Your opinion on Trail and Pony riding operations - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 19 Old 11-04-2012, 05:10 PM Thread Starter
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Your opinion on Trail and Pony riding operations

Just out of curiousity, what are your opinion on them? What kinds have you experienced? I'm talking about the stables that take you out on a string of dead-heads on the trails for an hour or so, and I'm also talking about pony riding operations that use ponies to walk in the metal circles like a carnival ride.

I experienced two of them for the first time this week, which is what made me wonder. Being an avid rider and very into knowing what I can about tack, nutrition, hooves, etc- I suppose I was probably much more critical than your average person, so I want to compare. For the sake of the place though, I will not add where I went. They did not, in my opinion, neglect their animals, persay.

They had probably about 16 horses in a 2 acre pen that was divided for ponies and horses, and the horses that we would be riding (six of them) had been hitched up and were ready for us. They were all rather scrawny- not skinny really, but definitely MAJORLY lacking in the muscle department and they all could of used a good 25-40 pounds IMO. I could see ribs on one or two. I was relieved to see that some of them were wearing O ring snaffles but that feeling dissapated when I realized that the wranglers had threaded the animal's reins under the breastcollar through the snaffle and up to their hands to make a lever action/martingale type bit. Seemed a bit harsh.

I was given a little red dun mare named Blondie who appeared to be wearing a tomb thumb, unfortunately. I mounted up though and we headed out. They had told me to direct rein her, but she was being very sluggish and was gaping her mouth at the tiniest cue (I can't blame her. I hate TT bits with a passion) so I decided to see if she knew how to neck rein. She immediately dropped her head and relaxed, and although she was obviously rusty at neck reining, she had been taught to do it at one point and by the end of the ride she was neck reining like a pro. The wrangler was shocked . Apparently she wasn't a huge fan of other horses being up her butt though, and half way through the ride another wrangler came up behind her and she tried to double barrel his horse in the chest. Luckily I've dealt with that before so before she had so much as started to lift her rear I had her spinning in a circle and she was left wondering how she was suddenly facing the other direction XD I found it rather unprofessional though, that they hadn't told me (or the rider behind me) that she kicked, or put me in the back. I was right up front. As soon as I had corrected her the wrangler just looked at me, said 'wow, good thing we put someone that knew how to ride on her! (they didnt know I could ride before this) and proceeded to tell me of the many times that she had almost tossed a kid or had nailed another horse...

The heeling wrangler was rather full of himself too. He had a young horse in a TT bit and was constantly cantering around us and exciting Blondie. He was rather unprofessional IMO, spinning his animal around and playing cowboy the entire time.

Once we got back I dismounted, handed over my reins, and patted Blondie. She wasn't quite the deadhead that I expected to be on a trail ride for beginners, but she had tried hard and once I corrected her she was a perfect lady the rest of the trip.

By then it was time for them to put up the ponies that were doing pony rides in one of those little metal circles and I offered to help because they were short handed. They let me help them, suprisingly. I went over to the little guys and found that even though the ponies (there were 3 of them) hadnt been giving rides in quite a while, they were still walking in circles all by themselves! The wrangler told me that they just did that all day 'for fun' and to just grab one by the halter and they'd all stop. They did. I unhooked one, untacked him (poor guy had a saddle far too big for him on) and took him to his pen. They obviously didnt switch the directions that the ponies usually walked much though, because I found that his left side had a lot of muscle while the other was weak, so he was walking rather sideways when I led him back. I turned him out and went to get another- same thing. When I brought that one back, the first one was in its little pen by the round bale, plodding in circles while half asleep by himself. He went around and around and around until he finally just laid down. I found that rather odd and more than a little sad... poor little guy didn't even realize that he was off of the wheel I guess.

I realize none of this was abuse whatsoever, but it did get me to wondering about other stables like this and how they're run. I suppose its better than starving in a field, but I felt more than a little sympathy for them!

What about you guys? Did you have a better experience? I hope so, because I swear that I wanted to just grab all of those ponies and the wranglers horse up and take them home with me. I dont think Sour would be impressed though XD in her world, she's the queen. Anything less than that is unacceptable.

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post #2 of 19 Old 11-04-2012, 05:26 PM
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I worked for a private riding stable. The horses were not kept saddled and rides were by reservation only. Each horse would go out a maximum of three rides per day, and if it was too hot out, we wouldn't take any rides at all. We took care to find what bit worked best for each horse, and made sure each saddle fit properly.

It was definitely one of a kind.
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post #3 of 19 Old 11-04-2012, 05:29 PM
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I have 2 close acquaintances who have trail ride operations. They don't spoil their horses, but they do take good care of them (shots, teeth, feet, etc..)
However, they won't keep a horse on the line if it goes lame regularly, acts up in the way you just mentioned, or is a hard keeper. Both have problems getting good help also. Wrangling doesn't pay that much, and it's hard work.
The horses do tend get used to the pattern and develop hard mouths from people always yanking on them.
Mona came from a dude string, and she was really heavy on the bit and dead in the sides when I got her. It took us a couple years to lighten her up and soften her eye. She still doesn't totally trust people.

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post #4 of 19 Old 11-04-2012, 05:44 PM
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I've only been on one. The horses were healthy, and were tacked up just prior to our scheduled start time. They knew the trails and only had questions at the branches - was it a 1, 2 or 3 hour trip. The guide said they had a pony who had been working there 20 years. If you turned him loose, he would walk the 1 hour trail and be back within 2 minutes of 60.

