How to prepare my horse for her first trail ride?
I have a mare who will be three this December and I have wanted to take her trail riding in the mountains next spring/summer.
To start off, she's not a complete stranger to the outdoors, as she was born and raised 'till 9 months on an open range of approx. 600 acres, but it was a desert-ish area with few trees and tons of sagebrush. And I've taken her on small rides alongside fields and stuff.
What should I do to prepare her for a mountain trail? I live in Idaho so there's a lot of forest area and a lot of desert area, which would be best to start with? What should I look for in a good beginning trail?
She rides calmly around most things but occasionally gets spooked by new things.
Also, she is currently barefoot. Should I have her shod before trail riding, or would it be best to leave her barefoot? She has somewhat soft hooves that get chipped somewhat easily when walked on rocks.
Obviously I wouldn't be going overnight or anything, but what would be the best length to start her at? Any ideas of trails in my area I could use?
She needs to know "whoa", "go", and "backup" really well.
For my part she should be a little familiar with neck reining. I have bought horses that don't know how to neckrein but they learned in hurry weaving thru the trees:shock:
If she's a spooky horse do a little groundwork and desensitizing at home.
The very best way for her to learn is to go with a senior horse that is trail savvy and calm. That's the best possible teacher.
It would be great if you could round up a handful of folks that are seasoned riders on seasoned trail horses. Sticking her in a large crowd might be too overwhelming for her to absorb the things she needs to absorb --- like how not to panic over the stupid stuff or anything for that matter:D
A good friend was up in the Allegheny National Forest last weekend and came upon a big fat Timber Rattler. She couldn't see the head or tail to tell which direction it was pointing:shock:
Her horse stood perfectly calm for the few seconds it took her to see the snake move so she knew which direction to heel her horse and get the h**l out of there. We are both in our 60's and too old be digging our heels into our horses but my point is, her horse is well seasoned and stayed quiet until she said "get out now"! Panicking could have easily got the horse bit and possibly her if he'd thrown her:shock:
What Walkinthewalk said. Lots and lots of wet blanket miles following an experienced trail horse is what she needs.
I allways lead new horses on the trail. If you have another old timer pony her, if not You can get the same training, not to mention some exercise by just taking her on long walks off your property. Hook up a lead line and go for a walk, walk, jog, stop jog, walk, make her stay at your 4 oclock. Vary your pace, let her know she's on the trails but still needs to pay attention. Make the trails fun.
Even on ride days I tend to start the same way if I have a green or spooky horse. I ride LD (25 mile ride/races) In the SE these have turned into speed races. I prefer to NOT be in the saddle at the start and head off at a jog, My Walker gets a notion in his head every now and then that he is an Anglo arab, and I'm a buck o five little girl.
Some people like lunging but I prefer to move down the trail to get em settled down a bit before mounting.
I've done what Joed does.....the first couple of times I took my mare out I saddled her up and walked her several miles and never got on.
Thanks! This has been a lot of help :-)
But what about the shoes part? She's pretty mellow about picking her feet up and having them clipped, but she's obviously never had nails hammered in.
She sometimes has trouble with stumbling on uneven ground, and I've heard that sometimes having shoes on can make that worse. But on the other hand, they do chip now and then when she walks on rocks.
I forgot to bring her boots a year or so ago and rode the Iron mountain trail on the Tennessee/Georgia line without them. 22 miles that day barefooted and no problems.
I roll the hoof. Not quite as much as a Mustang roll that you see on the internet videos, but still, a roll.
You are going to get mixed answers on the shoe issue. A lot of it probably depends on where you ride. I always use shoes on my horses. We have rocks and they injure their hooves without them. To me, putting boots on is a pain and not worth the trouble. I don't want to be worn out before I start the ride.
My horse is barefoot and I do have Easy Boot Gloves if I need them. They have saved some rides!
As for getting them used to trails start slow and easy. Lots of wet saddle blankets and easy going so that she gets trained the right way and not the crazy way. Biscuit had been on miles and miles of trails all over the place when I got him but he was also underfed and a nose to tail horse that pretty much ignored the rider who generally was not a horse person. His former owner used him as the loan out horse. Biscuit became a way different horse when he had fuel in the tank! It took a LONG time to unteach the nose to tail BS and to get him to listen to ME so you want to teach her the correct way from the get go.
If you have trails close by that you can go on with one or two seasoned riders that will help out! A friend of mine always ponies his youngsters sometimes fully tacked up. good luck and let us know how it is going!
Oh yeah...I would start out with the easiest trails you can find but some that do have little hills to go up and down, maybe a few downed trees to step over, a little creek to cross. Those are all good training tools...zig zag up and down the hills to teach them to go slowly or at the pace you choose instead of barreling up or down a hill! Biscuit HATES mud so anytime I can walk him through mud I try to as he gets better about it each time but you would swear mud was going to eat him!
I would say try to go on trails anywhere from 4 to 10 miles.
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