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NOT trail riding? EVER?!

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    05-28-2013, 12:46 PM
BSMS...hard to believe you have only been riding for 5 years. Your advice is always "most excellent."

James...I believe any rider can benefit from time spent in an arena on a good school horse. Competition riders certainly know this. Often that is not an option(or choice) for many pleasure riders for a variety of reasons. It is troubling to watch riders who think a horse is something to just get on and go. After all, they are just trail riding, not doing anything fancy! All they want to be is a passenger, a blob of human tissue, perched on the back of a horse. No real balance, too much rein pressure and no release, no clue as to how to help that horse down the trail. And no particular desire to educate themselves.
I think some arena education is a good start for a lot of riders. It might save them from learning from the school of hard knocks.
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    05-28-2013, 02:44 PM
Originally Posted by CatrinaB87    
I guess it shows my inexperience when I learned that some people just don't ride on trails! I couldn't wrap my brain around this. Wasn't that the ultimate goal? A relaxing trip out in the woods, just you and your horse? Don't the horses need the mental break from training in the arena? Doesn't it help them to become more confident and trust their rider? Am I alone in this shock?!
You are "right" (as one almost always is on a subjective point) with one exception. It isn't the ultimate goal for _everyone_.

Some people want to do dressage, some reining, some barrel racing. For them, those are the ultimate goals. However they choose to reach those goals are the "right" thing for them.

Originally Posted by CatrinaB87    
That is more what I was thinking, basically that creates a better all around horse.
Yes, trail riding is one thing that could create a better all-around horse. First thing to note is that not everyone is looking to create a better all-around horse. As mentioned above, some want to create a better dressage horse or better barrel horse, etc.

On the flip side, learning barrels, dressage, jumping and other disciplines would also make a better "all-around" horse. It works both ways.

One could argue that we would all be better "all round" people if we obtained advanced degrees, cross-trained in various physical disciplines and spent time with lamas in Tibet. For whatever reason, most of us don't have the time, money, inclination or (in some cases) ability to do all that. Doesn't make it right or wrong, just makes it our personal choice.

Remember that not only are there horse people who have little or no desire to go on trail, there are many people who have no desire to get on a horse at all. It's all valid - just personal choice.
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    05-28-2013, 05:51 PM
Originally Posted by jamesqf    
I suspect we could do the mirror image of that for trail riders. Something like "Those arena riders just spend endless hours riding around in circles in a flat, fenced-in arena, all so that one day they can dress up in silly-looking costumes and compete for ribbons. And we don't think we could learn anything useful from it, because it's just plodding along with no purpose."

Seriously, what could you learn in arena riding that would really apply to trail riding? Besides just being able to have someone watch you and critique/correct what you're doing.
If any rider ever thinks that there is absolutely nothing left for them to learn. . .they might as well just hang up their bridle and put their saddle away and find another hobby.

I do have some trail riding buddies who have never taken formal lessons of any kind, and think they know all they need to.

They think that, anyway. Just because they haven't gotten themselves or their horses seriously injured yet doesn't make them good riders. It just makes them lucky.

Riding in an arena is great for developing rhythm and balance, working on suppling and collection, responsiveness to the aids, consistent gaits (be it walk, trot, canter, or any of the "easy gaits" of a gaited horse). Yeah, you can "work on" those things out on the trail, too. . .but sometimes it's nice to be in a more controlled environment when you can truly focus on your own riding.

And those are things you can apply to your riding out on the trail, too.

The benefits work both ways. They really do. I prefer the trail, but will never totally "write off" the benefits of arena riding.
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    05-28-2013, 09:20 PM
Originally Posted by Jolly Badger    
If any rider ever thinks that there is absolutely nothing left for them to learn. . .they might as well just hang up their bridle and put their saddle away and find another hobby.
If I somehow gave the impression that I think I have nothing left to learn... Well, I guess that means I need to work on my writing skills, too

What I meant was that, given that I have limited time & resources at my disposal, I want to use them to learn things that are likely to be useful. Coming from the other direction, I can think of a number of things that the horse & I can learn on trails that I don't think could be taught well in an area, as for instance going up & down hills. Or footing: I'm usually looking ahead to pick a path with safe footing, giving her little cues to avoid holes & rocks, etc.

Riding in an arena is great for developing rhythm and balance, working on suppling and collection...
Well, there's a possible example. I have seen the term "collection" mentioned in connection with show riding, but have never seen a real explanation of what it is, or why it would matter to a non-show rider.
    05-28-2013, 10:28 PM
Originally Posted by Speed Racer    
The tone of moral superiority I'm hearing in many of these posts is disheartening. Pretty obvious some of you believe that people who don't hack out are reprehensible and cruel to their horses.

What some of you don't seem to realize is there are horses and riders who get no pleasure from riding outside an arena. For them, trail riding has no appeal whatsoever. Yes, horses who HATE trail riding do exist. I've met quite a few over the years.

