Advice for getting ready for trails with my new horse :) I'm a little nervous...
Hi everyone! You may have seen my other threads (I've been bugging you all for advice for a week so far :D) but I just bought a 10-year-old paint named Sam who I adore! My major goal is having a safe trail horse because I love being outside and much prefer trails to arena work. I've had him for two weeks now, and I'm not ready to take him out yet, but I'd like to start working toward taking him on the trails at the farm where I board him.
Sammy is supposed to have tons of trail experience. His former owners were a family where each person has a horse and often went on packing trips. When I test-ride him, we went out on a short trail on their property and he was amazing!
A few reasons I'm not quite ready:
1, I'm not solid enough on him yet. I've ridden him in the arena about 5 times and have to keep him at a walk -- he wants to break into a trot -- and when we do trot it's quicker than I'm comfortable with yet. I know I need to make sure I'm totally confident at controlling the walk and trot before taking him out of the arena, but I'm hoping that won't take long.
2, He has gotten nervous a few times in hand. Once a yellow jacket was harassing him (stalked him all across the property) and he wouldn't stand still. He didn't try to bolt away from me, but he was skittering around in circles around me to try to get away from it. Today, there was a deer on the other side of his turnout and he checked it out, snorted and then ran around his pasture a little bit but didn't freak out. After that we was nervous, though. I lunged him in the arena and he listened, but he kept looking at the gate that led to outside and was obviously still bothered. Then I hand-grazed him near where the deer had been, and he was ok but not totally relaxed. A sound came from that area at one point and he skittered a few steps forward before grazing again. I made sure to be extra calm and kept making him behave as I usually do (back when I tell him, respect my space, hold still while I picked something out of his forelock).
Under saddle, he has not spooked, but we haven't seen any scary deer-monsters while I've ridden, either.
The seller said he had never bolted, bucked or reared under saddle and also said when he's on a trail alone he sometimes stops and snorts but doesn't physically react otherwise. While that's comforting and one of the deciding factors for me in buying him, I know that there's a possibility she wasn't truthful and that even if she was, he's in a new place with a new rider, so I want to operate as though I don't know that.
Apart from just riding more and getting comfortable together, do you have any opinions or advice on how I can ensure our first trail ride is a safe one? I'm worried that if something goes wrong and he bolts or spooks badly enough that I fall I'll be afraid to try again for a while, and I'm the type of person where if I'm nervous about something, the longer I avoid it the harder it gets to make myself do it again.
Any exercises I can do, "tests" of our relationship that might indicate when we're ready, tips for problems we might run into, etc? I'd appreciate any help! And don't worry about insulting me with basics ;) I have pretty decent horse experience, but I'm a novice trail rider and a brand new horse owner, so everything helps!
Do you know how to do a one rein stop? If not, do you know someone that can show you?
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I do know how, but I've never used it in a real emergency. Do you recommend practicing it, or does that make the horse think there's something wrong?
You need to practice it over and over so it becomes like an instinct to the horse and second nature for yourself.
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He has been with you for 2 weeks, he may be a little nervous in his new surroundings, some Horses take no time to adjust, some may take a little longer, be patient and Practice till you both are used to each other. If you are nervous he will pick up on it, relax as he will sense that and enjoy your new friend.
Do you have a safe seasoned person you can go with that has a well trained horse? To me it sounds as you are not ready. You need to be comfortable in the ring 1st.
I second churumbeque.
See if someone else from the barn will go out with you. They can show you the trails so you don't get lost and having another horse around could calm yours down.
I agree with SouthernTrailsGA in that he may be a bit nervous of his new surroundings at first. Take as much time as the both of you need to adjust to one another and allow him to settle in to his new surroundings.
One of the things that I like to do is to take the horse for a walk on some of the trails that we will later ride. I've found this to be beneficial when I want to eventually be able to ride the horse solo (without other horses along). I find it gives the horse a chance to check out the new scenery, yet still feel comfortable about my presence being there on the ground. Eventually we just work our way up to longer walks, me in the saddle, etc.
You are doing the right thing by staying in the arena until you can walk, trot AND canter comfortably. If you are not comfortable, HE is not comfortable, and THAT is what causes problems. What if you haven't cantered yet, and he breaks into a canter? You need to know how to do ALL the basics first.
You also need to learn not to panic if something happens. Go through all the steps with an experienced rider on what to do if he spooks, or spins, or gets scared from behind, or goes sideways.
I second the one rein stop, and definitely take someone on a CALM horse with you the first time. If you have never been trail riding before, I would put you on the experienced horse, and get to know thw path, then YOU will be more comfortable out there.
And, if you are nervous walking him around the barn when a wasp comes about, I would NOT hand walk him out on the trails just yet.
Good Luck! He is a pretty boy!
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