My horse and I typically school [dressage] in the pasture. It's pretty sandy, kicks up a lot of dust, and is deep in some spots and has a few bumpy spots, but it works. So every once in awhile, we go on a trail ride. When we go out, I throw her western gear on, give her her head, and just walk or run or whatever. We don't work on collection, bend, anything, I just like to let her get out and not have to worry about carrying herself. I think it's important to go out and do something that isn't "work," you know?
Now, I have a friend, and she doesn't trail ride much, because her horse doesn't collect on the trails. She wants her to walk through the trails like she's in a dressage test. We went out together and we went for a trot, and while I just got in two point and let my pony trot, my friend was struggling with her mare to lower her head and collect. She said if she doesn't, her horse's trot gets too rough to sit or post or two-point to. Personally, I thought she should have got in two point and let her go, trail rides are supposed to be fun, right? After all, the not being able to post or two point to her trot is a rider error, and how better to work on it than do it? But it's her horse, so I didn't say anything.
On the way back, I was letting my horse have a run. My friend didn't want to run her horse, and she said it was okay for me to go, so I ran up the trail and back to my friend a few times, it was really no big deal. So eventually, my friend apparently decided to let her horse have a run. And her horse bolted, took off, my friend couldn't stay on and ended up falling off. She's fine, she landed on her feet, she didn't loose her horse, it all really is fine.
But I think her horse bolted like that because she hadn't been allowed to have fun the whole ride, and when she finally got the chance to go, she really went. Granted, there's a lack of training involved, I understand that. "Whoa" should always mean "whoa" no matter what the horse is doing.
Later on, I suggested that my friend work on transitions, LOTS of transitions, and drill in her horse's head that "whoa" means "whoa." I'm not sure if she took me seriously or not, I'm pretty sure she just won't go out on the trails with me anymore, and I hate to admit that it really frustrates me. But that's my issue, I won't do or say anything, it's her horse and it's her decision.
My question to you is, what do you think a trail ride should be for your horse? Do you think your horse should continue down a trail in a frame and carrying itself correctly, or do you think your horse should just get to walk and trot as it would in the wild? I don't let my horse go crazy, she always stops and turns when I ask, so that's not what I'm getting at. So rather, do you think your horse should be allowed to go on a loose rein and relax and have fun? Or is it another "schooling" session like it would be in the arena?
Thanks for reading my novel, and thanks for any replies with your opinions. =]