This is how we train a fearless trail horse! - Page 27 - The Horse Forum
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post #261 of 299 Old 10-09-2013, 12:16 PM
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: TN
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I have a question!

I can't ride my horse yet, but I like to spend time leading him around the farm so we can practice follow the leader. He goes where and does what I say. I'm better leading him and keeping his attention than I am when I ride my lesson horse, in retrospect. I will remember this.

So, is it ok for me to stop sometimes and look around with him? We just stand for a few minutes and he looks around and I look around, and sometimes I point to stuff and he looks; and sometimes his ears prick to something and I look. I'm usually touching him while we are stopped, and I feel our connection is still maintained. When we are on the move, I still jiggle his lead if his attention wanders away from me.

Does our little stop and look breaks confuse him somehow? Reading through this made me wonder if it did. I don't want to confuse him by, I guess for lack of a better word, "asking" him to look around, when I usually "tell" him to be a good boy and do what I say. Does it confuse him as far as my leadership to stop and sightsee?

Sorry if this sounds dumb. I just feel like I am learning the balance of being my horse's leader. I know with dogs it is ok to stop during a walk and have them sit and look around with you, just as long as they don't try and go after something. But horses aren't dogs!
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post #262 of 299 Old 10-09-2013, 01:13 PM
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I found that around and looking made my mare more fearful. But each horse is different. Some horses can stop and look for a second and then walk on. If I let my mare so and look she is much more anxious and no longer focuses on me. She is now completely focused on the object which I do not like. You will just have to get to know your horse better to see what works for them.
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post #263 of 299 Old 10-15-2013, 11:42 AM
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I've been thinking a lot about this post, and how it fits with what I do with my horse. I just took her on her first trail ride this past weekend, so we are still in the training phase. She was AWESOME 90% of the time - she's very much a boss mare, and was happy and calm being in the front. Very careful of her feet - I had her on the buckle and she would occasionally hesitate and put her head down, but it was just to check her footing and she always moved right on. I didn't consider this "looking at things" and was glad she was being so careful - ground was very wet and we were on steep terrain. Same thing with water/bridge crossings - she'd slow down and drop her head to watch her footing, but never set back or balked. The one time she did act up, we were cantering directly at a bunch of round bales, and she got real squirrely, so I brought her down to a trot and pushed her past them. Forcing her past them at a canter could have ended badly, and I had young riders following. I think the most important thing is to recognize the difference between your horse being smart and being scared - which means you have to know your horse. I LIKE that my mare is cautious with her footing and don't mind her slowing down for that reason, but if she's being stupid about something like hay bales, she's going to get a heel to the side. And remember that sometimes slowing down can be MORE forward... when my horse got nervous, she was moving more sideways than forward at the canter, but when I took her down to a trot, I could push her forward again. Cherie mentioned that her horses are trained to stay between your legs and your hands - if your horse gets so worked up that they are escaping your aids, you need to slow down and get them back under control. Forward is more about the horse moving away from your legs and into your hands than the speed you are moving. I really like the advice about keeping your mind "way ahead of your horse" - that helps a TON, with both trail riding and jumping. Remember that your horses can feel which way your head is turned/tilted, and if you're constantly looking around or down at the ground for spook material, they will be too!
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post #264 of 299 Old 10-18-2013, 01:29 AM
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Location: Northern Nevada
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Originally Posted by MaximasMommy View Post
So, is it ok for me to stop sometimes and look around with him?
That was one of the questions I wanted to ask. I mean, I am not likely to ever be out rounding up cattle, trying to win a competitive trail ride, or anything like that. I'm just out for a nice day, and that includes a lot of stopping and looking at stuff (just as it does when I'm out hiking or biking). So am I going to be teaching the new horse bad habits by doing this?

Second question is about the advice, back in point #3 & #5 of the first post, about riding past scary stuff. What if the scary stuff isn't stationary? I was incredibly lucky to start riding with a horse that didn't really spook at anything, even stuff that spooked me, like dirt bikes, deer, bears, and (once) a mountain lion, or military transport aircraft flying at treetop level. How can I teach the new horse to deal with scary boogers that come at you?
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post #265 of 299 Old 10-18-2013, 03:17 AM
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Sometimes you want to stop...maybe you want to take a photo, or stop to watch a doe and fawn...whatever. You horse needs to be able to stand still as well as go forward. And if we are just standing still I would expect the horse to be looking also.

If you ever find yourself in a fair fight, it's because your tactics suck. ~ Marine 1SGT J. Reifinger
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post #266 of 299 Old 10-18-2013, 10:36 AM
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Horses differ, so there aren't any 100% rules. If Mia notices something 'scary', what works best with her is to stop for 5 seconds so she knows that I've seen it too. Then I expect her to move on. If need be, I'll bump her head a few inches to one side to remind her that I've seen it and do not care.

