Are trail rides "fun" or "work" for your horse? - Page 3 - The Horse Forum
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post #21 of 42 Old 09-06-2009, 09:07 PM
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^ Exactly. Although the majority of riding I do is trails to condition my horse/drop weight/build muscle, so lots of long trots up hills etc. I actually don't do a real lot of actual training... But funnily enough I seem to always do fairly well. I think having a happy, well-adjusted horse who enjoys being ridden is as much a part fo a good performance as training.

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post #22 of 42 Old 09-06-2009, 10:02 PM
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I personally like to think of work as fun for my horses. Self carriage is something to be taught to and embraced by a horse. If it is done correctly, the horse does not need to be held there, but simply guided into what actually feels best for the horse.

I ride in both the arena and the trail. Riding is riding, its either done well, or its not. With horses that I start, they begin to learn how to carry themselves from the beginning. When I bring them on the trail, they maintain what feels best to them, what makes them feel strongest. I allow them to stretch the topline on a loose rein, but if they fall heavy in the front and drop their back, I do encourage them to maintain their posture to the point where it becomes habit and helps them with long term soundness.

I also have a pretty "hard core" dressage friend. Her horse was lame for several months. I knew she wanted to get back in the saddle, so I took her on a trail ride and let her ride my gelding while I rode my 3 yr old. We had a nice ride, she was very impressed by how my horse moved without her assistance. The proper movement increases stability and security in the horses mind as well. She was also impressed by the movement of my foundation QH filly that I was riding. Once her horse was sound, she suddenly wanted to start getting out of the ring a bit.
I brought my gelding to her barn to go with her, as the horse never gets out. Our ride was short and limited on where we would go due to the comfort level of her and her horse, I respected that. She wants to get more confident on the trails on my horses so she can be more comfortable getting her horse more experienced outside of the arena. I have no problem with this, I will be with her the whole time until they are just as comfortable on the trail as in the arena.

Trail riding builds trust and experience, I don't think of it as work, but I don't think of our arena time as work either. I'm pretty sure that my horses view teaching lessons to beginners as work for them, but hey, we all gotta eat, right? Everything that I do with them on their back is intending for them to feel better, whether we are on the trail or in the ring. When a horse finds correct posture and what it does for their body, they look for that feeling with whatever they are doing. If they need my guidance for that, I will give it, wherever we are.
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post #23 of 42 Old 09-06-2009, 10:21 PM
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I don't really think trail riding is "fun" for horses. I mean its more interesting than flat work, and I imagine horses find it better than flat work but I don't think its "fun" for horses. If they had a choice to sit in their paddock and eat grass, or go on a trail ride, I am pretty sure they would not choose the latter. They may appear more enthusiastic about it, and more alert and more forward moving, but I don't think that is fun. They are walking, or going faster, up and down hills on hard dirt with something heavy on their back.

People say horses love to jump, but if you put 10 jumps in the paddock the majority of horses don't go around jumping them. And if you had a huge paddock with trails in the them the horse wouldn't go an explore them all. They would find grass, eat said grass, then go find more grass.

I think too many people mistake alertness, or speed, for eagerness or fun. Remember a horses natural instinct is to run, and to me, if a horse is much faster on the trail it doesn't mean that they are having fun.
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post #24 of 42 Old 09-06-2009, 10:39 PM
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I disagree. Yes horses mostly just eat grass in the pasture, but they also play, run and have fun. You can see the same signs of fun (bright expression in their eye, ready to go but relaxed (as in not tense) ears forward, bounce in their step) as when they play in the pasture
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post #25 of 42 Old 09-06-2009, 10:54 PM
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I usually bring my horse to hack after a few shows to let his mind ease a bit and also to just be a horse. My horse is a very mental ride, and not as in he's a nutter. But the challenge mostly for him is mental riding compared to physical. He's always thinking, so it's good for him when things get changed up. He doesn't mind going by himself, and when he sees that we're at the local park he knows there's nothing going on and relaxes. There's a big field that I'll just work him in with light contact then we'll just walk on the trails for the rest of the time we're there.

I also consider it a break and relaxing for myself as well! Haha.
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post #26 of 42 Old 09-06-2009, 10:55 PM
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The horses in VA really loved to go on trails. Babe, one of the ponies I rode, was usually a beginner pony and had SO much fun running through the trails and not having to be careful. She was so glade to have a rider who knew what they were doing! She and I had so much fun cantering up hills and threw fields and everything. (: I took Rowdy out on trails before shows sometimes to have fun and he'd get so excited and just be like "WOO!" Definately not the lazy guy he is in the ring!

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post #27 of 42 Old 09-06-2009, 11:01 PM
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my horse loves to trail ride and i use it as a reward for a hard week of ring work. i usually let him ride on a loose rein and dont ask for the usual head carriage i would. he gets to stretch his neck out and just enjoy walking with maybe a little trotting and cantering for endurace. the only thing i ask is that he maintain the speed i ask. he has to go the gait i want, when i want. other than that, its our chill time and he loves it!!
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post #28 of 42 Old 09-07-2009, 12:53 AM
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When I trail ride, I usually don't train as much as far as what I would normally do in the arena. It's what I consider "down time", even though we're still going for a ride.

I just go out and have a good ride; will walk, trot, canter, etc, but not extremely concerned about head set, or how collected he is; as long as he is paying attention to me, paying attention to his footing, and not getting over excited, or trying to evade cues, I am not too particular. Now, if he decides to pick a 'fight', say he starts head tossing and prancing, then I might do some circle and serpentine work, and general bending and flexing to get his attention back; but it's only if he 'asks' for it on a trail ride...I will train if I have too, but for the most part, it's a good time for both of us.

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Last edited by mom2pride; 09-07-2009 at 12:59 AM.
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post #29 of 42 Old 09-07-2009, 06:54 AM
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For us, there are different types of trail (or off trail) rides.
First, there is casual group of horses/riders having the typical walk/lope down the trail...just a laid back relaxing day for everyone.
Second, there is the trail ride workout for conditioning, lots of hills and changing gaits.
Finally, the off trail work where we excercise their mind and body, try and build 'trail sense', and mutual trust. For example, I turn off the trail into the woods and want to reach the top of a hill 1/2 mile away. I look at which route the horse picks to get me there, so I can (try and) understand how this horse 'thinks' on the trail and the horse can learn what I want...will it blindly take the direct route through/over anything in the way (banging my knees against trees or dragging me through thickets)? or carefully 'make a trail' around obstacles?, etc. A horse can see, smell, and hear better than I can, and I want a trail horse that I can trust to keep me out of that unseen (to me) ditch or rusty old barbed wire fence in the middle of the woods.
I don't pretend to know what is 'fun' for the horse, but if I gauge it on alertness and willingness, I would say the 'thinking' ride is certainly on top and the laid back, lazy walk down the trail at the bottom (though certainly enjoyable on a hot, 90+ day).

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On the seventh day, he Painted the good ones.
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post #30 of 42 Old 09-07-2009, 11:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Saskia View Post
I don't really think trail riding is "fun" for horses. I mean its more interesting than flat work, and I imagine horses find it better than flat work but I don't think its "fun" for horses. If they had a choice to sit in their paddock and eat grass, or go on a trail ride, I am pretty sure they would not choose the latter. They may appear more enthusiastic about it, and more alert and more forward moving, but I don't think that is fun. They are walking, or going faster, up and down hills on hard dirt with something heavy on their back.
I completely disagree. I have mare that absolutely begs to go out. And when it comes time to head back home (and this she knows), she always tries to head straight instead of turning towards the barn, she could go all day long without a complaint, and then all night too.


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