Mia's progress - trying to turn my spooky Arabian mare into a good trail horse - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 13 Old 06-21-2012, 10:03 PM Thread Starter
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Mia's progress - trying to turn my spooky Arabian mare into a good trail horse

First, please: no laughing from real trail riders. I know these trails are ATV trails, and no real trail rider would stoop to notice them. However, Mia is my spooky Arabian mare. After 3 years of riding in an arena, and numerous spooks/bolts there, and a few injuries (she became so worked up over dismounts that the only way to get off was jumping), I put her on the back burner for 6 months while I worked on my own riding skills. Last November, I hired a trainer to work with her. After a few sessions, I was told that Mia might not ever be safe to ride. But then it occurred to the trainer that the horse I was sold as "Perfect for a beginner" might never have been broken at all. That was the turning point for Mia.

Along with her training, I started walking her in the neighborhood. At first, I could not lead her 100 yards down the road without her head coming up, the whites of her eyes showing, and a nervous meltdown.

Mia in training around December 2011:



It took two months of training (4 sessions a week) before the trainer was willing to mount Mia. I got on her the next day. We spent a few more months at 4 sessions/week, then tapered off until her formal training stopped in early May. Meanwhile, I worked on leading her out into the desert. Then riding literally just a few hundred yards into the desert with the other horses. Even 6 weeks ago, it took the other horses walking past a cardboard box to get Mia to walk past it. And until 3 days ago, she had never led the horses into the wash - only followed.

She is a LONG way from being a good trail horse, but today's ride made me hope that she really may someday become one. I hate the phrase "just a trail horse"! It is taking a LOT of work to get Mia there, and it will take a lot more.

But on today's ride, she led almost all the way. At the top of a raise, she'd scan around her...but keep moving. At times, we pulled far enough away from the others that I had to stop for a few minutes and wait - although I noticed that my lead mare did NOT want to take a fork in the trail until the others caught up with her! It was only a 5 mile trip, since we started late and it was hot, and so we took a shortcut home.

But from the time we entered the desert until we got back in the neighborhood, she seemed to be enjoying herself. She was alert but confident. When there was a coyote on the path, and I told her to push ahead, she did. Right toward the coyote, who then moved. Where the ATV trails had bad gullies, I let her pick her own path - and I think she enjoyed the partnership involved. And when I had to bend over her neck to avoid branches, she didn't care.

For the first time, I'm daring to hope that Mia may someday be able to go out alone with me and enjoy a 3-5 hour ride...not there yet, not close, but I'm beginning to think it may someday be possible!

Pictures here. I shrank all the photos down to no more than 800 pixels wide to save bandwidth:

Vail BS - Trail Ride 21 June 2012

Oh - and note the Aussie-style saddle, with a horn and Navajo blanket, but English leathers and English safety stirrups. Guess I'm kind of confused!

... Energy is an admirable thing, but the energy of stupidity seldom avails much..." - On Seats and Saddles (1868), Francis Dwyer, Major of Hussars (light cavalry)
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post #2 of 13 Old 06-22-2012, 10:15 AM
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I love your trails. They look great. Any interesting trail horse that I have ever ridden has been quite the challenge to start with. To me, it seems like horses with any spirit are far from docile at the beginning of their career. I think that Mia will be a perfect trail horse. I'm glad she did so well.

Celeste
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post #3 of 13 Old 06-29-2012, 03:55 PM
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Sounds like Mia is well on the way to becoming a good trail buddy. How old is Mia? How long have you had her? I think she is making excellent progress.

The outside of a horse is good for the inside of man.........unknown
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post #4 of 13 Old 06-29-2012, 10:30 PM Thread Starter
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I've had Mia 4 years, so she should be 11 now. We had a huge rain a couple of days ago, so yesterday she got her first trail ride when the desert was wet. For the first hour, her head was up and on a swivel. There is a stretch about 1.5 miles long that parallels a large wash...from the number of times she stared intently into it, I'm guessing there was wildlife in the brush.