If I just ignore it, then she assumes I didn't see it and that I don't know it is there. And if I'm 'unaware', then she thinks it is up to her to save us both. In her defense, stops sometimes allow me to see that she noticed a dog that is 1/3 mile away, or a bicyclist.

But some of this depends on how scary something is to the horse. Mildly concerning? Ride on without stopping. Definitely scary? 5 seconds look and then move on.

REALLY SCARY OBJECTS are different. I can forget any advice about 'pushing her forward'. She can darn near canter backwards, and will. Several months ago, it was a woman walking down the road, twirling a pink parasol. Mia snorted, then shoved it in reverse and we flew backwards for about 200 yards. It was a big achievement just to keep her from spinning, but she came to a stop about 200 yards back still. In a situation like that, you can smack her repeatedly with a heavy leather strap to no avail. Been there, done that, gone backwards while whipping her rump.

Notice the leather strap around the horn:

When the horse is sufficiently afraid, or at least when Mia is, you do NOT push her forward. Period.

But I can keep her facing the threat until the threat moves away. With parasol woman, when she came within 30 yards of us, she FINALLY heard me shouting to my diarrhea-squirting horse, "It's just a F'n umbrella!" So she shut the parasol, and Mia stopped bouncing back and forth, stared, blew hard, glared at the woman...and walked on past her with a light squeeze of the calves.

Had it been an immobile really scary thing, then my best bet would have been to back up until Mia was only 'concerned' and not 'terrified', get Mia's attention on me (looking at me), then dismount and lead her slowly from the ground. [Note: do NOT try to dismount from a scared horse who isn't paying attention to you...I did that in Jan 2009 and my back still gets sore at times from the injury that followed.] If it was scary enough, walking somewhere closer to it might be as much as I would get. In the end, her 900 lbs and 4 legs trump my 175 & 2.

That is where knowing your horse helps, and why I advocate walking them around with a lead rope for new riders. When a horse is rolling its eyes and squirting diarrhea, it isn't in the 'learn mode'. If you push that far, you have either pushed too far, or been surprised by something like a pink parasol. Pick your fights. If you fight and lose, you've gone a bunch of training steps backwards. If you have warning and know your horse, you can push their envelope of confidence without breaking it. Push them to stretch their confidence and then declare victory. You can push further later.

That is my experience with a single, very fearful horse. She is vastly calmer now, but something that seems trivial to me can still overwhelm her. At that point, my goals are A) No 'turn & burn' - keep her facing the threat instead of spinning and bolting. And B) keep her stopped, or back up until she can stop, and wait. Most of the really scary objects move. When they move away while I act calm, she figures out that a calm bsms means she can be calm too.
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"Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing...well, ignore it mostly."

Last edited by bsms; 10-18-2013 at 10:39 AM.
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post #267 of 299 Old 10-18-2013, 01:46 PM
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I hope when I add a horse to the family, I can find a trainer of trail horses as amazing as you, Cherie!
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post #268 of 299 Old 10-23-2013, 07:43 PM
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It's a good post, but a few more specifics.

You say that not being obedient is not an option. I could not agree more... if you read my last post about "barn sour" you will see the situation I was in. I have to admit, I was getting a bit angry about the whole thing at the time and shouldn't have been bringing emotion into it, but in that situation, HOW on earth do I get her moving forward??
If I hit her with my whip, she would just bounce around on the spot or spin more!
Getting off seemed like letting her win, but she was so wound up by that time, she was insane. She also started backing into some dangerous areas, so in the end I did have to get off for both of our safety, and ended up leading her out.

If disobedience is not an option, can you tell me what you would have done to get her out of it?
Oh, I have a strong, driving seat, a good leg and I tried the one rein circling, etc. It all only seemed to get her more worked up. I also tried just letting her stand for a few seconds quietly and trying go.

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post #269 of 299 Old 10-24-2013, 11:11 PM
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Trail Horse

Thank You Cherie! You made my day! Straight up common sense. Be a strong leader to build a horse's confidence. I love it!
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post #270 of 299 Old 11-08-2013, 03:05 PM
Join Date: Nov 2013
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Horse rears on trail


I have a TB gelding (rescue). He is a great guy but from what I have been able to learn about him( was ridden by kids and returned to the barn minus the kids). We took him out on a trail ride and he did fine the first few times.
My spouse( his horse) rode him. The third time we went out- he got nervous
and wanted to go back to the barn- when my spouse would not allow this=the horse went up- I suspect my spouse was giving conflicting aids-
Anyway- he has learned this works for him. I have been riding in the pasture with him- he is ok for a while then he seems to decide it is time to quit- he bucked a bit and started to go up but I settled him down- insisted he keep going forward and he was ok but he always seems to get upset when asked to trot or canter. Any suggestions?
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spooking , trail horse

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