Basic training for trail horses
I'm sending my trail horse to a trainer since I just don't have time to polish up her training. So I was wondering, what maneuvers and basic training do you think is essential for a trail horse?
My horse doesn't really spook much and will cross creeks, step over logs, etc. really well. I just want to know what all to expect a trainer to teach her to be a good trail horse - things like backing up, stopping more consistently, standing still for mounting, etc.
I'm trying to find a good trainer and I want to make sure the trainer and I have the same or similar goals for my girl.
I think knowing how to sidepass is a good thing for a trail horse to know. I also like trail horses to know how to turn on their haunches and how to do a turn on the forehand. Crossing bridges and running water is something I like them to be very familiar with too.
I like trail horses to have excellent manners, be very responsive to leg and seat aids and in general be good riding horses.
Agree with Gidji. Sidepassing is a must. IMHO, so is neck reining but lots of people don't agree. Trail horses should be willing to cross any kind of bridge, regardless of whether it is a wooden one or concrete. If a horse has never crossed a concrete bridge before, it will freak most of them out because it vibrates and echoes differently than other bridges. I would expect any horse to stand for mounting and dismounting, ground tie, and solid tie calmly with no fighting. They need to be good with having their feet and legs handled in case you have to untangle them from something or pick their feet. Make sure that they are okay with the rider leaning off the side, down on their neck, and back on their butt. I believe that a good trail horse should also be comfortable with riding double just in case a friend has to hitch a ride in an emergency. Ropes, hats, plastic, loud noises, flashing lights, vehicles, atv's (motorcycle and 4-wheeler), even gunshots should be addressed in training. They should be able to go in any direction (back, forward, left, right, and diagonal) at any speed you want and you should be able to control their forequarter and hindquarter separately.
i think smrobs gave a very good answer. you just never know what you're going to run into out on the trail. a horse that will stop when the legs are entangled in vines or wire will make you real happy if that ever happens to you. i also think neck reining is important. stand quietly tied at all times is a big deal and standing still to mount and dismount is a must.
crossing bridges, noise, flapping stuff, flashing stuff, all important. never know when a turkey or deer will jump from under your horses nose.
happy trails to you.
Great info above. Two other very important things in my book are to stop if the rider comes off and to line tie.
Not much to add to whats been said above.
I wouldn't worry to much about neck reining at the trainers. A few trail rides and the horse will learn it on the job. As you head down a trail, the horse can see the trail, and basically he knows where he needs to go. But you keep signalling him with neck rein queues. He will figure it out. I've never had to conciously teach a horse to neck rein. Just be an active rider while riding the trail and the horses will pick up your slightest queue.
I hate a horse that won't stand still, If I spot an elk or deer and want to glass it with some binos, I don't want my horse fidgiting around. I want him to STAND STILL.
I can't tell you how many times, I've pulled a rain coat or jacket off my strings and put it on while still in the saddle. I also take the jackets off and tie them back on the strings from the saddle. Make sure you can pull out a coat, shake out the folds and put it on with out the horses worrying.
I don't like a horse banging my knees into trees. It takes a while for them to learn how wide a berth they need to maintain when they go past trees. Probably not something your trainer will teach, But you need to teach. Also they need to learn to look up and see branches that would brush or knock me off the saddle. That is more difficult to teach. I've got a 15 year old gleding I like to ride. I can head up the canyon in pitch darkness and know he will skirt wide enough that I won't get slapped in the face with a branch in the dark. My younger horses all cut the corners trying to save steps, and I get the surprise of banging a knee or scratches on my cheeks. Now if I could just teach him to spot the spider webs!
My horses need to Hobble and Highline. I aways carry hobbles on trail rides. When I stop for lunch, hobble and let the horses graze. Overnight camps require highlines. The horses need to be comfortable being tied all night. They need to be able to eat all kinds of feed. At the truck I feed baled hay, at lunch they get to graze on grass, and if we packed in ( especially during late fall and winter when there is no graze) they get pellets/cubes that I have packed for them.
Spook in place, My horses will run into something along a trail that they have never seen. Something will jump out of the bushes and surprise them, I don't want to get slapped in the face with branches for the next hundred yards trying to get a spooked horse under control. Grouse, Pheasant, Turkeys all flush and fly off from under foot. Deer and moose jump up out of their beds, and bounce off. We ride past cattle on grazing permits, and it always seems the calf will be on the other side from the cow and they will sprint in front of us trying to get back. Add to the wild life, Hikers that don't talk with funny shaped back packs, mountain bikers, ATVs with loud engines, Dogs, strange animals like Llamas or camels. Even the surpise noise of lightning clap or a microburst of wind knocking over a nearby tree. They can spook, thats OK, but we are not going to allow them to spook and run.
Horses need to stand while you mount. No moving off until I'm in the saddle and signal my intent. I've been hurt too many times in the back country. And somes times it just hard to climb into the saddle with a broken arm, wrist, bundled up with heavy winter cloths, if you are a small person on a tall horse etc. If the horses is moving while you are trying to get on, It can be very hard and dangerous. They need to stand, no matter how hard I struggle to climb up.
In addition to all of the above excellent points, in my part of the world, a trail horse should be able to allow the rider to open and close a gate (turn on the forehand) pony another horse and be ponied, ride in front or in back or the group, move away from the group willingly when asked, back off the trail and stand quietly and allow another horse or horses to pass.
I much prefer a trail horse that lengthens and shortens stride when asked so you can match the pace of others in the ride without breaking gait, but that's not an absolute necessity.
I agree about the ponying suggestion above. I once was on a trail ride on a seasoned old horse, b/c my horse was on stall rest, and one of the girls decided she wanted to show off. To make a long story short, she fell off, passed out, and we had to tie her onto her saddle and I had to pony her back to the house. Good thing both the horses were used to it.
One thing to add. The horse should know not to rush downhill. It should also be comfortable with loose footing, rocky footing, and mud. It should also not panic going into deeper water and cramped spaces. I have gone on CTRs before where we had to deal with all of that. My 4 year old dealt with it better than my mom's 10 year old. There was a water crossing where my mom's horse actually got stuck in a hole you couldn't see. The water was up her saddle, adn the horse freaked for a few minutes. Half halts are a must. That was actually how I trained my horse to go downhill nicely. It should also not freak when other horses panic, act up, or run off. There have been times that easily could have caused me a bad accident. Instead we were able to help catch the runaways and calm teh ones that were freaking.
I think almost everything else has been covered. :)
P.S. I love Paintedhorse's points. It's no fun when yu have to get off, put on a ponche, and then try to get back on without ripping the flimsy little thing. I would rather just pull it out, use my horses neck as a table to unfold it, and put it on. We got judged on that at CTRs sometimes, and my horse loved it because he got a break and a nice pat for being good.
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