teaching alone trail riding - Page 6 - The Horse Forum
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post #51 of 82 Old 04-20-2013, 12:42 PM
Green Broke
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Originally Posted by bsms View Post
No, they do NOT control the body. Horses have been bred for thousands of years to be willing and submissive. And we teach them in part by controlling their alternatives - making it unpleasant to refuse us, and easier to obey, until they form a habit of obeying.

The problem is the word "control". Can you direct a horse to do something? Of course! And they usually will do it, particularly if they are in the habit of obeying. But you do not CONTROL squat. Run your horse into some Teddy Bear Cholla and see how much control you have!

If Mia is genuinely afraid of something ahead of us, I can whip her rump with a leather strap, and she will still go in reverse. As the lady I took lessons from put it, "You cannot make a horse do anything. You can only make all the alternatives less desirable." And if something in front says "FEAR ME!!!!", then the leather strap on Mia's butt gets ignored.

With time, she is less likely to be overwhelmed with fear, because she gets used to my telling her to go from A to B being safe. But that isn't something I can teach her in an arena. And that is the point for this thread:

You cannot teach a horse in an arena that it will be safe outside the arena.

At some point, you have to leave the confines of the arena and go out and start facing those fears. And what will they fear? Depends on the horse. Some are born pretty level headed. Others, like Mia, have a lot of deep seated fears. And in an arena, she never needs to face those fears. The walls of the arena protect her - or so she believes. We could spend 20 years riding in an arena, and she would be no better prepared for the real world. She cannot face her fears until she is exposed to them.

And just as only about 50% of groundwork carries over to when my butt is in the saddle, only about 50% of what she learns in the arena carries over to outside. So at some point you have to take the horse out and let it learn about the world. 100% good in the arena is about 50% good on the trail, IMHO. That is because the horse's mind controls its body. And the horse can't learn to trust me in a scary situation until we've FACED scary situations together, me on her back. If that puts me in danger...well, I can accept the risk, or stay in the arena forever.

BTW - Cowboy is our BLM mustang pony. He is great on a trail. Ride him in an arena, and THAT is where he gets scared! So much depends on the horse!
Originally Posted by Dustbunny View Post
To bsms...Amen, Brother!!!!!

I can be comfortable with what I can teach here at home, but for the trail horse I want, the trail becomes my training ground. I'm not heading out with a wild-eyed bozo or the greenest of mounts. That would be foolhardy to say the least. But in order to have a confident trail horse you need to get out on the trail. JMHO
OOPs! I meant ^^^^^ Amen, BROTHER and SISTER!

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post #52 of 82 Old 04-20-2013, 12:46 PM
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Originally Posted by beachluvr View Post
I have a 5 year old that is afraid when riding trails alone. What is the best way to get her to get over this snorting and looking everywhere? She will walk forward, but I cannot get her to trot!! I feel funny forcing her to move forward(trot) with my crop when she is acting afraid?? (Interesting she is not as "afraid" when heading towards home.........??????
I think your answer is in the question. She's afraid going out and not coming back? So, lots of sweaty blankets are the answer. There are 2 things going on here and it could be one or the other or both. She is genuinely afraid, but once she's seen it, she's not afraid so spooky out, not so much back. Or, she's playing a game and trying to get out of work. So, spooky out but when she doesn't get out of work she calms down on the way back. Or it could be a combination of the 2, and either way, sweaty blankets will cure the issue. Eventually she'll be BTDT about all the trail stuff or she'll learn being all spooky and snorty doesn't get her put away. Either way, she'll eventually calm down and you'll get a decent ride. Some horses just go out hotter than others too, and settle during the ride and on the way home you can practically ride with no reins.

I wouldn't be at all guilty about giving her a spank to get her moving, especially if it's on a trail she's been on before. That's the part that makes me wonder about the getting out of work game.
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post #53 of 82 Old 04-20-2013, 01:16 PM
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You know, I think maybe all ARE saying the same thing.
Don't go out on a horse when you have no control. That is common sense...although I'm sure we have all seen riders lacking both control and common sense.
And to season a trail horse you need to get out on the trail.
Have a great ride and Happy Trails!
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If you ever find yourself in a fair fight, it's because your tactics suck. ~ Marine 1SGT J. Reifinger
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post #54 of 82 Old 04-20-2013, 01:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Sahara View Post
You know I have never seen a horse run a barrel pattern without a rider on its back. I never have. How do those riders get the horse to run the pattern? Is it because the rider is controlling the horse's feet? How do they turn around the barrel? Is it because the rider rates the turn and applies an aid to the body of the horse? Do they not have control of the horse's body?

