I also like to go off trail as much as I can; helps keep the horse focused, and pay attention to his feet, like has been mentioned.
I also like to, when the ground is decent, put them into a good working trot, and just let them trot on a loose rein for as long as the trail allows (they are NOT allowed to pull more rein out.); Letting them move out on a loose rein helps reinforce 'cruise control', and also helps keep them focused on moving foward than on everything around them. If they fuss, or want to go faster than I am wanting, I will look for a good place to do some tight circles, eights, and serpentines, and really put his feet to work for a few minutes, then release him and move on again...usually he is more than happy to move foward at a nice rate after having to work hard on smaller more 'concentrated' circles.
I think the best way to get a horse to be a good trail horse is just to do it; yes, there are alot of things you can get him used to while at home, but there are just so many things on the trail that you only encounter there...so you just gotta get out there, and ride the horse through it. Do your homework; make sure your horse has a good stop, turns, backing, etc, so if you find yourself in a bind, you can get out of it, but otherwise, just just go out and ride the horse...
"The ideal horseman has the courage of a lion, the patience of a saint, and the hands of a woman..."
Last edited by mom2pride; 04-28-2011 at 12:45 AM.