By the second hour she was relaxing a little, but she still offered to trot every hundred yards. There were only two of us, and we had left our mustang pony behind. Mia is an extremely serious lead mare, and I think a part of her problem was worrying about the horse she left behind. She is the sort of mare that almost never lies down, but instead stands guard while the others lie down. When we got within a quarter mile of home, she started calling out, so we had some remedial "You can only call once" training. That meant every time she called out, we went in reverse - away from the remainder of her herd. She quieted down pretty quick like after that!

An aerial photo of the trail along the wash, courtesy of Pima County. Within the next few weeks I want to take her into the wash to 'explore':


... Energy is an admirable thing, but the energy of stupidity seldom avails much..." - On Seats and Saddles (1868), Francis Dwyer, Major of Hussars (light cavalry)
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post #5 of 13 Old 06-29-2012, 10:34 PM Thread Starter
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From 4 days ago:

While waiting for my wife and daughter. The Rincon Mtns east of Tucson are in the background:



My girls on our geldings descending a small slope near the wash:


... Energy is an admirable thing, but the energy of stupidity seldom avails much..." - On Seats and Saddles (1868), Francis Dwyer, Major of Hussars (light cavalry)
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post #6 of 13 Old 06-30-2012, 12:40 AM
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:) You and her have come so far in just 4 years. Wonderful progress!!

"Strength is the ability to use a muscle without tension"
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post #7 of 13 Old 06-30-2012, 09:51 AM
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Well, I for one love Mia. I think she is coming along great. I just got a yearling arabian gelding and he is pretty hot and spooky. He will take some work but I love him to pieces already. Gotta love the Arabs, there is just something special about them.

The outside of a horse is good for the inside of man.........unknown
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post #8 of 13 Old 06-30-2012, 11:22 AM
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She is just now old enough for her Arab brain to wake up and pay attention. You are coming along great!

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post #9 of 13 Old 06-30-2012, 12:55 PM
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I soooo miss riding out in the desert there in Tucson. I used to live up in Oro Valley area and had lots of wonderful trails, riverbeds and dirt roads right at the end of my driveway.

Mia is doing AWESOME! To bring her back to the pack, if you are concerned about her always want to be the lead, you can play "Conveyor Belt". In that game she gets to lead, then peels off to the back and has to ride drag for about 50 ft (to start, lengthen as she gets better), then moves up one spot as the next lead peels off, and it goes on for as long as it needs to. That way Mia rides for a little while in every spot in the line on the trail. Also keeps her thinking and maybe not quite so reactive to silly stuff.

I LOVED that my Arabian mare had her head on a swivel. I was never going to be one that got jumped by a cat dropping down on one of our rides. MY 20 something QH on the other hand, is the reason I learned to ride out in HEAVY chaps. I got tired of picking the cholla out of my legs when I got home. Cholla is the Devil's reminder that we really don't want to go to the Real Hell when we die! That stuff is NASTY.

Looks like Miss Mia has turned the corner from never broke to coming along really nicely! You should be very proud of her. By winter she'll be ready for a couple of LOOOOONG rides through the desert. The longer you go, the more spookiness she will lose. By the time you do that 3 or 4 times, she will truly only spook if there's something that she really is concerned about.
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post #10 of 13 Old 06-30-2012, 01:11 PM Thread Starter
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Just want to say thanks for the encouraging words. Mia is the horse that got me interested in riding, but it has been a long road with a lot of detours. Now she seems to be getting interested in what lies around the bend...which would be a good thing in a trail horse, wouldn't it?

And no, I don't think I'll ever have to worry about anything jumping on MY back while I am on MIA's back!

The desert is wonderful, IMHO, but some good chaps may be a sound investment.

... Energy is an admirable thing, but the energy of stupidity seldom avails much..." - On Seats and Saddles (1868), Francis Dwyer, Major of Hussars (light cavalry)
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