How to open a gate without dismounting your horse while trailriding

poort openen in het bos

Every rider who rides in the Dutch nature reserves knows the gates. Dismounting at every gate is tedious. That is why I give you the following tips so that you can also open every gate without dismounting your horse.

Opening gates without dismounting your horse is a combination of dressage and agility.

Tired of dismounting every time? Is it preventing you from entering the nature reserves? Does your horse not stop when you bend over to open a gate, or does your horse try to sprint through it as quickly as possible?

Follow these tips and become a master in opening gates without dismounting.

poort openen in het bos


Practice halting while you don’t sit still. This is the most crucial exercise and also the most difficult. I use verbal commands precisely at these times. Lacos is used to responding to my weight shifting. When opening a gate, he must do exactly the opposite, namely stand still and not respond. This takes some practice.

You can start halting in the arena while adjusting or tightening stirrups. You expand that to bend over and touch your toes on both sides.

Every time your horse starts to walk you say “halt” and stop it. Try how far you can go, a little more each time.

Reward him extensively if he stands still patiently.

Pro tip: If you want to step away … do that on your voice. Say “step” while you use your leg aid to get him walking.

You cannot expect him to step away directly on your leg aid. You were just hanging upside down and accidentally pushing him with your leg and he had to stand still.

Lateral movement

When opening a gate, you move with your horse in the direction of the gate opening. That means your horse has to step sideways to turn with the gate. You must therefore have your horse sensitive on the leg aids when using lateral movements.

Practice this on a flat sand path and zigzag from side to side, without accelerating.

opening gate without dismounting
Lacos facing a tall gate into the nature reserve

Don’t flinch when the gate touches the flank or chest

Lacos does not flinch when a gate touches him because he has to push the gate of the feeding station open in the HIT Active stable. He pushes that gate open with his chest and then walks through it. That gate closes with a “bang” behind him because it has a spring on it.

Horses that are not in a HIT Active stable or are not trained in front of a carriage and are therefore not used to it, find this difficult. You can practice this with spook training.

Turn the forehand

You need this maneuver when you push the gate open. The gate then opens in your riding direction.

Once you have the gate open and go through it, the gate must be closed again, so you need to practice to turn the forehand. That way you can see what happens when the gates closes.

Some gates close by themselves due to gravity or because the gate is bent, others you have to push and hang in the lock. You need to use common sense at each gate to determine if you can open this gate without dismounting.

Turn the hindquarters

You need this maneuver if you have to pull the gate towards you and thus open the gate in the opposite direction of which you are riding. Practice to turn the hindquarters as short as possible to close the gate again. This is the most difficult way to open a gate from your horse, as you can get caught if the gate closes on its own.

Pay attention! Some gates are bent, jammed, and will immediately close or open again.

Keep calm at all times and do not get caught with your leg or the flank of your horse when a gate closes. Especially if the gate opens opposite to the direction which you are riding in, this can cause dangerous situations.

I also dismount at some gates, because they are just too hard to open from the saddle. Safety is paramount.

wild horses at the gate
Here we were awaited by some wild horses which roam free in the nature reserve. In moments like this you will have to dismount.

You might also be interested in reading this article and the video footage of our 2-day trailride along the river IJssel in the Netherlands.

How do you open the gate from your horse, do you have any tips? Let me know in the comments.

Video on how Lacos and I open gates without dismounting