Getting really frustrated with poor trail manners - help! - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 09-14-2009, 05:35 PM Thread Starter
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Getting really frustrated with poor trail manners - help!

My 8 year old can be great on trails - if your only walking with a few other horses. But whenever another horse starts trotting or cantering, Willow just goes nuts. I've tried loping her on trails a few times over the years - each ride has ended with me falling or coming close to it and having to go home because she bucks and jumps around. I really want to be able to take her out and go running with my friends, but its just so frustrating because once she decides to go faster, if she doesn't get her way then she has a bucking temper tantrum. If another horse trots or canters to catch up or check something out ahead she has a temper tantrum. Could I train her out of this? Or is it just her personality and is unfixable? Any thoughts?
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post #2 of 11 Old 09-16-2009, 10:48 AM
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You can train her out of it, but it will take time and patience. You might try going out with just one friend and have them start out at just a walk. If the whole ride is done at just a walk the first few times - oh well! Keep your horse to the rear, and every time he even starts to act up, walk him in a circle. Once you have the walk down, you can increase the speed slowly - going back to the walk if he tries anything.

I had a horse that thought he had to be out in front all the time. Even at a walk, if he wasn't out in front, he got really antsy. Since he was a fast walker, it was very difficult to make him relax when he was behind other horses. (You should have seen him after his first parade - the weather was cool and the route was short. We danced sideways the whole parade route and by the end, he was completely lathered!). Hubby and I rode out together for several weeks - months, actually, and made Domino walk behind Boy the whole time. Domino really HATED it! We did so many little circles we were both worn out within the first mile - but eventually, he got the idea. Domino was a nice horse and was totally fearless (except for having to be behind another horse!). We eventually had to sell him because I wanted a horse that wouldn't act like they were about to explode on a parade route. Parades were one thing that we could never get Domino used to. The people we sold him to just wanted a trail horse and they loved him!

Plain Old Dee, horses Dancer and Rain

I believe in dragons, unicorns, good men and other mythical creatures!
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post #3 of 11 Old 09-16-2009, 11:48 AM
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ONE thing you could try is playing leap frog. Since your horse WANTS to be out front, let him. Then let someone catch up and ride even (for a while), then let them go ahead (for a while), come back even then give your horse the lead again. Try it AT A WALK first. You are going to have to repeat this MANY times until your horse gets the idea of "SHARING"....

This had worked for me with my endurance horses. Of course a "race" horse always wants to be out front, BUT they ALSO have to learn to let someone pass and stay calm while doing so.

dee's suggestion is great too....utilize them BOTH and you are on your way! Good luck and TRUST me, riding trails for 1000's of miles, I have SEEN THIS MORE THAN NOT! My thoughts with ya!!

Dusty Trails
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post #4 of 11 Old 09-16-2009, 12:11 PM
Green Broke
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Circles and circles and circles until she's calm. Have one or two patient friends go out with you and try the leap-frog technique that DT posted. Use small circles (alternate directions) when she really acts up. Be sure you're on a trail that is wide enough for circles.

Once she's doing well at the walk being behind other horses, try trotting with the group. If she acts up, yell WALK so the other horses will walk, and spin her in those tight circles again. Once she's calm, walk off for a bit, then try trotting again. Rinse and repeat until she'll trot in a group.

Once she's trotting well in a group (front or back position), try a canter.

Be sure to reward her when she's doing well, even if you had to spin 40 circles to get her to act right, lol. She needs to understand clearly what you want and what you don't want. I would also read up on the one-rein-halt, so you can get her under control without falling.

You might also check your tack fit. I have found that horses with saddles that are slightly "off" in fit or position can act up more at higher speeds. Be sure your saddle sets correctly (so the front concho is BEHIND the shoulder blade) and isn't pinching or popped up anywhere.
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post #5 of 11 Old 09-17-2009, 03:23 PM
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I agree with what everyone here has said. Definitely get some good, patient friends to help you with this.


