider without asking permission first, whatever speed you are going.
  • Do not cut across another rider or cause his horse to take evasive action as this can cause an accident or upset other riders and horses.
  • When passing an object to another rider (hat, camera, suncream etc) or when putting on/removing an item of clothing, be aware that this can cause your horse to shy or panic, resulting in a fall of rider or object! It is better to ask the guide if you can dismount first.
  • Only smoke during breaks and keep the cigarette butt to throw away later. A rider who smokes whilst mounted takes a risk that burning hot ash falls on his horse or dry grass.
  • Jump only with the agreement of the guide because the ground can be dangerous before or after the obstacle. When you jump it is advisable to hold onto the mane so that you do not damage your horses mouth. Remember that you will have to advise your insurance company if you intend to jump.
  • If you drop an object from your horse, do not dismount to pick it up without asking the group to stop. Remember that your horse is a herd animal and will want to stay with his friends. 

Security on Safari

  • Listen carefully to the guides instructions - they will tell you when it is safe to take photographs, dismount for a comfort break etc.
  • Never ride in front of your guide. You should always have your lead guide in front of you, between the game and you, plus a second back-up guide bringing up the rear. This back-up guide becomes the lead guide if you have to turn around.
  • In a situation with immediate danger, such as an elephant charge, listen to your guides instructions. Most of the time this will be “go with your back-up guide”. It is not about dashing forwards at a frenzied gallop but simply making your way to a safe place in canter - depending on the situation this could be c. 20m or 100m or further.
  • If you suddenly come across lions during a canter, the guide will ask you to walk. We never trot or canter close to lions (except in an emergency) because that encourages them to hunt. If necessary, follow the back-up guide and move away from the lions - the lead guide will remain behind you.
(c) Philippe Dumas
(c) Philippe Dumas