How to get a horse used to the trails? - Page 2

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How to get a horse used to the trails?

This is a discussion on How to get a horse used to the trails? within the Trail Riding forums, part of the Riding Horses category

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    05-04-2009, 08:56 PM
Originally Posted by smrobs    
As bad as I hate to say it, I disagree with LeahKathleen up to a point. Arena desensitizing is great but it only does so much. There is almost always a learning experience to be had on the trail.
I agree that there is no substitute for miles on the trail, but sometimes seeing the scary object at home (i.e. A plastic bag) makes one less scary on the trail.

I have only shared what has worked for me and my horses, but I'm sure there are many different ways to teach a horse about the trails. :]
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    05-04-2009, 09:02 PM
Sorry to DP but...Sure do all you can at home. I tied plastic shopping bags around our property when our fillys were babies. Lay tarps out for them to play with. Every time you have a pop bottle in your hand around the horses give it a squeeze so it makes that crunchy noise. Rip Velcro, snap gum, set off fireworks let your imagination go goofy. I can sometimes be seen running races with mine on the 4 wheeler
    05-05-2009, 10:42 AM
Ignore the spooks, support the horse when needed. If you react to everything he reacts to, you're giving him reason to be tense. Just ignore all the stuff you can.
I don't agree with pushing the horse past something he's afraid of. A good trail horse won't need to be forced past, but will learn to take you with confidence.
Give your horse some time. Don't be in a hurry to get from point a to point b. If your horse stops, and is looking at something, wait there with him so he can digest the situation on his own. If he tries to turn away from it, you'd correct him, but otherwise give him some time to decide on his own that it's safe. You will find he will take a breath and walk forwards. There you pet him and allow him to take you. And then just support him.
Don't push him past his level of confidence, just do enough to get him out and going but don't expect too much. He will learn and grow more confident and willing.
If your horse spooks big time,don't punish him by spinning in circles. (unless he's trying to run away. :) ) Pat on him and comfort him. The less you react, the less he will.
Don't hit the trail wondering what he's going to spook at next. Ride him like a seasoned trail horse and he will pick up on your energy and have confidence in you. Patience!
    05-05-2009, 07:57 PM
Ignore the spooks, support the horse when needed. If you react to everything he reacts to, you're giving him reason to be tense. Just ignore all the stuff you can.
I don't agree with pushing the horse past something he's afraid of. A good trail horse won't need to be forced past, but will learn to take you with confidence.
Not trying to be argumentative... But. Lol. If your horse is afraid of something, but you ignore the spook, and don't push him past, how will you ever get past it? Sure some things the horse will decide for himself like you mentioned. But what about those super scary horse eating monsters?

I also disagree on the patting and comforting after a spook. To me that's rewarding the spook.

I don't force my horse past things. I take his attention off the object of fear, and ask him to pay attention to me and walk his feet where I ask. I have never had to 'force' the issue.

But as i've said, many differing opinions on this subject, it's good to hear the different views!
    05-05-2009, 10:50 PM
When I say ignore the spooks, I mean as you're riding along and your horse jumps, don't react. If you react to every reaction your horse makes, you make a reactive horse, which translates into a spooking horse.
Say you're riding along the trail, and you come up to a big scary stump that makes your horse stop dead in his tracks. What do you do? I would support him, by letting him feel me in the rein, but otherwise I would stand there and allow him to digest what is causing him to be frightened. By telling the horse to ignore the stump and continue on, you are adding more pressure to the situation which doesn't help his confidence. You relieve the pressure by allowing him to be at the very closest he's comfortable with. Then quietly once you feel he has relaxed some, you encourage the forward again.
When I said pet on him, the petting was to reward the horse for making the decision to move forward without being asked, which also means he was rewarded for his confidence and bravery. That he on his own decided he was okay and proceeded down the trail.
My whole point is that you don't train a horse to be confident and relaxed on the trail if you aren't careful not too add more pressure once it is already present. And by not reacting your horse will find confidence in you because you are calm and confident yourself.
    05-05-2009, 11:18 PM
Green Broke
Walka and I came across one of those horse eating tree stumps! Let me tell you, he jumped 6 feet sideways. After jumping , he stood there and honestly, if a horse can be embarrassed, he was! All I did was stay centered in the saddle, and let him compose himself. Then asked him to move forward again. Next time we rode by the stump, he did a little glance and that was it. If I don't call attention to anything, he seems to trust my judgement and continues as asked.

Can't say enough good things about riding with a very well seasoned trail horse to help a greenie gain confidence on the trail. T has helped many get confident on the trail as well as the road. Helps with the riders state of mind as well. Confident, calm , capable riders help when you're riding a green or nervous and inexperienced horse . My friends have been there for me with Walka, and I'm grateful to each one of them.
    05-05-2009, 11:47 PM
Fair enough Koomy. I guess the method I use, getting the horses attention and continueing on, is my way of not reacting.
    05-06-2009, 08:24 AM
There have been a lot of good comments and methods posted and, in my experience, they are all good tools to use, depending on the horse and situation. Since we do a lot of de-sensitizing riding in neighborhoods in addition to working trails, I'll just add a few more observations.
  • Similar to not pressuring your horse too much, horses can only handle so many 'monsters' at one time, even if they trust you, especially if they are out alone. A couple places we work our younger ones around here that tax their limits are a community center on a nice summer day (swimming pool with bright beach balls, rafts, tennis and basketball courts, playground w/swings/etc, all with lots of people and noise) and the grocery store on a busy weekend (cars, shopping carts, skateboards, etc). These environments take a lot of time, and can require multiple methods to reduce their anxiety, especially since they are very dynamic and beyond our control.
  • Horses do not like change, even change that seems trivial to us, and many places in the real world change every day. In the years that I've ridden young ones on roads, changes like a fresh coat of asphalt, new white/yellow lines on the road, new fire hydrants or mail boxes, etc. can make a horse that has ridden that path a hundred times stop and have a good, long 'think'. Last Christmas, even our bombproof, lead mare took a good look while passing a house with a set of blinking reindeer lawn ornaments (perhaps remembering her penning days).
  • Each horse has their own special 'monsters', and some NEVER feel 100% confident with them, e.g. I've seen horses that, even with years of work, still didn't feel good about crossing water.
  • Finally, we all (including me) love to say how much our horses 'trust us', but in my experience, they will always trust their lead horse more. When you have young/inexperienced ones, a good, seasoned, lead/pony horse is indeed worth it's weight in gold.
Good luck fighting all the horse monsters in the world.
    05-06-2009, 07:47 PM
Good post, painthorsemares. I too ride all through the suburbs and have ridden to shopping malls etc. My little arab happens to be that solid lead pony!

I also agree about each horses special monster. I know a brumby who is scared of cars, always has been. Another pony I had was terrified of cows, despite living with them, and numerous attempts to desensitize.
    05-06-2009, 08:11 PM
Great post PaintHorseMares I remember our first parade. There were so many horse eating monsters I didn't know were to start. Thank goodness we were at the end of the parade. I found a spot were Vida could watch all the fire trucks, marching bands, clowns in cars etc. I think just letting her see what everything was helped so much. I didn't force anything on her just sat quietly letting her take it in. She was a gem for the whole thing. I was more nervous than she was

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