This is how we train a fearless trail horse! - Page 19 - The Horse Forum
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post #181 of 299 Old 10-07-2012, 12:54 PM
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She is not behaving bad, she is just being a horse that is afraid from something she is not sure of because she doesn't feel you as a strong and trustworthy leader who will be able to protect her. The same with the trotting - it is believable that she is just afraid, and, when a horse, as a prey animal, is afraid - it tries escaping danger in the most effective way possible. By running away from it.

Without knowing anything more about your horse (her and your training level, methods you use, her history, her health, her age, your riding environment, etc.) I will refrain from any specific suggestions, though.

I have come a long way, to surrender my shadow to the shadow of my horse.
/James Wright/
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post #182 of 299 Old 10-07-2012, 03:54 PM
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Thank you for the post Cherie! Knowing what to do now just made my confidence better. I know this is off topic but Phar Lap has never spooked on a trail yet but he is barn sour sometimes. He walks really fast and then all of a sudden he will spin and if I try to turn him back he will crow hop and rear. At first he got his way because I got rattled and lost my confidence and I would just let him go back. It was a huge mistake! Now using suggestions from comments on here has built us both back up and he listens to me now and totally trusts me when I want him to do something.

When he stops on a trail I know there is something seriously wrong now too. We were riding a couple months ago and he just stopped so I looked around. He had a vine that was underneath him with thorns on it. I got off and had to literally pick his feet up and adjust him so he could walk out and not get hurt. I had to trust that he wouldn't bolt and he trusted me to help him while I got off and had to let go of the reins with nothing to tie him to. Our bond is definitely stronger than I could have ever imagined.
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post #183 of 299 Old 10-07-2012, 06:01 PM
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I found what follows interesting. It made me re-think "communication" dynamics. My old buckskin had a particular place on a particular trail that he was intensely against going through. It is only about 20-30 feet long. It has a lot of growth on either side, a lot of rocks, and a small arroyo in the center. Nothing remarkable, however, it is the type of place one commonly finds rattlers - in fact, if I were wanting to find one, I would look there first thing. My mare never had a problem w traversing this tiny stretch of that particular trail, ever. The two had never been ridden together on any trail. My mare was pastured w my buckskin for a good while. The first, and every subsequent time (a total of 3 times), that I took her through it after she returned from being pastured w him...she snorted and blew, got extremely spooky, and had to be urged through it. She is not a spooky mare. She can get "excited", upon seeing other horses on the trail for example, but she is not spooky. To date, she has never spooked at a rattler on the trail buzzing away, the buckskin absolutely did.

This made me think. Perhaps, while she was w the buckskin in pasture he spooked at areas that had a similar "pattern" as this little stretch in question. While he probably knew what the "danger" was (i.e., rattlers), she just knew he was afraid of it - and he was a sharp cookie that knew his way around, so she "took his word for it". It was a very large pasture w trees, streams, hills, etc., - the "patterns" available are/were endless.

So, anyway. I thought I would post my "possible explanation" for this odd observation as just something to consider when musing over "what it is" that spooks certain horses on the trail.

There is just as much horse sense as ever, but the horses have most of it.

