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Trail riding sometimes called horse or pony trekking is riding outdoors on natural trails and roads as opposed to riding in an enclosed area such as a riding arena. The term may encompass those who travel on horses, on mountain bikes, or on motorcycles and other motorized all-terrain vehicles. Trail rides may be informal activities of an individual or small group of people, or may be larger events organized by a club. Some trail rides may even be directed by professional guides or outfitters, particularly at guest ranches.
There are competitive events available, which test the horse and rider's ability to navigate obstacles commonly found on the trail, such as opening and closing gates, crossing streams, etc. The level of difficulty of a competitive ride will vary by trail or terrain, and riders are well advised to know the general difficulty of a trail before starting the ride. In recreational trail riding, speed and form are not the goals, but rather having fun and enjoying time spent with one's horse in nature.
There is some criticism of trail riding when excess or improper use of trails may lead to erosion, the spread of invasive plants, conflict with hikers, or harassment of wildlife. However, many responsible equestrians, mountain bikers, and off-road motorcyclists, especially those who get involved in these sports by joining an organized club, perform hours of trail maintenance every year. Many organizations also sponsor educational events to teach newcomers about safety, responsible land stewardship and how to improve riding techniques.
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