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Bayern 07-02-2013 05:58 PM

This is about SAFETY not a how to!
Long but serious...please share as my goal is to keep one rider from beining enjured this weekend...maybe you can too!

Unfortunately it has come to my attention that a lot of riders and or horses are not prepared to safely trail ride. This year I have ridden several times with some different folks who, although experienced horsemen, have had serious accidents. One horse went over a steep embankment (survived with minor injuries), rider bailed just in time but buddy sour horse tried to follow his buddy down. One rider’s horse tripped while galloping in uneven terrain, and two riders injured while trying to cross water, one is still in intensive care. Additionally, I’ve been around several other incidents that could have spelled disaster but luckily no one got hurt.

Although these are the ultimately the “riders/owners” fault, I asked myself are there any common denominators that are causing these problems. Remember that these are experienced horse people who have had these problems. On the other hand, my wife how has been riding for less than a year and her horse who was not an experienced trail horse, accompany me our weekly trail riding trips and she has never had a problem and she and her horse actually show off a little bit and she has become confident in her herself and her horse to travel across even the roughest terrain, and we have a lot in NM.

Common Denominator = horses were not prepared for trail riding in rugged or new terrain.

What caused this and how my wife and I got over/through/around these mistakes.

1st mistake = Owner/rider not educated/knowledgeable:
Horse owner does not have enough knowledge about what it takes to safely ride on new/ rugged trails.
My solution; I educated myself using a lot of info on this site like, . Knowledge for a horse comes from training… learning that he can to it and that it’s ok. *Note: most people on this forum are knowledgeable or trying to gain knowledge. It is the people who aren’t on this board that need this info before they ride out on the open prairie or mountains!

2nd mistake = Owner thinks he has knowledge or thinks any good horse can trail ride:
Owner doesn’t train horse specifically for trail riding and assumes since the horse is great in the areana, can ride around the local trails, cross the same log and creek a couple times a month his horse is ready.
My solution; the more I learned the more I sought to learn….try to learn by knowledge and other people’s experience.

3rd mistake = Owner has knowledge but not enough and/or lacks experience AND thinks any good horse can trail ride:
Owner and horse get in over their head….go from basics to advanced without incremental steps or owner has info but has not passed knowledge/experience on to horse. For example horse crosses blue tarp in arena and doesn’t flinch when green tarp is waved in front of him. Horse freaks out over blowing bag on trail and won’t cross narrow brook in meadow. What does it take to make a good trail horse…TRAILS and lots of them. Start slow and go longer and harder as you and your horse gain experience.
My solution; Boarded my horse at ARA ( where horse and rider were trained by experienced trainer who specialized in extreme trail riding. Used this info to train my wife’s horse.

4th mistake = Horse not in shape or ridden enough.
My solution: We ride horses at least 3 times a week on trails/by roads even though we have plenty of trails, and in town. Ride each horse at least once a week by himself. What does it take to get a horse in shape...miles and lots of them!

At some point you have to learn by your own experiences...start slow and keep challenging yourself and horse ever so slightly.

For safety’s sake, before you go on any extended/serious trail rides please ensure that you and your horse are ready!

What a horse must be able to do to safely trail ride (safe for himself, his rider, other horses and riders):
· Have a solid foundation in the basics, how to go forward calmly at the walk, trot and canter, how to stop, back up, turn on the forehand and the haunches; and leg yield
· Load unload in trailer with little encouragement
· Tie out to trailer and on trail
· Handle normal issues at trailhead, cars, other horses spooking, bikes, hikers, ect.
· Ride out / back safely with little encouragement (He must be able to safely ride back alone)
· Be able to ride in a mannerly way with unfamiliar horses even when they are acting up or nervous
· Cross normal obstacles with relative ease (water, bridges, inclines, logs, animals, bikes, 4 wheelers, hikers, ect)
· Ride on roads and in traffic if needed (sometimes the road is the quickest way home)
· Rider must know how horse reacts when/if spooked. At worst should spook in place…if he bolts leave him at home.
· Be in good shape for the distance covered.

What a true trail horse (fearless trail horse) should due to be safe in all situations (at least one horse in the group should be able to do all of these tasks at a high level).
· Obedience, does what he istold and horse listens to rider and ignores anything new or scary
· Load unload in any trailer
· Tie out quietly for extended periods of time both at the trailer and on trail
· Be in great shape and should be able to cover more ground than what is called for
· Remain calm when all hell breaks loose (Looks to rider to get him out safely)
· Cross all possible obstacles even if new (narrow bridges, confined spaces, fast or deep water, aggressive animals, unusual noises, load dirt bikes )
· Willingly ride out / back alone without his buds (He must be able to safely ride back alone)
· Ride with unfamiliar horses even when they are severely acting up or nervous
· Ride as trail lead or drag, go where other horses won’t
· Ride in towns, parades, on or along roads without spooking
· Know what he’s doing and should like it…He’s going on a trail ride and he should know what to expect.

Remember every ride is a training ride so if you see and obstacle on the trail or around the barn take advantage of it….you might need to cross it for real later.

Happy Trails….and please be safe!