As far as trail riders caring about their animals more than those riding for ribbons, that's total and utter hogwash. Abuse and cruelty aren't confined to the show ring, and I've seen plenty of horrific things in AND out of the ring.

Bottom line, trail riders are no more caring and compassionate than their show brethren. There are bad and good people everywhere, and your discipline of choice has little to do with how you treat your riding partner. A cruel, abusive asshat will be the same whether riding in an arena or out.
Just went through this thread for the first time and was about to burst when I saw the above post. To the above post, I say AMEN!!!

If there was a thread on here saying, "Wow, dressage is the greatest kind of riding. I just don't understand what's going on in people's heads if they don't ride dressage. I mean... isn't dressage the ultimate goal?"

Go ahead and repeat the above paragraph and add "barrel racing" in place of "dressage." Or perhaps "western pleasure" or "jumping."

We all have our favorite disciplines... but just because they're OUR favorite doesn't mean that they're everyone's favorite. And y'know what? That's okay. Because there are horses that enjoy dressage, and horses that enjoy trail, and horses that enjoy barrels or WP or jumping. Heck there are horses (and riders) that enjoy them all.

I've been riding for over 20 years and the bulk of that riding has been trail riding. I've done "plod along" trail rides on a good ol' boy QH and even was employed as a trail guide for awhile. I've done horse camping trips and ridden up mountains where I wasn't sure how the heck the Morgan I was riding managed to find her way up without killing us both. I've galloped on sandy endurance tracks on a fast Arabian.

I've had a horse bolt onto a blacktop road and run at top speed for over a mile, when I finally gave up and let go... smashing my (foolishly) unhelmeted head on the pavement.

I've attempted to help a young mare get over her fear after a wolf attack left her scarred both physically and mentally. Every crack in the brush left her trembling and left me in danger of suddenly not having a horse underneath me.

I've had a young gelding crash to the ground and trap me underneath when he was attacked by a nest of ground bees.

I've had a riding companion watch his horse bleed to death in moments after a freak encounter with a sharp stick pierced an artery.

I've taken 6 years off of riding when I realized that it just wasn't fun for me any longer.

I'm now getting back into horses and in September I bought a new horse. I found myself a great trainer and he's almost had 120 days put on him. I haven't even ridden him yet. I've been riding lesson horses, in an arena, having the time of my life. I've learned more about riding in six months than I did in 20 years. I go to my parents where my old QH is pastured and apologize to him for not knowing what the heck I was doing... how he put up with me for all those years I have no idea.

Riding in an arena is more than just fancy riding and pretty ribbons. It's learning how to truly communicate with the horse. Sure you can do that on the trail but for someone like me... someone with a lot of fear to overcome... the "safety" of the rails is just what I needed to learn to love riding again.

And you know what? I probably will never enter a show except the same local county fair I did for years.

And maybe one day I'll be brave enough to ride Oz on the trails. For right now, though, both of us are learning plenty and having fun right there in the arena.
    05-28-2013, 11:10 PM
I didn't read all the opinions on this thread but I think it comes down to one statement, If your horse can't trail ride it's not trained properly. A spooky horse doesn't trust its rider, and a rider that lets a horse spook because the horse is 'nervous' or a 'spooky breed' is even worse than a spooky horse. Don't make excuses for a lack of ability. I train horse for a living and if I sent a horse back to it's owner broken but not trail broke because it was 'too spooky' I wouldn't get paid. Around where I live you either trail ride or you don't ride because for 8 months out of the year there is nothing but trails to ride unless you want to ship your horse south to show. All horses are nervous about new situations but if the horse trusts you it will plod on through the 'fear' and with exposure almost any horse can become a good trail mount. There are a few exceptions, but I don't buy the idea that horses can't trail ride.
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    05-28-2013, 11:30 PM
Originally Posted by jamesqf    
Well, there's a possible example. I have seen the term "collection" mentioned in connection with show riding, but have never seen a real explanation of what it is, or why it would matter to a non-show rider.
Collection, when done correctly, is having a horse that is balanced in front and behind. The impulsion comes from the hind end.

I've seen many horses (on trail and in the arena) that are really heavy on the forehand, and what they do with their hind legs is more like an afterthought. The horse's head may "look pretty" with an arched neck and tucked chin, but it's not true collection.

As a trail rider, I want a horse that is balanced - actively using his front and hind legs, with most of the impulsion and energy coming from the hind end.

Trail riding is great for that - you can feel that "power" from the hindquarters when you climb a steep hill, right?

Well, a horse can learn to use their hindquarters that way on the flat/in an arena as well. And that translates over to what you do on trail.