Last edited by Missy May; 10-07-2012 at 06:05 PM.
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post #184 of 299 Old 10-07-2012, 07:03 PM
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I spent 3 days reading this entire thread. THANK YOU ALL for your input, sharing your experiences etc. Everything has been taken in with a grain of salt, and, once fully processed, will be indispensable help!
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post #185 of 299 Old 10-24-2012, 01:25 PM
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Hi Cherie(and everyone else!) I am having an issue, that after reading what seems like every thread in the training forum and finding nothing useful, I found yours!! I recently aquired a 16 yo Mustang mare..The guy that I got her from had only had her a couple months and told me that she was crazy, he couldnt even catch her, nevermind doing anything else with her..and on top of all of that , that she was bred:(.(I do not believe this mare has anything special to contribute by breeding her, except someone trying to make a quick buck) BUT I is my problem..I have had her 2 those 2 weeks I have had no issues catching he, leading her, I can touch her everywhere on her Im thinking this guy had no idea what he was talking about and was just afraid OR she does not like men..she likes my bf but acts very upset around any other man.. I am told that she is not trained under saddle so Ive been taking it kinda slow, building a little trust between us and decided yesterday that it was time to try a saddle.. She was somewhat nervous when I put the pad on, side stepping a bit and shaking a lil, but I blamed that on her being 16 and never having that experience..then I went to put the saddle on her, thats when she broke down..I have been training for 18 years and have NEVER had a horse react like this..she started shaking so bad that Iknow her muscles have to still hurt today..she was completely terrified..not just nervous because of something new but I think she truly thought that me or the saddle were going to start beating her to death at any moment..Any advice on how to teach her to not be so afraid? She loves to eat of course, so I put the saddle over the stall wall and saddle pad caddy cornered, with her feeder in between and kept putting a lil grain and it took her almost 15 minutes to eat a handful because she was too afraid to go near her feeder..this from a mare who will finish 1/4 coffee can in less than a minute:( I left the saddle in her stall all night ( I know this goes against your , not letting a horse get used to objects this way) but I didnt and still dont know what to do next other that hobbling and cross tying her and just slinging the saddle up there and getting it tied on as fast as possible..She also has a decent sized scar that goes across her eye and all the way down the side of her head(seems to have been a pretty bad wound at one time) but with her being BLM that could have happened durin round up just as easily as her actually having been beaten..
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post #186 of 299 Old 10-25-2012, 09:19 PM
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Just keep doing what you are doing. Desensitize here to the saddles presence first. Once she relaxes with it sitting near by start picking it up and bringing it to her one step at a time. Give her time to adjust to it being near her. Once she'll stand quietly while you stand next to her with the saddle, start touching her with it. Slowly work to the point you can put the saddle on her without a panic attack. Do the same getting her to where you can cinch her up lightly. Lead her around until she's comfortable with the saddle on her back then start slowly working her with a saddle on. Once she's comfortable doing that it's time to work on mounting, again, slowly.

Basically, treat her like a 3 yr old that is just being introduced to the whole riding thing for the first time.
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post #187 of 299 Old 10-29-2012, 08:12 PM
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That is what I am doing, to me she is a halter broke 3 year old that has other wise been untouched. Not sure if this is going to help in the long term...but she is completely oblivious of the saddle by her feed pan now. That alone took 3 days..I have also cut her grain back to just a handful once a day, down from a half a can a day. Shes not working enought to need it and its not cold enough yet for her to need it.. SHe is just scared of everything, I dug my the winter blankets out yesterday and measured her for one..cant wait to see how putting a blanket on her goes.. hope I survive :)
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post #188 of 299 Old 11-01-2012, 11:56 PM
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I love what John Lyons says, "Your horse will be as focused as you are." If we are focused on the scary thing, then our horses will be, too. If we are focused on getting and keeping the horse's attention; focused on getting him yielding to pressure and being obedient, then our horses will be focused on us and on what we're asking (some goofy horses take longer to convince :) ) Great description. Thank you!

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post #189 of 299 Old 11-02-2012, 01:02 PM
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Originally Posted by ridergirl23 View Post
Thanks for the great post! I have seen way to many riders who are more spooky than their horses are!!
IT makes interesting reading and some of what you say makes absolute sense. The problem that we have in England is that our horses have to have 'road sense'. We have to ride them in traffic sometimes with double decker buses and large lorries passing within a few feet of them. If we get in trouble, we can't ride them through it as there is nowhere to go so we have to do 'de-sensitisation'. Although I know what you are saying about spooky horses, de-sensitising DOES work too but it really depends on what you are using the horse for. Wish we had 'trail rides' and didn't need to do any road work at all, ever! You guys are so lucky to have all that open space.
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post #190 of 299 Old 11-02-2012, 01:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Cherie View Post
It seems that every time I come to this site, there are 2 or 3 or even more questions about training a trail horse to go anywhere and everywhere the rider points its head. Since this is what we do for a living, I thought I would try to explain what it takes and how to go about it.

We have trained nothing but trail horses since we got too old and are in too poor health to train cow horses and reining horses any more. We always rode our cow horses out and they were perfect trail horses and we sold the horses that would not make competitive cow horses as trail horses for many years - about 35 or 49 years anyway. Now, that is all we can do.

It does not take age. We have had MANY 2 year olds that would go anywhere you pointed their heads. I have sold 3 year olds to novice riders that are still perfect trail horses 10 years later. [I got 2 e-mails just last week from people that bought horses 3-5 years ago and keep me up on their adventures. Both of those horses were 3 year olds. ]

'Almost' any horse will make a good trail horse. Some super paranoid, exceptionally spooky horses will always need a confident rider, but I have not had a problem making a good trail horse out of anything. I have made good trail horses out of many spoiled horses, but that takes a lot more skill and riding ability than what many people have. Obviously, the nicer the prospect and the better the attitude, the easier it is to make a nice horse for any purpose. We raise our own prospects for their trainability, good minds and easy going nature. We think novice riders should have that kind of horse because they are 'user friendly' and 'low maintenance'. Those are inherited characteristics.