PaintHorseMares 07-02-2013 07:30 PM

Let me add...if you have an experienced trail horse, TRUST your horse. I ride a lot off trail and I know if our lead mare stops, it is because there is something unsafe ahead. She's kept me out of more half buried old cattle barb wire fences than I can count.
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Bayern 07-03-2013 09:38 AM


The more experience your horse has the more you can TRUST his judgment…and you should trust his judgment.

On one occasion my horse was following the lead horse when all of a sudden he stopped in the middle of the trail and refused to go forward….as I began to apply pressure a bear jumped up and ran across the trail and into the forest. Lead horse jumped around… rocky just watched and started moving forward again like nothing had happened. On another occasion after visiting his favorite watering hole Rocky refused to go forward…even after applying pressure. This was on an easy trail that we frequently ride on. Since this area has both Bears and Mountain Lions…I realized he sensed something and we turned around and rode on some other trails heading in the opposite direction. Next time I rode there he acted like nothing had happened. Obviously something was there that he found very threatening. I trusted his judgment and avoided a possible incident. Oddly, my sons horse who was on his second ride in the mountains and was still green and skittish never flinched...because he didn’t have enough experience to even realize the threat of danger!

by the way, my horse is a can see him at:

PaintHorseMares 07-03-2013 11:10 AM

^^^^ very nice looking guy
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jaydee 07-03-2013 12:10 PM

Very good post
I think there is too much of a 'well we only trail ride' attitude amongst people
Cheries post that you quoted laid out really well how important it is to train a trail horse - its no less important than training a horse in any competitive sport because you are at a lot more risk the moment you venture out of that arena or any other enclosed area.
We were watching Mark Rashid at a clinic last year when he openly berated the owner of a horse because she thought it was OK to drag it out of a field once a week and ride it all day long on a trail ride then wonder why it didn't ever want to be caught.

jamesqf 07-03-2013 02:15 PM

I dunno... To me it seems as though there's quite a bit of "can't get there from here" in that list. Sure, a perfect trail horse should be all of those things, but how do you get there without taking the horse out on trails to get experience? Some things you can arrange, or simulate, but how do you desensitize a horse to bears, mountain lions, low-flying military aircraft (all of which we've encountered in the last year), or other unpredictable stuff in a controlled environment?

Take trailering for instance. When I first started riding Ellie, a bit over a year ago, she did NOT want to get into the trailer. Had to have her on a lunge line running through the tie bracket inside the first few times. Gradually she got better, 'til now I almost think I could just say "Ellie, get in the trailer", and she would. But if I had waited until she was at that point before trailering out, she never would have learned that riding is fun, and I would have missed a lot of rides, and opportunities for training (both of us) on other trail stuff.

And how do I train her to load in any trailer, when we only have the one?

gunslinger 07-03-2013 02:16 PM


Originally Posted by jaydee (Post 2959826)
We were watching Mark Rashid at a clinic last year when he openly berated the owner of a horse because she thought it was OK to drag it out of a field once a week and ride it all day long on a trail ride then wonder why it didn't ever want to be caught.

Mark was very disrespectful then IMO.

Some people don't have a silver spoon to feed them and the only time they have to ride is on the weekend....because they work....have other responsibilities that requires their time.

I only ride on the weekends, except for when I'm on vacation. My horses are always ready to go, load in the trailer without issue and go all day in the mountains, and then do it again on Sunday. They've been out 20 weekends this year.

My horse is "just a trail horse", because that's all I want her to be.

Is my horse perfect? No, but neither am I.

You get out of it what you put into it. I wish I had time to ride everyday but I don't. In the mean time, I make do with what time I've got and often don't do things I need to do in order to do what I love, and that's ride my horse on trails in the mountains with my wife and friends.

jamesqf 07-03-2013 08:16 PM


Originally Posted by gunslinger (Post 2960626)
Some people don't have a silver spoon to feed them and the only time they have to ride is on the weekend....because they work....have other responsibilities that requires their time.

That's true. I can only ride on the weekends myself. But I think you may have missed a few word . It was "...ride it all day long on a trail ride". Now I know that if I had to sit around 6 days a week, and do a day-long hike (with a heavy pack) on the weekend, it'd make me pretty sore. Why should a horse be different?

And since I can't keep the horse in shape for an all-day ride, I don't go on all-day rides, just 3-4 hours, and watch to see how she's handling things. Seems to have worked, as she seems eager to go.

goneriding 07-03-2013 10:27 PM

A factor to consider is how much "true" turn out your horses have. It does help their overall condition if they have access to larger acreage to run etc.

gunslinger 07-03-2013 10:31 PM


Originally Posted by jamesqf (Post 2963258)
I don't go on all-day rides, just 3-4 hours, and watch to see how she's handling things. Seems to have worked, as she seems eager to go.

Not sure what the definition of all day it dawn till dusk? working mans 8 hours? Midnight to midnight?

We usually get up at 5:30....feed, clean up and do chores till 8 or so and spend an hour or two trailering to the trail head where we tack up.....sometimes we wait on others who are running behind schedule.

We usually make a full day out of our rides, average about 15 miles with about 4 hours moving time and 6 to seven hours total time, sometimes longer. We stop for an hour or so for lunch, stop to let the horses pulse down, adjust tack, etc.

Same for the return trip so it's a very full day us.

How a professional stays in business berating people is beyond me. I don't think my customers would tolerate it. I certainly can't make a living doing it and don't think I'd pay someone to do it to me.

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