Trail Issues - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 3 Old 10-21-2011, 07:26 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: May 2011
Location: Umatilla, Florida
Posts: 61
• Horses: 1
Trail Issues

Alright, I haven't posted much on here, but I think it's time I start. And let me apologize for how long this post is almost garunteed to be, I tend to be a bit wordy (; So let me start out by giving some background on my horse and me. I'm 17, I've been riding since I was 5 or so, with a break for three years due to money problems. In March, a friend I volunteer with at my old barn offered me her horse as a gift because she claimed to be too old and in need of an easier horse. I tried him out for a week, and fell in love with him. He's about 16.1 hands, which I had to get past because I was terrified of big horses but I've now come to love. He was found in a field and had been there for no one knows how long, was later used as a barrel horse, then bought by my friend. For a horse that barely got ridden, he's fantastic. Mind you he has some little problems, such as holding his head far too high and not liking being caught, but we've been working through those and progressing nicely. He always takes care of me, I feel very safe on him when we're in the arena.

But not when we're on the trail. He's a different horse on the trail. He pulls at the bit, tries to take off, and gets anxious. I try not to get nervous, because he always feeds off my energy. My friend's trainer suggested a harsher bit, as he's in a snaffle, but I refuse changing his bit as he works well in it elsewhere and I don't think a new bit is the answer. He used to be like this even riding around the property he was kept on outside of the ring, but with lots of practicing in the fields, he's gotten better and now we can ride bareback all over. We've ridden through the neighborhood quite a lot and on trails, but he hasn't calmed down much at all. We've gone with his horse friends as well as alone, but it hasn't changed anything.

I do consider myself lucky, because with a bit of force I can manage to keep him at a walk, but it's a speedy walk. It's nearly impossible to stop him on the trails, though he will respond, eventually. Like I said, he has improved greatly in our time together, but this is one thing I feel hasn't improved at all. He was good on the trail once, and stayed at a calm walk, head down. I'm not sure if this is a good sign, or he was just very tired from our ride (we were riding him from a friend's house down the road). But the next time, it was back to square one. For an 18 year old horse, he has more energy than I've ever seen!

So I guess my question is, where do I go from here? Do I keep taking him out on the trails and working through things with him? What do I do with him out on the trails? I do trust him, and I don't typically get nervous on him, so I'm willing to keep trying.

Thank you to anyone crazy enough to read this giant post! You deserve some sort of award! (;

So, what do you guys think?
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post #2 of 3 Old 10-21-2011, 10:58 PM
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Arizona
Posts: 5,377
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I would just say mileage, mileage and more mileage.

I have a 17 yr old mare that bounces off the walls too. But this summer I rode the heck out of her, and she's gotten wayyyy better. She will actually walk home on a loose rein now! But I've been riding her for 4-5 hours at a time, three days a week.

This winter I expect her to revert to some extent when the weather gets bad and I can't ride her for a week or two, but I am crossing my fingers all the mileage and "bonding" we did this summer will carry over into winter. But she will always be an energetic horse.

I don't know if I would worry about the fast walk coming home. I would just let him walk as fast as he wants without breaking into a faster gait. I think holding them back makes them more nervous than just letting them walk. The walk will probably slow down more with a more relaxed horse and more mileage. But from my own experience and from watching friends ride, I really think trying to control the speed of the walk only makes the horse more nervous. As long as they don't go faster than a walk, I generally let them walk out. It's better than riding the brakes.

Also, if you have any hills to ride or want to ride at faster gaits or whatever, try to burn off some energy doing things like that on your way out. Burn off some excess energy before turning for home. That doesn't always work, but if you keep with it, it will. I try to burn off excess energy on my terms and on the way out, then ask the horse to relax and walk nicely coming home. He sounds like a good horse that just needs some more trail experience.
trailhorserider is offline  
post #3 of 3 Old 10-21-2011, 11:41 PM
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: OK
Posts: 10,645
• Horses: 12
When I'm training horses out on the trail I like to go with a group whenever possible because that frequently helps the trainee to keep his head. For horses who are a little hard to control speedwise, I like to play "Conveyor Belt". I ride to the front of the line and just let them stay for 30 secs or a minute, however long they can hadle without pulling on my arms or speeding up. The minute they speed up, I peel off and go to the rear of the line and they aren't allowed to pass anyone. Then the next horse peels off and comes to the rear and so on, untill the trainee is back in front and we keep on doing this until they get to the front one time and can stay there without 'revving' their engine. Some get it on 1 ride, others it can take months.

Hours and hours in the saddle and lots of wet saddle blankets is the cure for most nervous trail horses.

Almost forgot the bit thing. If you find he's pulling and pulling on you with the snaffle bit, you might consider adding a mechanical hackamore for when he gets strong. That way you don't have to be hard on his mouth and toughen it up. Just use the hack when he gets fast, and when he gives you can go to the bit. It takes a bit of practice, riding with 2 sets of reins but it works pretty well for me.

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