I really want to get into endurance with my 18 yo Arab mare. I know she's on the older side, but she loves trails and is sound, so I figure I'll condition carefully and see what she can handle. I have no delusions of being competitive, I just want something fun to do that my horse enjoys.
With that said, I was hoping I could get some general advice on developing calmness and control on the trail. My sister and I got to haul out with a friend yesterday and we had a HORRIBLE time. Our horses were jiggy and my mare, who is usually nice and sensitive, became extremely hard-mouthed and stubborn. I know I didn't handle it very well--we ended up getting lost and that resulted in a lot of stress--but now I'm wondering how I can work with my horse to get her more soft and focused.
I know this is a pretty broad topic, but I was hoping I could get some ideas from you experienced riders.
I'm also wondering how to teach her to rate her speed. I'm trying to be more aware of my body position and what that communicates to her, but sometimes it seems like she just goes faster and slower for no reason. I want to get to the point where we trot down the trail relaxed on a loose rein without me having to constantly adjust her speed.
Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks. :)
I always find it helpful to lunge a little bit first, to reinforce the transition to work. How far and long did you ride?
Most horses figure out the rate thing after they get really tired a few times, but to get there, you have to do the time. I have never had an Arabian get sullen about going the distance.
On the jiggy thing, I just do circles until I get a walk, then just let the reins loose and walk on. If they start to jig, circle until you get the walk, the loosen the reins, and walk. If it is a certain direction, like back to the barn or trailer, I will do the same, but either go past it, and insist on obedience coming back again, or WORK at the trailer/barn even harder, so it is not the REST that they expected.
You have to have TIME to teach this, you cannot rush it, or have a deadline, so start early in the day.
We went about 6 miles in 2 hours. I think part of the problem was that she had t been out in about a week, and we were in a new place and all...there were a lot of variables.
What size circles do you do? As wide as you can, or tight spins?
Thanks for the idea about lunging! She was pretty distracted when we unloaded, so lunging a bit probably would have helped. I'll have to try that next time.
Thank you so much for your advice! :)
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About a ten to fifteen foot circle works with lots of change of direction.
Ok. What should I do if we're on a thin trail without room to circle? One rein stop/flex?
I don't mean to be a pest but what should I do on thin trails? Just about all the trails I ride on are too small to do any circles. I have bigger trails at home but she is usually fine at home. :/
Does she do lateral movements? When George is having a spook/spazz day, I do a lot of leg yeilds and shoulder-ins and other things that make him have to work much harder.. so eventually he decides just going down the trail is a better idea.
If the trail is that narrow (or she would be falling off the edge doing lateral work), I would get off and work her in hand. Back her up. Walk forward, trot in hand, back up.. anything to get her focused on ME and not whatever has her in such a big hurry.
Ok, I'll definitely try those ideas. She sort of does lateral movements, not perfectly though. Usually when she's keyed up and jiggy, she gets really reactive to leg pressure, so she'll just go faster if I put a little leg on one side.
I did notice that walking her in hand helped a bit, so I'll try those ideas too. Thanks so much!
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Last weekend's trips to the arena paid off big time because from the moment Lia stepped off the trailer, I could tell it was going to be a good day. Lia was really, really good, and I didn't have to try any circles or anything. If she keeps up being so good, all we really need to work on is going slower down hills, and collecting up more readily. I like my horse again. :)
Work and time...that's the key. If trails are narrow, I back my horse down them. He's gotten quite good at it too ;). Makes him very soft.
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