I have an unusual hiking buddy - a horse. (Because of a back problem, she can't be ridden.) A colleague just told me about their recent trip on the PCT and gave me a big pitch for hiking poles, so I'm considering trying some. Two types of terrain where I'd like to be able to keep up more easily are
I think that something that could quickly be collapsed or folded, slung over my shoulder or from a belt, and then quickly expanded again, would be helpful for adapting to stretches where I need to walk close to my horse's side. I want to be able to have both hands free if need be. Most of the time I walk a short distance behind her, holding a lightweight rope, or a webbing dog leash attached to a light leadrope. There are a few places that are sufficiently remote that she can go "off-leash" without my needing to worry that we'll be busted, but I'll usually need to have a lead in hand. I don't know if enough people hike with their dogs on a leash for there to be any common wisdom about combining that with trekking poles.
So... I suppose the first question should be whether or not poles could be safe/convenient for this application, and if the answer to that is yes or could be, then the second question would be which styles of poles and baskets would work best for the terrains where I could most use the help. My mare is very good about stopping and waiting for me if I fall behind or get out of breath, but I'd like to be able to get a little closer to her natural trail walking speed (brisk!).
@DebraLewis Thanks for reaching out!
What a unique and interesting hiking buddy you have! When thinking about your application for a set of trekking poles The Black Diamond FLZ line of trekking poles comes to mind. I think you will like how they operate with a 'one-pull' design that allows them to collapse or deploy quickly. They also are the most compact poles on the market so they pack up small and out of the way if necessary. For hiking over varied terrain I would recommend going with a version that is adjustable (some come in fixed lengths) and, given that you are potentially encountering hard surfaces in addition so sand, I would also recommend going with a trekking pole that you can swap out the baskets on. The adjustable length will allow you to shorten the poles for uphills or lengthen them for technical downhill hiking if needed. A bigger basket in snow, sand, or soft dirt, will prevent your pole from sinking too deep and give you more support and stability. The Black Diamond Alpine FLZ Trekking Poles hit all those marks.
In terms of operating trekking poles with a leash in hand that will definitely add another element to how you function on the trail. When I am hiking with my dog in an on-leash area that I am also using trekking poles I typically have her attached to a joring harness around my waist that has a release buckle in case I need to let her go quickly (squirrel!). That frees up my hands and trekking poles for focusing on the trail. Typically trekking poles are used with straps around your wrists for additional support however that is not required. I encourage you to head to your local REI and take a look at the different trekking pole options in addition to the Black Diamond ones. That way you can determine if the way they operate would be compatible with your needs on the trail.
Hopefully this helps, best of luck and many happy trails to you and your hiking buddy!