Breeds for Trail Riding? - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 120 Old 03-07-2012, 01:27 PM
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+1 for Kevinshorses. I have a 15 hh performance bred quarter horse that I love trail riding with. Our trails are hilly, sandy, steep, narrow, twisty and rocky.

After riding on these conditions for only a short period of time, I would like to answer your question this way:

Don't focus on breed, but focus on heart. My Sam had to literally pull himself (with me on top) up a very steep embankment during one ride.

My riding partners, who were at the top watching, called down to me to give him the reins. I was riding in one continuous rein and dropped it and grabbed onto his mane.

They said they saw him looking at the embankment and choosing his footing and that he dug his front hooves in before lunging up. It took him three good heaves and were were up on top.

His actions were described to me as heart. He didn't panic. He didn't make unnecessary movements and he thought his actions out.

Now, maybe I am humanizing it a bit, but he did carry us through. I dropped the reins and closed my eyes.

Sam has performance breeding in him and I can tell he enjoys the challenging trails. I'm not sure if that has anything to do with him being a QH, his specific breeding, or just his spirit. I doubt his spirit is unique to quarter horses.

This spirit will be the measure to which I judge future trail riding horses.

I guess what I am trying to say is that since generalizing breeds can lead to disappointment, maybe what you should seek is a set of proven behaviors in a horse, regardless of his breeding.
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post #12 of 120 Old 03-07-2012, 01:44 PM
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Trails, don't bash horses, yet. I've been looking at mule riders for a couple of decades, now. Mules, as an animal do not guarantee a good trail animal. In my experience for every well behaved mule, I have witnessed 2 unruly ones.
Two years ago we camped with a newlywed couple with her family's mules. 4 days in, she was in the hospital bc her mule panicked and dragged her back to camp.
They need to be trained JUST LIKE our trail horses do. I'd like some mule people to chime in about the differences in training a horse vs. a mule.
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post #13 of 120 Old 03-07-2012, 02:12 PM
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Sarge and Biscuit are both performance/ranch bred horses. Both are Quarter Horses. Sarge has the slowest smoothest lope of any horse I have ever seen - he is always the subject of much admiration when we take him anywhere. He is not a dead head - got tons of bottom and get up and go. Will go anywhere my husband points him. And on top of that, is a total love bug.

Biscuit is making a terrific trail horse - and I have trained him behind my friend's little Tennessee Walker. Biscuit can slow jog/trot to keep up just fine with a TW.

I ride with a variety of horses - the people I ride with the most are riding: several Arabians, a Paint/Arab, Tennessee Walkers, QH's, Friesan/Morgan cross and occasionally we ride with people that are on Rocky Mountain and Spotted Mountain horses.

They are all terrific horses. I don't hesitate to ride with any of them and my horse keeps up and is sane.

Every horse is different. They all have their good points. I think it depends on the individual horse. Barry's horse is a doll but I know his thought bubble says "trail rides with lots of people going slow is a DRAG". He prefers to go a little faster/farther/steeper/higher or be in front. Biscuit will go the speed I put him at and is pretty much a happy camper.

If I didn't have Biscuit anymore and was going to strictly trail ride, I would consider a gaited horse or an Arabian or Arabian cross. Arabian's are amazing. They can go like no other horse I have ever seen!

Enjoying my Garmin and mapping trails
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post #14 of 120 Old 03-07-2012, 02:23 PM
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I've been riding Arabs for years and they have never let me down. Truth be told, breed doesn't reall matter all that much. As long as the horse can stay sound, and has the stamina to go on long hauls you're good to go. I used to ride a mutt of a horse who had the best of everything. He was standardbred x QH x small draft and he had over 3000 endurance miles under his cinch.
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post #15 of 120 Old 03-07-2012, 02:50 PM
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I love my haflinger for trail riding - especially in the rough terrain. That seems to be when he is most engaged and doing his best. He moves out well and can have a very smooth trot.

I was riding with gaited horses on rough terrain and he kept up. Even had some ask if he was gaited because his jog is so smooth. Not all haflingers move out so well, but they are out there. And they are a breed created in the mountains so they are sure footed and handle the terrain wonderfully.

All I pay my psychiatrist is cost of feed and hay, and he'll listen to me any day!

