This is how we train a fearless trail horse! - Page 7 - The Horse Forum
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post #61 of 299 Old 10-23-2011, 12:38 AM
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Oregon
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They key, as Coyote said, is to watch your horse very closely. You need to distract them (I do this by putting a heel in their side and asking them to move forward) the instant they start showing signs of looking cross eyed at an object. Most the times this distracts them long enough to get past whatever they don't like.

For those times it doesn't work. I hop out of the saddle, lead them back and forth until(generally 4-10 reps) they relax. At that point I jump back in the saddle on the side we originally approached from then ride back and forth a couple of times. Your horse will gain trust in your judgement doing this and soon you'll find yourself no longer having to jump out of the saddle, they'll just go by when you ask them to. I've been told by some posters I'm teaching them bad habits by jumping out of the saddle but in truth, that hasn't happened so I don't know what those people are talking about.
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post #62 of 299 Old 10-24-2011, 03:47 PM
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Very interesting topic !
I do not do trailrides but I show f.e. trail.
Do you have tips what to do when a horse is afraid for the trail bridge or gate? Usualy you have to walk/jog straight up to them...
There are so many different styles of bridges that you can not practice them all before you go to the show
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post #63 of 299 Old 10-24-2011, 09:55 PM Thread Starter
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Yes, we too, have shown in many trail classes. We have shown many Quarter Horses to year-end and various Association High Point awards and have won many 'in hand' high point awards at Foundation Shows. I also showed an Arabian stallion to several Championships and to a US National Top Ten award when Arabian Trail where the shows were pretty much a 'spook' class with many really bazaar obstacles that you could not train for.

The Public Park and campground we now take out commercial trail rides at has a number of narrow bridges that are 5 feet wide and up to 150 feet long going over canyons. It never takes more than a minute or two to get a new horse to go over any of these bridges with no horse going in front of them. We do nearly all of our training with only the one horse present unless a problem is encountered.

We train them all the same, whether they are to be shown, trail ridden in places they have never been or trained for Police work. When we get them 'really broke', we expect them to go everywhere we point their heads.

We get a really solid 'forward on demand' instilled in them. We get them where they stay between the rider's legs and between the reins. This means there is little or no spinning around or dodging sideways until we encounter something really different. It means that the horse has learned to respect the rider's leg when they 'push' against it, a little 'bump' from the leg straightens them right back up. It means they do not 'stall out' or try to 'duck around'.

We start out with approaching little things that we know the horse would rather not pass (not go across or over at first). I know where there are several blackened tree stumps, big rocks, dead fall trees, old metal culverts that have been exposed, signs and billboards, etc.

I try to ride right past them knowing that the horse wants do something between run sideways to bow up and spin around or dance around as far away as possible. The horse usually doesn't, but I can tell he would like to. He is not relaxed or happy about going by. I don't really push one to pass close by at first. I just go past as close as I can without letting him stop. Just as soon as he passes the booger, I turn him back sharply toward it and pass it again only it will be on the other side of him.

I ride him back and forth as many times as it takes for him to drop his head and walk by without making me touch a rein or put a leg into him. It may take 5 minutes and it may take 2 hours. It takes as long as it takes and he gets no relief until he quietly walks right on by. I believe it is this routine that teaches a horse to ignore later boogers. While you cannot directly punish a horse for spooking without having a negative effect on training, you can make one pay a very high price for it. More importantly you can teach a horse that all pressure will be taken off when he trusts you and goes where you point his head.

Many people trail ride and they are so afraid a horse will spook at something that they sort of get past it (if they get past it at all) and the last thing they want to do is to go back and forth and go past it 40 more times. If you want a horse that ignores everything but you, you may have to do this to become the most important influence in his life and to have his complete confidence in your leadership.

I cannot tell you exactly why this works as well as it does to make a horse give up spooking, but I can tell you that just about all of them do.
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post #64 of 299 Old 11-01-2011, 01:41 PM
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Wow. Going back and forth by a scary object actually works, on every horse I've tried it on so far. Last night my horse was looking at the row of signs my mom has in the ditch, and I walked her back and forth by it a dozen times, and by the end, I was weaving her in and out of them without a moment's hesitation.