Horses with 'big motors' like TBs and race-bred QHs and high strung horses also require more rider skill, but they cover a lot of ground and are really more suitable to those wanting to do endurance and long hard rides. If you wanted a vehicle to go fishing and hunting in and drive into the back-country, you would not buy a Corvette or a Ferrari would you? Those 'hot' horses make really fast mounted shooting horses and the ones with speed make barrel horses and other timed event horses. They just require a rider with greater skill.

Here are the best tips and 'rules' I have for making a good trail horse:

1) Obedience is NEVER optional. A good trail horse is nothing more than a horse that does everything 'right away' that a rider asks. Absolute and quick obedience -- 100% compliance without an argument should be the goal.

2) Your job (as the rider) is not to let your horse look at everything new and decide it is OK. That is your job. You should NOT show him that there is nothing to be afraid of. Your job as an 'effective' rider is to teach him that he needs to trust YOU and ONLY YOU -- not his natural instincts. It is your job to teach him to pay attention to his job (doing whatever you ask) and not his surroundings. Your goal should be to teach him to ignore anything he 'perceives' as fearful.

3) I NEVER let a horse look at things, examine things, go up to new things, 'sniff'' things or any of that. If you do any of these, you are teaching to stop and look or sniff everything instead of go on down the trail. The habit I want to reinforce is to go past or through anything without stopping to look at it. If I tell him it is OK, I want him to accept that without questioning me. You can't have it both ways. He either has to become the leader and figure out everything for himself in his time-frame (for some horses that is never) or he has to let you be the leader. I am convinced that I am smarter and know what I am doing and I know where I want to go and I don't really need or want his opinion at all.

If you let a horse look at things, then you are teaching him to be afraid of everything that is new and telling him that things should be looked at instead of ignored. You are not telling him that it is OK to go right past it. I want a horse to ignore everything but me. You have to remember that whatever you let or ask him to do (like checking things out) is what you are teaching him to do. Do you want a horse that is afraid of everything and stops at every new thing he encounters or do you want a horse that goes everywhere you point his head without questioning you? Remember, you just can't have it both ways.

4) When a horse starts to hesitate and starts to show fear, 'ride hard and fast'. Go faster, cover more ground, ride off of the trail and in the roughest footing you can find. All of these things get his attention back to his 'job' and back to you and off of whatever he thought was a big wooly booger.

5) Never ride straight toward something that you can go around. If a horse is afraid of a big tree stump, do not ride him straight toward it. [You are just setting his up to stop and back up. Remember, you are trying to make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult and setting him up to stop and back up is not doing that.] Ride past it several times while taking his attention away from the stump and keeping it on you. I like to use 'leg yielding' exercises. I will ride past an object with his head bent away from the object and my leg pushing his shoulders and ribs toward the object. I watch his ear that is away from the object. I know I have his attention and respect for my leg when that ear stays 'cocked' back toward me. I will go past the object, switch my dominant rein to the one nearest the object, will reverse directions TOWARD the object (I never let him turn his tail to anything he fears) and I will leg yield back past it again using my other leg to push him (bend him) toward it. I will go back and forth again and again until he walks right on by without looking at it or veering away from it -- just goes straight on by like it isn't there.

We help a lot of riders get past their fears on the trail. When you have an apprehensive rider that is possibly more fearful than the horse, you cannot expect that person to project a confident 'git-er-done' bold demeanor to the horse. So, the rider has to learn how to ride past their fears, focus on a place way past where they are and ride with determination to that place. You want to concentrate on getting to a place that is far beyond the object that the horse is trying to focus on. If the rider is looking at a 'booger', you can bet that the horse is going to be looking at it, too. Many people 'spook' worse than their horse. They are looking for scary objects down the trail before their horse is. If that is part of a rider's problem, they need to learn to ride far ahead of where they actually are.

We do not spend a lot of time trying to desensitize a horse. A lot of people find this strange. Let me tell you why we put so little faith in this exercise in futility (and why I never post on those threads). You will never be able to duplicate everything that can scare a horse. Even if you did, they would encounter this obstacle in a different place on the trail and it would be different to them anyway. You train a horse to listen to you and you train a horse to ignore anything new or scary. You train a horse to go forward when you ask -- no matter what is in front of them (one of the reasons I keep harping on 'good forward impulsion' ) and you train a horse to depend solely on you. You make all of the decisions and they are happy to comply. The more you take the leadership role, the less they think and worry. That is how you make a good trail horse.
I would love to invite you to rainy old England and teach us your methods. They sound brilliant!
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