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post #6 of 11 Old 09-17-2009, 03:43 PM
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I don't have any solutions to offer but we can commiserate because my Arab gelding is exactly like this, happened last Tuesday exactly that way. He was absolutely fine in a group of four until the first trot, then he flipped out because I wouldn't let him do a mad gallop to catch up. He could keep up at the trot but he just freaks out the minute those horse butts take off in front of him (or behind him for that matter.) When he gets that way he feels very explosive and light on his front end, and nothing calms him down until he's ready, not even catching up to the other horses, walking in front or walking behind. It is a huge issue because it really limits what I can do with him if I'm not in the mood for a potential train wreck. Maybe I'll try the endless circles.

don't worry, spiders, I keep house casually.
~ Kobayashi Issa

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post #7 of 11 Old 09-18-2009, 11:28 AM
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The circles are a great idea, BUT if you are already playing "keep-up" in a group, the circles are going to upset him even more. (He will be even FARTHER behind after doing some circles...) Unless, like mentioned by everyone you have some patient friends that will stop, but then he is catching up anyways. (ALWAYS CHASING OUR TAILS in this game of horses!!)

PLEASE, don't get frustrated. He can't help his desire to want "be out front." That is why the leap frog is so effective. You give him a chance to relax (FIRST) out front at the walk, trot and canter....then take the lead away by having a friend walk/trot/canter along side until he can relax at that spot. All the while giving him the lead back and slowly taking it away.. (this IS a lengthy process, but WELL worth it). Then work on letting the horse PASS you, take it back, (I am sure you get the idea.)

You are just letting him know it it OK to have the lead, give it away, it will come back....I have spend HOURS doing this and I am sure I will spend more hours with different horses. If your friends get impatient, then they aren't friends! I am sure ANY horse person that respects safety will be more than willing to help you out.

Let me know if this works for you and I TOTALLY feel for you!! Please be patient though, it will pay off I promise!!!
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post #8 of 11 Old 09-18-2009, 03:43 PM
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dustytrails, I'll try the leapfrog next time we're out. I understand what you're saying about the circles, the trouble is he doesn't calm down even when we do catch up and everyone's walking. He's so unpredictable--we were out last week with just 3 of us and we trotted and galloped with him in the middle mostly, and he was perfectly fine.
I dunno. He's 19, maybe in another 10 years we'll have it worked out.

don't worry, spiders, I keep house casually.
~ Kobayashi Issa

(1763 - 1827)
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post #9 of 11 Old 09-18-2009, 04:25 PM Thread Starter
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thanks guys for these ideas - hopefully I can get some friends together this weekend and we can go out for a trail ride. :)
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post #10 of 11 Old 09-18-2009, 08:58 PM
Green Broke
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If I were you I would judge it from the horses view.

She's out on a trail, somewhere that she is showing she does not feel comfortable, and she is probably a little scared. Then you, who is probably feeling nervous because of her previous behaviour, is sitting on her making her feel afraid too. Then her herd, the other horses, start running away from her, and she wants to stay with them a) because a horse feels safer in a herd (predators pick up the slow ones left behind and b) she could think they are running away from something. You are holding her back, possibly afraid (which horses pick up on) and in her mind if she gets you of her back she can run to safety.

Also, probably everytime a horse decides to canter and trot then you shorten the reins, ride with a contact preparing for the worse, and then the horse gets antsy, expecting something to happen.

What happens if you let the horse have its head, sit back and relax? I doubt your horse would get out front and keep running away from all her friends. Its a pleasure ride, you don't have to be worried about the exact pace and stride.

Also, do you use the one rein stop? Its an effective training tool to help with horses.

Finally, remember that trail groups should always keep to the lowest ability of horse/rider. So if you do not feel you should trot and canter, then don't go out with people who trot and canter. If you want to practice then get one friend to go with you and tell them its for training. You ask your horse to trot or canter first and then they follow. If you call out "halt" or whatever and you try and stop your horse then they immediately halt and stand in one spot and you circle or do whatever to stop your horse. Riding in trail rides where horses run up to the pack, or away from the pack is just going to make your horse worse.

Don't hang on to your horses mouth.
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