Cherie, how do you teach a horse to go through water? I mean, how exactly do you teach the horse to go wherever you point its head without question? I'm asking this because I was on our older pony a few days ago, and we came across a little creek. She didn't want to go across but I knew she's crossed water before and so didn't want to let her win. She resisted for a few seconds but eventually went through pretty easy. On my riding horse, she has a history of aversion to water (even though I KNOW she has crossed it when she was being broke), and I know she would put up way bigger of a fight/refusal than the pony. Not rearing or bucking or anything, just stubborn and refuses, and she puts up a long, long argument. I know she shouldn't argue me on anything, but how do I teach her not to?

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post #65 of 299 Old 11-01-2011, 02:36 PM
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I’m currently re-training an ex-harness racer. She is 16 years old and extremely mild-mannered. Not much scares her, but she is extremely interested in everything around her. She likes to look and for now, I let her. If I’m in the round pen and she feels the need to stop and look at something weird, like a leaf or a fence pole, I let her. But the catch is: I count to 30 and then we move on. We move on my terms. If she still needs to look a second time, I make her circle and then we stop for the count of 30. She gets two times to look at anything, and then we move on. Most times, she only needs the first look and then she never looks at the object again. She goes where I want, she does what I ask… but sometimes, her curious nature needs to be indulged. At the point in time, she’s beginning to understand that playtime ends when the halter goes on. If I’m on her back, she’s all business. Even though she’s green as they come, she never puts a foot wrong. She’s definitely one of those rare horses that look out for their rider and once she’s completely sure what I’ve asked of her, she commits it to memory. She’ll make a wonderful trail horse someday, just because she is naturally calm and completely willing to go along with whatever her handler asks.

I guess I fall in between the perspectives. I like to let a horse look, but at the same time, I’m not going to let them look forever. She looks on my terms and goes when I ask. I give her the change to look if she needs to, but she gets 60 seconds TOPS. She will go wherever I point her and she will not fuss about it, but at the same time, she is not a dead head. She has a lot of spunk for an old girl, but enough sense to keep it under wraps while she’s working.
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post #66 of 299 Old 11-01-2011, 09:09 PM
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Cherie, I have a question. How should I handle it when my mare stops dead and refuses to go forward? Last time she did it, I just kept kicking her for a LONG time until she took a few steps, and then I immediately moved her into a faster pace. It made me pretty nervous when she did this, just because she's a really sensitive girl and I hardly ever have to use more than a little leg with her, so full-out kicking her was a bit of a jump. I made sure to grab a handful of mane in case she reared or did something else.

Thanks for any advice! I'm really hoping in time I can transform her into a fearless trail beast!
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post #67 of 299 Old 11-02-2011, 12:48 PM
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Wow. Awesome post, Cherie. Everything you said makes so much sense. You've inspired me to get back on my horses and start riding again. They're not bad, I just lack the motivation. Heh...

Does that same method work with herd-bound horses? Getting them to focus solely on the rider, I mean. My one horse is fine by himself, but my draft horse goes crazy when I take his buddy away. The weird thing is, he never had that problem when we boarded at a stable. I used to take him on the trails alone and he was perfect.

But since we moved home and it's just the two of them (plus a friend's horse, but she should be leaving soon), he's inconsolable when I take Victor away. I'm just wondering if I can get him to listen to me and not worry about the other horse.

"A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is ultimately to be at peace with himself.
What a man can be, he must be.
" Abraham Maslow, 1968
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post #68 of 299 Old 11-02-2011, 01:58 PM
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Hello Cherie,

I have been reading this thread with great interest. My focus is to create a trail horse like you describe. Can you recommend a book(s) or web site that teaches the techniques you use in your training? I'm especially interested in instilling confidence in my horse, as well as myself, as the rider.

Sorry if you have already answered this in a previous thread.

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post #69 of 299 Old 11-07-2011, 04:16 AM
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Thank you for all the fantastic information :)
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post #70 of 299 Old 11-25-2011, 06:40 PM
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A great trail horse is worth it's weight in gold! A good rider is too :) My gelding is generally great about going through, past just about anything so when he does stop and snort, I start looking. He's become our rattlesnake spotter in the last year! Your method does make a lot of sense, Cherie :)
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