Advice Needed: How to take a show horse from the rail to the trail - The Horse Forum
  • 1 Post By SorrelHorse
  • 3 Post By Cherie
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post #1 of 5 Old 03-21-2012, 12:40 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Little Elm, Texas
Posts: 115
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Advice Needed: How to take a show horse from the rail to the trail

Admittedly, I haven't had a lot of experience with gaited horses. I've ridden a few and loved the smooth gaits. So when the horse bug bit me this last time, we looked at our finances and decided that we could afford a horse. I bought a 12-year-old Rocky Mountain gelding who had a lot of show experience, excellent training (for the show ring) and high sensitivity to the mood of his handler.

My confidence was shaken a year ago when an old temperamental horse I was leasing attempted to buck me off TWICE. I did not fall. But the experience stayed with me, along with the fear.

My Rocky has no buck in him (as far as I know). I bought this horse without riding him because I totally trusted the place I was buying him from. I still do. The problem is with me, not my horse. I had a wonderful trainer come out to his barn and she was able to ride him without any problems as well as get me up into the saddle and moving around the round pen at a walk only.

Unfortunately, the barn has a rule about outside trainers. They won't let the boarders bring them in. They have a trainer they've hired who specializes in western pleasure, barrel racing, reining, etc. I haven't been given her contact information.

I want to be able to confidently ride this horse. I already adore him. He listens to me well on the ground. He will back up readily, lift his feet, lower his head when asked. He does try to get away from me in the pasture when I first approach, but not every single time. I can usually catch him in ten minutes or so.

From what I've heard from his original trainer, he's not great on trails. I've thought about hand leading him out a few times before getting into the saddle, but my confidence level is only fit for the round pen at this point.

He really is a great horse. I want this to work out.

The first time I tried to ride him, I was alone. I ended up falling off him because he went into his gait while I was fumbling around for my stirrups. He headed straight towards a fence and took a hard left turn, dumping me in the dirt. Equipment was not adjusted properly, and I have a major problem balancing and/or steering. Even in the round pen with the trainer I had a very hard time keeping him from going into the center of the round pen.

Advice, suggestions?

P.S. He's in a plain snaffle.

Last edited by sjwrightauthor; 03-21-2012 at 12:42 AM. Reason: added the bit type
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post #2 of 5 Old 03-21-2012, 01:11 AM
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Ashland, OR
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This sounds a little like a trainwreck waiting to happen. Please don't take offense to that.

First off, even if you trust the people you are buying from, ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS ride the horse before you buy it. He could be everything they say and yet you two could still be a bad fit for each other.

Secondly, I would suggest getting in contact with the trainer at the barn and having her give you a couple lessons to get your confidence up because if this horse is not good on trails and you are underconfident and you say he is very in tune to his riders mood....Well you can see how that would be a problem.

Third, after the first couple lessons, ask the trainer to take him out on a trail ride for you and then report back what she found. Maybe you could walk with her or ask to ride another seasoned trail mount to see whats going to happen. The trail is not a place to get nervous. Hand walking is a good idea but a horse's confidence when being walked vs. ridden is significantly different, and if your confidence is only in the round pen like you said then there is again going to be problems.

It's important you do this in a way that's going to keep both of you calm and happy. I would definitely take action with the things I've stated above. Good luck.
sjwrightauthor likes this.

Pssh.I didn't pick up the wrong lead
It's called a counter canter...
...A very advanced maneuver.
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post #3 of 5 Old 03-21-2012, 08:58 AM
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Oklahoma
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You do not have a horse problem.

Your horse has a people problem - big time.

You need to learn more and do it quickly or I can promise that your nice, well-trained horse will become very spoiled. It will not take long. He needs a leader he has confidence in or he will take over. When he is in charge, he will decide to stay at the barn where he feels safe.

Riding him in the round pen will not work for very long. They tire of that very quickly and he will just go to the gate and refuse to leave it.

We have taken many old show horses and made trail horses out of them. They usually take longer than an untrained horse does. They are used to having perfect footing under their feet and have a difficult time learning to watch their footing. They also are bad about hunting boogers because they have never encountered all of the different things a trail exposes them to. Some would rather die before even crossing water or a big mud-hole.

But, your situation it what it is. You need a bunch of lessons -- first on an old slow horse and when you have the confidence, on your horse.

My test for a beginner horse or a young child's horse is:

'If you dropped the reins, will the horse stop or will he take off?'

Obviously, yours will take off. You are going to have to ride at a higher level than a rank beginner to be confident and safe.

We train trail horses full-time. We work with riders and their horses. We put the green rider on one of our solid old trail horses and one of us rides the new horse and we head for the woods. We teach riders how to effectively interact with the old horse and how to 'read' horse intentions while an experience trainer schools the new horse. Within 2 or 3 rides, we can tell if the horse in question will ever be suitable for the rider trying to learn how to ride him.

If he is not, we suggest selling him BEFORE he gets spoiled and is still worth quite a bit of money.

This is what we do for a living and have for many years. I can tell you that what you are doing is NOT going to work.

I don't know where you live in Texas or if you have a trailer, but you are welcome to contact us if you would like. [We are about 1 hour north of the Red River in southern OK.] We DO NOT train for the public any more, but we do work with people and their horses when time permits.

visit us at
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post #4 of 5 Old 03-21-2012, 09:16 AM
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Oregon
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I'm afraid Cherie is right. A nervous and afraid rider combined with a nervous show horse is a recipe for disaster. Do not take him out to ride on trails until you yourself are confident on trails. You'll be afraid he's going to cause a problem, he'll feel that nervousness from you and start looking for a bear behind every bush. You'll see and feel him looking for that bear and get more nervous which just confirms to him that there is a bear behind every bush. In short order you will have a wreck, next ride it will take even less time before that wreck happens.

You can ride him in his comfort zone which is the arena. I would suggest doing that the first several times with a trainer.

Here's the main issue, your confidence. Until you can nail that down you can turn even the most bomb proof horse in the world into one that jumps at it's own shadow. I've got a family member with the same problem, the better the trail horse the longer it takes but she will eventually turn them into a scared horse.
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post #5 of 5 Old 03-21-2012, 10:18 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Little Elm, Texas
Posts: 115
• Horses: 1
I totally agree that the problem is me, not the horse. More specifically, my level of confidence. I have ridden a lot of horses in the past. I admit that I probably never rode very well. Even though I took sporadic lessons in the past at many barns. I will definitely be contacting the trainer at our barn and setting up lessons with her.

In the meantime, I plan to continue to establish my leadership on the ground. Another great thing about Mission (my gelding) is that he is trained to stand still for mounting and will not move off until asked. I'm thinking that mounting, sitting still, and dismounting several times in a row might calm me before we even take any steps forward.

Thank you for your suggestions so far!
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