Trail riding solo
I bought a 6 year old AQH/TB gelding 5 months ago and I am determined to ride him solo on trails. The barn where I keep him is in a county park which require riding along roads and crossing traffic areas to access trails. I have started riding him a little farther out each time, but something always spooks him and I am afraid to go too far out. Are there any tips to quiet him and help desensitize him to all of the "scary things" he will encounter along the way? I am a cowboy(girl) at heart and I have to be able to get lost in the woods for hours. I am bored with the arena. Thanks!!
Just keep riding him out, getting a little further each time. Be useful to read the sticky on this particular forum about training trail horses. Very informative, great tips for handling spooky behavior.
Indie and I have to ride a few miles of country road (notorious for people flying by as fast as they can, as we are between two highways) to get to our trails, and it does take quite a bit of work to get to the point where you can feel safe riding the entire way. 3 years of riding the same road, and there is still some idiot in a car that will either intentionally try to hit you, honk their horn at you, or spook the horse; you MUST be prepared for that.
As for the horse spooking, put on some tennis shoes and don't be afraid to get down and walk the horse in areas that spook him, give him time to figure it out, and take control as his leader with confidence and it will let him know its okay. Do not however let him train you to get off everytime he spooks... figure out what it is exactly that spooks him (for Indie it's trash bags on the road LOL), and maybe get off ahead of time and walk him past these spooky things... then get on and ride past. This way he does not start figuring that every time he spooks= you get off and thus give him less work. Horses sure are smart about figuring those sorts of things out.
Hopefully you have plenty of shoulder space that this is possible, if not... then I'd suggest finding a different way around. There are very few situations where I will ride directly on the road because there is no space off to the side to comfortably fit the horse and I... again, idiots on the road are intentionally dangerous, or more often just ignorant of riders and our needs.
Keep a cell phone on your person at all times, not in a saddle bag. If the horse runs off and your on the ground... you'll need the help. I'd suggest taking someone out with you for awhile too if at all possible... sometimes having a calm horse buddy will also help reassure a spooky horse until he can be weaned off on his own.
Other than that; just keep doing what you're doing! Go a little farther each time, and keep a strong confident attitude about you and the horse will pick that up and feel more assured that his leader doesn't think anything is scary.
Good luck, and be safe :)
Just to elaborate a bit on what Tian said, you have to be the leader and confident in that role. This means, even if you are scared to death, you have to project calm to your horse. Once you start getting upset your horse will get upset. You also don't want to stare down things that make your horse jumpy. They can see where you are looking and if you stare something down they'll figure it just might be a monster and act that way.
Is there any grass in the "scary" areas? If there is, jump off before getting there(when he's still calm), finish leading him to the scary place then let him graze for a bit. They soak up the sights and sound while doing something comforting which allows them to realize the world really aint a scary place.
you are training your horse to spook, u need to stop. YOU decide when to go back. NEVER let your horse decide. If it is dangerous dont be too proud to get off. But if you decide to do a 6 mile trail today then do the 6 mile trail. Even if you have to drag him.
Practice is the best tool to desensitize them. However if you could ride with someone on very calm horse (at least several times) that helps a lot too with overcoming the obstacles.
Stay calm, shugar. Your horse reads your body language like an open book. If you're nervous, he's triple nervous. Just take a deep breath, sit back, and remind him that you'll protect him, no matter what.
My Morab is as skittish as most Arabians go. He'll spook at everything, but I always make him take another look at what the heck was so scary. It takes time, but it's well worth it. And having access to a park is a super way to desensitize both you and the horse. Show no fear, and your horse will respond.
It wouldn't hurt to carry a compass or an iPhone with Everytrail on it. What a super lil app! I have two rides under my girth and they're a hoot to watch.
You'll do well - just be prepared, and show your boy all the scary stuff.
You have to screw your game face on if you're going to school a horse green to trails.
No ifs, ands, or buts about it.
I keep working with my mare on the one spot that scares her. Today she got down to the bottom of scary spot OK so I made her stand at the bottom of the creek. She fussed and moved and backed and dragged me through the brush. But I kept at it correcting her and did not let her go back uphill to the "safer" spot until she stood for me for as long as I wanted.
Just gotta work the problem without emotion.
sing. or talk. constantly.
so often when people anticipate something bad, they hold their breath, which makes them tense up. that tension goes straight to the horse, who is going to that much more reactive.
if you are singing or talking, you have to be breathing. you may feel like an idiot, but it works. i spent the first 5 miles of a recent ride singing to the very, very anxious mare i was riding. personally i like kids songs as they have simple words and repeat a lot. i suspect the people i was riding with were thoroughly sick of 'row row row your boat' for an hour, but it worked!
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