Training for trails
OK. Here is the problem. We don't have trails around the property, so I'm riding in neighbor's ring and can ride in small field (just 5 acres) next to it and a little bit next the the hay field. I plan on introducing Jemma (who will be 4 in April) to trails coming Spring. The only way will be to haul her to the park (which is 20 mins from us or so). In all books I read they are talking about "sweet short rides outside the pen". It's certainly not a case for me with no place to ride outside.
So my question was anyone in situation like that? Any advices on how to make the experience less stressful and more safe for us? (I do make her use to plastic bags etc. etc. etc., but these all in ring, unfortunately). Using other older experienced horse may not be a choice (I'll try to ask people from local clubs, but not sure they'll be happy to deal with green horse plus she's not very horse-friendly as I posted in my different post).
Thanks in advance!
Trail riding is one of those things its tough to be prepaired for everything. It seems there is always something that will spook your horse, the best you can do is prepare yourself for anything. It does help to introduce your horse to as many things as you can such as the plastic bags etc. We use 4-wheelers, kids on bikes, balloons, lawnmowers just whatever you can think of that you might run into on the trail. Of course you can't release a covey of quail or make a herd of deer run up behind you but those are the things you have to have yourself prepared for. You may have to enlist the help of a friend/family member to help but its better to do some of these things in an arena to see how your horse will react to them. A friend of mine has built a "land mine" of obsticles at her place and we go over there and play sometimes. She has a wooden bridge, just a wood platform with panels on the sides, tarps with logs holding them down so the horse has to step over the logs and onto the tarp (a tough one), a mailbox you have to lean over to open and close (I've gotten good at getting the mail by horseback), gaits to open a close and several others I can't recall. Just use your imagination and set some obsticles up in your arena.
Sorry this is so long, hope it helps you. :)
Added: Do you have a road you can ride down so she gets used to cars? One that is not used much like a dirt road, not a major highway.
I make her go over the plastic, and I open gate from back - she's fine with it. We have local roads and I did ride along couple times (for 5 mins or so). She doesn't look like she cares much. However last time I rode she bolt at flag on wind (my fault though, I should of look better and as you said be prepared, and I just relaxed too much). My biggest concern is that hauling already kinda stressful thing for young horse, so riding her after that in new environment can put more stress on her..?
Whenever we haul our horses, which we do a lot. I usually try to give them 15-20 min. of do nothing time to help them get their legs back and settle down. Do you have your own trailer or do you have to borrow one? You might try hauling her for practice, just take her someplace a few miles, let her out (or not) then take her home. I do this when I train my new ones to load in the trailer. I always figure the loading is only half the battle, getting them comfortable as can be expected in the trailer is the other half. If she feels safe in the trailer than its not as stressful on her and she won't be such a handful when you get to your destination. The best defence is practice, practice, practice.
I know the feeling of getting too relaxed, I try to keep certain things in the back of my mind like the one rein stop and keeping my feet and legs ready for a sideways bolt. Didn't do me any good when I fell off last month but that was just me being a klutz. :wink:
Yep, I have my own trailer (not huge, but...) You are right it makes sense to drive her to local club and just let her be there for half-hour before going back. Well, will see how it'll go.
P.S. I completely agree that practice is the best tool!
There are a lot of things you can do in the arena to simulate being out on a trail ride. If the flag scared her, find a flag and desensitize her to it in the arena. Or use a tarp as a "flag". Can you flap the tarp next to her without her flinching? Can you wave the tarp above her head without her flinching? Other things that you can use for desensitizing are a bag of cans and hula hoops (with the noise rattlers inside).
A big thing that I do with all my horses is get them used to something around their legs. You can use a lead rope, plastic bag tied to a stick or even a tarp. Whatever you use, your horse should stand still with four feet on the ground...no kicking out or moving away from scary object. I go so far as to pick up my horse's legs with a lead rope and make them hold their leg out (in a relaxed manner) until I put it back down. Think of what normally happens if a horse gets their leg caught in some wire...they thrash and kick trying to get free, which is what worsens the damage. If you have conditioned your horse to give to pressure on all four legs, they will not try to thrash and kick their way free of whatever is tangled around their legs.
All of this work is first done with you on the ground. Eventually you'll do the same kind of things from the saddle.
I love doing desensitizing work with the horses. Use your imagination! (This is coming from a person who took her horse through a marching band - bass drums pounding and tubas blaring - just to see what he would do. Um....I had to stop him from banging on the drum with his nose, he loved that drum!)
Well, my horse is a spaz, so what I did was walk her with some of my friends horses around some fields and on the road to get her used to scary things, because for some reason my horse seemed a lot calmer when I was standing beside her then she did when I was riding her. After doing that a lot she was really good when we're out of the ring in any random place. Walking at the side of the road was really good because cars pass and you never know what will be coming so they get used to having random noises and such.
Hope I helped!
I know you said it might not be an option, but I would try to find someone with a seasoned trail horse to accompany you on your first several rides. They don't have to be right next to each other if your horse is not horses friendly, but horses feed off each other, and newbies often do well to see confidence in scary situations. That does do both ways though and the confident experienced horse might feed off of the fright of the new trail horse, so just be prepared :)
If your neibor has trail class obstacles you can work yuor horse on those until your horse is very good at those than it is a little bit of practice for real trails!!
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