I can't say it was very exciting, but the scenery was OK, the people friendly and the horses...well, healthy and they knew what was expected of them.

"Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing...well, ignore it mostly."
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post #5 of 19 Old 11-04-2012, 05:56 PM
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The pony carousels are fine because the kids are not in control - they are not kicking and yanking at the ponies trying to get them to "go." The ponies are just walking all day, which is normal and even healthy for them.

Ride-by-the-hour places are a different story – I really believe that no one should be allowed to ride a horse without some sort of lesson first. If you go white water rafting or rock climbing or whatever, you get instructions first and even then they watch you closely. Horseback riding shouldn't be any different.

Trail barns should register their customers and have them complete at least one full lesson before they can go out on the trails. I bet they would get more return customers that way, and it might even be better for their insurance too.
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post #6 of 19 Old 11-04-2012, 06:10 PM
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The local trail riding place around here is great. They ask about each individuals riding experience tell you a load of stuff before hopping on (they make us walk around the arena that you start the ride in to make sure you know what to do and youre ok witht he mount) and they make sure you and the horse is safe and comfy (helmets, checks girth few times, stretches the horses, etc). The trails they have are very easy to ride, two hill atleast, Ive been there multiple times and they make sure the horses are doing ok before letting them have another group go. Its a christian based facility and they also run a summer camp. I know the lady that used to be in charge of the horses personally and I really cant explain on how happy I am with how they kept them.
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post #7 of 19 Old 11-04-2012, 06:45 PM
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I make it a priority to ride at rental stables when I travel for work. I've never had a bad experience. Sure some of the horses wouldn't be chosen for their show quality conformation, but they have always been in good condition.

I've also never ridden a "dead head" at a rental barn. They have always responded to basic cues for basic gaits. 30 years or so, a pretty good sampling.

I strongly believe rental stables are an important part of the horse industry. It is where many, many people get first introduced to the joy of riding or driving. Some go on to become future horse owners supporting merchandise development and health research, just by buying basic equipment and health care. Even those who don't become horse owners may be more sympathetic to legislative issues (trail access/multiple use, anyone?) as the result of a good experience they had on a trail ride.

I also learn about the region's ag issues, horsemen issues, equine health issues, etc.
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post #8 of 19 Old 11-04-2012, 06:55 PM
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I've never been to a place like that, I can't imagine a reason why I would. If I wanted a way for an inexperienced rider to ride, it certainly wouldn't be in an environment where they are put on a horse and expected to control it alone, even if they are just walking in a line.
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post #9 of 19 Old 11-04-2012, 07:17 PM
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I've been to 2 different trail riding places, one here in England and the other in Greece whilst i was on holiday.

The one in England was great and i've been there twice. There are all sorts of rides that you can do, novice hacking for an hour, mixed ability 2 hours, experienced 2 hours, paddock rides for young children, pub rides, all day rides, sunset rides etc...
They have over 30 horses of different abilities and a stallion which they breed from. The owner is a stunt rider and is lovely and there are many leaders for the hacks, workers at the barn who help out an they also take apprentices from our closest college which has horse care courses. The horses go out a few times a day and when i've been there none of them played up, they were well behaved and sensible for the novices but could pick it up for the more experienced rider and really let there personality show through. All of them had nice bits and all the tack was clean and well looked after, they were unsaddled after every ride and were all well cared for and had great feet and appeared in great health. They really did a good job matching everyone to your horse and told you loads about them and their little quirks. Its a great place.

On the the other hand, the one in Greece was not a great experience for me. Me and my younger sister went for a hour ride on the beach, we were so excited! Got to the place found all the horses tied up in boiling hot weather with no water, we just thought ok the owner hadn't done the water yet. We went out on the ride, due to the language differences he couldn't tell us much about the horses etc... Got to the beach all fine and dandy, till we stat to trot, then canter, my horse flips out and gallops off with me on the beach, throwing her head around everywhere, and would not stop. I felt awful i was pulling hard on the reins and nothing could make her stop, she was tripping from rocks on the beach and it was awful, i'd never galloped before either. I was shaken and a bit nervous after and we just continued the ride at a walk till we got back to the place. When we got there all the man said after we'd paid was that he forgot to put on her martingale and thats why she flipped out? Personally i won't go anywhere like that again, i'm sure not all places are like this but it wasn't a great experience. The horses were thin and he looked uncomfortable in the heat, he had fly sprayed them but not much and they were clearly uncomfortable with the flies, when we got on both horses were flipping out at the flies.

So yeah, heres my experiences with trail riding places. Sorry its a bit of an essay and sorry for an spelling mistakes this iPad is annoying to type on!

Last edited by SamBadger; 11-04-2012 at 07:20 PM.
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post #10 of 19 Old 11-04-2012, 07:30 PM
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Well, where I ride, we do trails
But our horse's aren't dead-heads! Nope, you pretty much get a lesson on a trail!
They're trail and lesson horses, but they have some fire to them! hahaha

We also do pony parties, but we trailer there and lead them around ourselves

I've been to one that OP described, and I didn't enjoy it. I just felt sorry for my mount. He had no life left, he would just keep walking, and walking, and walking. Poor pony.
He was in great health, all of them were. Just no spunk left.

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