Anything that can make you a better rider, or your horse a better horse, is worth trying.
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    05-29-2013, 12:39 AM
Originally Posted by BlooBabe    
I didn't read all the opinions on this thread but I think it comes down to one statement, If your horse can't trail ride it's not trained properly. A spooky horse doesn't trust its rider, and a rider that lets a horse spook because the horse is 'nervous' or a 'spooky breed' is even worse than a spooky horse. Don't make excuses for a lack of ability....but I don't buy the idea that horses can't trail ride.
Aw hell, I've gotta respond!

Yes, if you put enough training into it, most any horse can learn to be a trail horse. But some horses have more fears than others, and some take longer to train than others, and some of us are not professional riders or trainers and didn't grow up on horseback.

So yeah, some of us have a lot of work cut out for us to turn our horses into a decent trail horse. If that is our goal. For me, it is. I don't think Mia will be worth a darn overall until she first becomes a trail horse. But she's the sort of horse who spent her first 4 months with us breaking into a lather-sweat just standing by herself in a corral.When I first took her out on a lead rope, she would stumble over a 4" rock because she didn't know the ground wasn't always level. Even now, her preferred canter is with her nose just off the ground, and it has taken a lot of work in an arena to start teaching her to canter with some balance. To her credit, she gallops fine...just doesn't like to stop. More arena work!

A horse like that doesn't just go out on the trails once or twice and act calm. I couldn't count how many times we've gone out, but she is finally not doing The OMG Crouch every 100 yards or jumping sideways three times an hour.

If I were a pro, or if I was born on a horse, or if I was God's Gift to Horses, that might not matter. But I'm none of those things. And I'm all Mia has.

And frankly, folks can take this whole "Ride the Bond" bucket of horse poop and toss it somewhere other than my direction. Mia has proven to my satisfaction that she'll follow me darn near anywhere if she sees me. I brought her thru a thicket last summer where she was darn near crawling. I was on my knees in front of her (not safe). She had her eyes squeezed shut, the branches were catching on the saddle and stirrups...and she crawled blindly behind me with a finger of pressure on the lead rope. But when I'm on her back, she sometimes forgets I'm there. That is why calling her name was the most reliable way to stop her in a bolt. That is why talking to her and playing some with the bit keeps her calm. Or calmer.

A well broke horse has a habit of obedience to cues. It doesn't spend its time wondering if its rider is Superman or Supergirl. That is why my other 2 horses, both ex ranch horses, will go anywhere you point them. They don't ask, "Is bsms feeling confident today?" Mia's problem is that she is a nervous horse who lived most of her life in a corral. That is why I need to turn her into a trail horse. Once she does that, she'll be darn good at most anything else.

But I'm all she has. And I'm not perfect. I had an injury a few months after I started riding and it made me feel very mortal. Even now, 4.5 years later, my lower right back is sore from both riding and jogging on the same day. So yeah, it is a training issue. For me.

But darn it all, why is it so hard to accept that some folks just don't WANT to ride on a trail? If dressage isn't for everyone (and it ain't for me), then why does every horse and rider need to go on trails? I have no desire to do reining, but a lot of people love it. What is wrong with that?

Heck, if someone would build a 1-1.5 mile racetrack near me and let me take Mia there, I could cheerfully skip the trail riding and just gallop her. We both enjoy it. And then I could bring her back home and feed her, and we would both be happy. For both of us, the main pleasure in a trail ride is fining a place we can go fast without having to turn every 100 feet. There aren't many places like that near me.

What makes trail riding superior to any other riding? Different? Yes. Worthy of respect? Yes. Superior? Sorry, ain't buying that one.
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    05-29-2013, 12:46 AM
No discipline is superior than any other.

I want to ride on the trails, in an arena, in a parade, over fences, on a race track, one the beach and across the rolling English country side on a fox hunt!

The main reason I arena ride is because of the FOOTING. It's safe for myself and my horse to practice high speed maneuvers and its a safe place to improve my riding skills without the distraction of gopher holes and tree branches!
    05-30-2013, 12:41 PM
I wasn't trying to imply horses were instantly ready for the trail. I know it takes a lot of training and work to get them there. I was just saying that people make a lot of bull crazy excuses about why they can't or won't trail. A 'spooky' horse isn't an excuse. I'm also not saying everyone should trail ride. If you don't want to than don't. I know it's not everyone's cup of tea. I was just saying that every horse could be a trail horse if people put the right amount of time to get them there whether it's sent it to a trainer to doing a lot of desensitizing on your own. I understand there are nervous and horses that aren't ideal for trails but that isn't an excuse not to do the work or try if that's what you want. In my opinion saying a horse is fit only for the arena tells me that you didn't care to teach it that the world isn't a scary place. There are a lot of lazy riders out there that will spit out an excuse to cover their lack of knowledge or ability. I didn't mean to imply that trail riding is better or that everyone should do it or that everyone can train their own horse to do it. Just that a spooky horse or breed is another excuse people throw around willy-nilly to answer everything.
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