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post #16 of 120 Old 03-07-2012, 03:26 PM Thread Starter
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I know you really need to judge every horse individualy, but if i see every horse with trail potential in my budget I'm gonna be out there a long time. I have done compeditive trail/endurance. If that was strictly what I was going for I would keep my arab cross, but I also need somthing versitile enough to take the beginners out. I used to ride a little arab that was amazing. since then I have ridden a mare that spooked at everything no matter how fast you were riding and a very unpredictable gelding that would be perfect one day and a bronc the next.

Of all the ottbs I've ridden on the trail, probably 2 were willing to slow down and take it easy. The rest of them loved to get going and move down the trail, waiting for begginers was not fun. Some of them were bad at understanding footing, instead of taking it easy through the unknown they want to run through it.

I have a very negitive oppinion of quarter horses which I need to get over. I have known too many crazy miserable bronky ones. The last one on the farm got spoiled by his owner, put her in hospital, then bronced 4 people off, including 2 trainers. He was also miserable with other horses.

I don't want to judge a breed by a few individuals, but I'm trying to use some of my experience to narrow it down.
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post #17 of 120 Old 03-07-2012, 06:19 PM
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I've ridden trails on QH, Appys, Arabs, Mixes, TWH, Warmbloods, Morgans, and Rocky Mountain Horses. All had their strengths and weaknessess.

I do like gaited breeds for trails and there are plenty of breeds to choose from beyond TWH, although I owned a TWH before and like them just fine.

Perhaps, it might be better to try and aquire an experienced schooling, lesson horse, or seasoned trail horse that has been specifically trained for trail.
Or, look for horses that really need to be bomb proof in whatever they are doing currently and how that will be beneficial in what you are hoping to accomplish.
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post #18 of 120 Old 03-07-2012, 07:28 PM
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We have had several TWH and MFTs and both are great horses. We started with the TWHs and transitioned to MFTs over the years. For us the change was mostly due to the type of country we ride in. We ride lots of rough trails when we are even on a trail. Our TWH's were wonderful and had great smooth gaits, but they couldn't gait very well in rough county. On a dirt road or smooth trail they could really fly. In fact our fastest TWHs were faster than our fastest MFTs.

What sold us on the MFTs is that they can do their gait in rough country much better than the TWH can. In rough country we found the TWH's had trouble keeping up. Both generally have great temperments, are sure footed, great stamina, and have good fast flat walks.

You can find nice heavy boned stout horses in both breeds as well, so it really came down to which breed could perform the best in rough country day after day. We have a few TWH's we have held onto because they are exceptional individuals but generally the MFT's out perform the TWH's in the rough country we ride. We have also found them to be a bit more versatile all round horses.

For most applications I think anybody would be happy with either breed. If I lived in the flat lands and planned on purely trail riding I would possibly lean towards a TWH. Where I live/ride in the mountains I prefer the MFT. Both are great to ride and truth be told you may be best off finding the horse that best fits your riding level/desires regardless of breed as both are exceptional.
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post #19 of 120 Old 03-07-2012, 07:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Jolly Badger View Post
Gaited horses are meant to cover ground with a swift, smooth-riding movement. While it's not always the case, the other horses may have to jog, trot, or even lope or canter to keep pace with a gaited horse.
I don't see that as a problem at all. I doubt TWHs expend less energy to maintain a given speed compared to a non-gaited horse at the same speed.

A working trot is the trot that a well conditioned horse can maintain for mile after mile and averages 8 - 10 mph, which pretty much matches the speed of the typical TWH running walk (6 - 12 mph based on what I have found online).

The problem is that most riders associate trail riding with a lazy walk with the reins on the buckle.
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post #20 of 120 Old 03-07-2012, 08:16 PM
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Mildot - I have kept the Biscuit at a 7 mph trot for 5 miles only slowing down to step over some trees. It was going around a 2 mile loop riding by myself. Biscuit stopped when I asked him to but a well conditioned horse can go for quiet a while at that speed. It is a fun ride! Lots of times though - people do want to meander along. I enjoy both types of rides - faster with just a few people and slower the more people there are!

Enjoying my Garmin and mapping trails
Visit my trail riding blog at
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