Need help with trail riding?
My mare hates it when I try to get her to go on a trail ride. She gets really nervous and freaks out. I tried to get her to just take a walk down the road the other day and she did ok for a little while... But she winnied for the other horses and I couldn't get her to go any further, not even leading her. She just gets soooo nervous!
She jumps at everything but I have done a lot of desensatizing with her and she is great as long as we're in an arena or on the farm. She stays calm around almost everything until we try to leave the farm. I love trail riding and it's so frustrating to not be able to.
Sounds like she doesn't trust you and she is also in control. A horse that has submitted to you will lead anywhere and not call out to buddies when they are scared. That is VERY dangerous. I wouldn't ride her on a trail again until you have control or an accident will happen.
Do you have access to a round pen? I would get her in the round pen and work with getting you in control. In the round pen, no form of tack needs to be on your mare. You need to stand in the middle with a lariat or lead rope coiled, and probably a whip. Get her to run in circles around you. And DO NOT let her change directions on her own. When you want her to change directions start moving towards the fence and hold the whip, your arm, maybe even use your voice. Just be careful, some horses like to kick when they turn around, so stay a good distance back. Try googleing John Lyons and look at how he works horses in the round pen to get a good visual. It's all about showing them you are in charge, and they need to look at you for what to do.
The three signs you will see to know she is submitting to you, is first, her inside ear will NEVER leave you. She is paying attention to you now. The second sign, she will start licking her lips, chewing motion with her mouth. Here, on a horse that has submitted before, is usually far enough. But for total submission, which is your goal for your horse, she will lower her head, almost to the ground. Now, in more domesticated horses, the signs are sometimes more subtle. But after you do that with her, try leading her around. You will see an improvement.
And a thing people don't understand, just because you do that once, doesn't mean you will be the leader forever. A new day is a new day. The horse will always test you, they are funny like that. So you will have to do that more than once. In the wild, the alpha mare gets tested ALL the time.
(sorry i wrote so much! =] )
I'd work on your trust. Instead of just telling her it's okay, show her it's okay and explore the "scary" thing with her. It might also help if she had a buddy go with. Is there another super solid horse you can pony her off of? Or have a friend with a solid horse who won't get worked up who can go with you? The more horses and people around to show her it really is okay on the trail will help get her mind wrapped around it.
I agree with the previous posters. Also, try hand walking her through a trail, on some quiet roads and around things she seems scared of.
My first thoughts were to get her out on the trail with some experienced horses and I'm still working on someone to go with. She seems to trust me with everything else... just not trails. She allows me to touch every part of her, follows me without a lead rope, I am the only one who can lead her into a trailer (she gets scared and will rear with other people), she will go over all kinds of obstacles with me in the arena.
I don't know maybe she doesn't trust me enough?
We do a lot of riding that takes us through suburban areas as well as on/off trails and spend a lot of time with the young ones getting them used to this environment. In suburbia, there are hundreds of horse monsters lurking everywhere. Just some thoughts from my experiences...
- Although round pen/at the farm desensitizing doesn't hurt, it will never replace miles and miles of on the trail practice and experience. Don't expect your mare to be ralaxed on the trail just because you've desensitized at the barn.
- Horses hate 'change'. When you start out, take the exact same route every time until she starts to relax. After that, slowly expand/change the route, but continue to use the original route. Your goal is to expand her comfort zone and trust, and if you're only able to add a couple hundred feet, that's fine. It will get faster and easier to expand the zone with time.
- As mentioned above, a good seasoned buddy won't eliminate the discomfort completely, but will drastically reduce it. We always start by ponying (or riding) our young ones with our seasoned go-anywhere mare.
- Many will disagree, but IMHO it's OK to get off and lead in hand when you need to... it's less for your horse to think about. Just don't let your horse associate seeing a 'horse monster' with you getting off. Keep her mind busy for a few minutes by turning, circles, just looking, etc and then get off to lead her.
- We always talk of working on getting our horses to trust us. Trust is only gained by hundreds of miles of riding experience....there is no shortcut, and, when riding alone, it takes a very long time for that trust to come even close to the security she gets from her herd. Remember, this is very unnatural for a horse and those 'stay safe' instincts are very strong.
- Always, always end on a good note doing something easy and familiar.
Bottom line...practice, miles, experience, age, time, and patience.
I agree with everything that PaintHorseMares have said, could not have said it better myself!
Thanks, PaintHorseMares. I think your right and I'll definitely work on it. Hopefully I can just find someone to go with. I like going in groups more too because it's more fun than riding alone all the time.
And for when you are riding alone always be aware of your mare's body language...
- "I feel uncomfortable"... tensing up, stopping, wanting to turn back or back up. I let our young ones take a minute, give them a rub on the neck, and push them on, circling around if needed to get them focused.
- "I am really scared"...snorting, white eyes, etc. When you're alone, this is a time to be careful as a really scared horse will reach the point of listening to its instincts and not you. Make sure you're relaxed, give the horse a few minutes and see if she relaxes back to the "uncomfortable" stage. If not, it's often best to pick another route or get off and hand lead if possible. Regardless, you want to always project that you are relaxed and see if your horse picks up on that feeling.
- "I just don't want to go there"... Can often seem like the "I'm uncomfortable" since they will want to turn/back up, but they usually don't tense up the same way. Treat this like any other bad behavior while riding using circles, whatever.
...and finally, with enough riding, time, and experience, you can look forward to the day when you will trust and listen to your mare's instincts to keep you safe. When I'm riding our lead mare and she stops for no reason, I know that she sees/smells/hears something 'not right' that I don't. Last weekend, I was riding her off trail through the woods and she stopped. I dismounted, looked around, and found a half broken down, old rusty barbed wire cow fence hidden in the leaves that I didn't see that would have easily caught her up around the knees. Now, that's a good feeling.
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