Trail Training Alone
I recently got up the courage to start venturing out with my 6 year old gelding on the trails, by myself. (Yay!)
-I wear a helmet, carry a cellphone, and the trails are at my boarding stable-
He's very bold, but definitely not an experienced trail horse.
So then it hit me. This isn't some scenery viewing excursion! This is just as important as arena work! I need exercises to perform!
he doesn't have any specific issues that I've noticed yet, except he gets.. Excited? He can get jiggy at the walk, which makes me hesitant to trot him by myself. He's not nervous or spooky or anything, just forward and focused on the great unknown!
So I did some weaving, circling, stopping and backing up, and laterals, but I want more to challenge him and myself.
So I guess I'm looking for exercises to do on the trail, by myself, to help us be a stronger more experienced team!
Thanks for responses!
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What I have always done with ALL horses -- but especially forward horses is go off trail wherever I can. I climb steep hills (without letting a horse go faster)), cross deadfalls, go through brush, get into really tough going. This slows one down and make one focus on the job at hand. The rougher, the better. We live on the edge of a bunch of canyons and steep VERY rocky hills. In a few rides, even colts are dropping their heads, watching their footing and going everywhere we point their heads.
I just try to keep them out of green briars, wild black berries and other thorn bushes.
We started out training ranch horses and did a lot of 'day work' on big area ranches. If we were helping gather cattle in country like this, you had to go straight-away wherever the cattle were. So horses HAD to go anywhere you pointed their heads. Out of those ranch horses, we found we had the best trail horses in the World. So when we got old and decrepit and could no longer do the hard-riding cattle work, we still used this rough country to make and sell trail horses and really 'broke' horses to novice riders.
It is really good that you can ride by yourself. You will have a confident and obedient horse. If one rides with company very many times without taking a horse off by itself, it will get totally herd-bound and have a come-apart when it is not a part of that trail riding 'herd'. If you ride with other riders, make it a point to ride on ahead or turn back and ride the opposite direction by yourself at least once on every ride. It does not take long for any horse to get herd-bound riding in a group.
I really dont have much to add, mostly just want to subscribe as I'm just getting to the point of riding my mare out. She is very far from being bold, so I'll have to use the different exercises in a way to distract her from scary things, not the great unknown.
On the trotting thing though, what I was planning on doing was ride out to an opening and do some circling exercises and what-not until she calms down before asking for more speed. Then continue on until the next opening. Eventually (I'm hoping) we'll be calm and comfortable to trot along the trail.
I like to practice leg yielding or side passing on trails. It's saved many a knee from getting knocked off on a tree!
Cherie- you really helped me see the importance of riding alone! I will soon be offroading! Thanks :)
MyBoyPuck- That's a useful exercise... Thank you
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I am subbing mainly because this is going to be my summer!
Well that's two subbers! Clearly this is a sought-after topic. :)
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I also like to go off trail as much as I can; helps keep the horse focused, and pay attention to his feet, like has been mentioned.
I also like to, when the ground is decent, put them into a good working trot, and just let them trot on a loose rein for as long as the trail allows (they are NOT allowed to pull more rein out.); Letting them move out on a loose rein helps reinforce 'cruise control', and also helps keep them focused on moving foward than on everything around them. If they fuss, or want to go faster than I am wanting, I will look for a good place to do some tight circles, eights, and serpentines, and really put his feet to work for a few minutes, then release him and move on again...usually he is more than happy to move foward at a nice rate after having to work hard on smaller more 'concentrated' circles.
I think the best way to get a horse to be a good trail horse is just to do it; yes, there are alot of things you can get him used to while at home, but there are just so many things on the trail that you only encounter there...so you just gotta get out there, and ride the horse through it. Do your homework; make sure your horse has a good stop, turns, backing, etc, so if you find yourself in a bind, you can get out of it, but otherwise, just just go out and ride the horse...
Unfortunately, where we ride, the trails are through heavily forested woods, so you cannot go "offroad" , unless you are a deer. The brush is chest high and so thick you cannot see the ground, not to mention there are old wells in the area that have actually claimed horses in the past.
But, I like what I hear here and this kind of riding is the most part of what I do. I would also add to not do the same route every time and to not let always canter up the same hills. Sometimes let the horse set the pace, if they feel centered. Sometimes walk them up the hill you often canter up. mix it up.
There are many things that can be worked on with a horse riding on the trails that translate as the same as arena work. I used to ride off the blazed trails and into the dense timber whenever possible. My Candy loved to go anywhere I asked her, of course likewise I avoided briars and thorny underbrush. We crossed over dead fall, through streams and creeks. We once came upon an old 55 gallan barrel lying on it's side, I asked her to step over the barrel and she complied with no hesitation. One of our dogs would go along with us and his running through the underbrush never unsettled Candy. There was a meadow that had many smallish cedar trees that I would practice as if they were barrels for barrel racing and pole bending. It is amazing how good it is for the horse's minds who get only arena work to get out of the arena and into trail riding.
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