James, how does your horse get anywhere on the trail? When does it know to turn around and go home? Are you just a passenger letting the horse go wherever it wants to? How do you turn left? How do you back up? Are you riding a green horse or an experienced trail horse? Do you think you could just tell a green horse walk, trot, canter? Clearly, you are reaping the rewards of someone's hard work.
Sahara, go on YouTube and search for "barrel horse without rider". I'm posting from mobile otherwise I would. Plenty of videos of a horse losing its rider and continuing on the pattern.

There's also a video of a riderless cow horse herding a mechanical cow on a line.
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post #55 of 82 Old 04-20-2013, 01:42 PM
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Originally Posted by DancingArabian View Post
Sahara, go on YouTube and search for "barrel horse without rider". I'm posting from mobile otherwise I would. Plenty of videos of a horse losing its rider and continuing on the pattern.

There's also a video of a riderless cow horse herding a mechanical cow on a line.
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That's awesome! Clearly the horse knows his job. Someone did a fantastic job training him. (i.e. controlling his body parts).
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post #56 of 82 Old 04-20-2013, 01:51 PM
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Originally Posted by NorthernMama View Post
When we get home from a ride, it's not over until I feel like its over. It might be the end of the ride right away. Or we might head out again. We might do some flat work in the yard (limited yard). I might stand in the driveway and chat to someone for 1/2 hour. I might take off the reins, put hobbles on her and work in the yard, then hop on again for a short ride. Any number of different situations. So my horse knows that coming home doesn't mean anything except it's another spot on the ride. It's also barrels of fun to come cantering into the driveway when the kids are in the yard chatting to a friend!
Yes, thanks for the reminder, I should do this more often!
My mare is OK coming back after riding out in the pastures on the property, which is not very far out at all. We just go out there to cool down after arena work. One time there were some guest riders and their horses arriving for a get-together at the barn and she was just crazy going back... head up, crying out, trying to rush ahead, jiggy. Had never seen her like that before. The wind was blowing in our direction. She was in season and one of the horses was a stud and they had met before. So I dismounted about 50 feet out mainly because I was worried about the stud. It was a gut feeling that this may turn into a wreck!

Beach, I think your mare is very pretty.
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post #57 of 82 Old 04-20-2013, 02:52 PM
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I'm enjoying this thread because I am just breaking into trail riding and everyone I know is an arena rider. My mare has been on trail a couple of times and did great, but we will ride with others until she gets BTDT about it. It is taking time for me to find others to go out with, and a few Saturday mornings I really had to stop myself from just hauling out on my own, thinking about what Corporal says about safety issues. Also, agree with what some of you are saying about rider confidence... there are days where I tell myself to not go out along for all kinds of reasons, but usually my feeling is that my mare will be fine, and I have the first aid supplies, etc. for me and her on me, etc. and so what the heck, just go! I don't because I love riding and want to do it for a long, long time and I would be mad at myself if something happened to me or my mare and it was because I took a foolish risk. Riding is great for teaching patience! She needs several more rides with others before we go out on our own.
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post #58 of 82 Old 04-20-2013, 02:53 PM
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It's natural for a young horse or horse that hasn't had a lot of trail experience to be wide eyed when going out at first. Everything is new them then.
Most of your problems will be solved by time in the saddle.
It all basically comes down to knowing your horse and them knowing you. You can do ground work and games to build your relationships. You can also go out with other horses, ride off from the other horses then come back, and switch so your horse leads sometime. It's important to keep your horse's mind working so that he isn't doing things out of habit but because he is listening to you and paying attention. However there's no real way to prepare for riding alone except by doing it.
Every time I've been hurt on a horse has been when I've been out alone. So yeah, I still get scared which is probably the biggest problem. After my 1st really bad throw I found myself looking for danger, and as a result was freaking my horse out, unconsciously training her to be scared.
Once I realized this and consciously tried to relax and enjoy my ride things started changing. If you are bored and scared so are they.
Be alert but don't be afraid!
Cherie has a great thread on here about this -
This is how we train a fearless trail horse!

So in lies the madness, the pursuit of the impossible in the face of the complete assurance that you will fail, and yet still you chase.

Last edited by flytobecat; 04-20-2013 at 02:56 PM.
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post #59 of 82 Old 04-20-2013, 03:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Sahara View Post
James, how does your horse get anywhere on the trail? When does it know to turn around and go home? Are you just a passenger letting the horse go wherever it wants to? How do you turn left? How do you back up?
She gets places by putting one foot in front of the other. Now I may tell her what pace to go, to move to one side or another, to take the left fork instead of the right, to follow a particular path through trees & bushes when we're off-trail - but I'm NOT telling her which foot goes first. Or sometimes I may indeed just be a passenger, talking with my friend or admiring the scenery while she does the walking. If I want to turn left, I tell her to turn. I don't control each body part that has to move in order to make that turn. I wouldn't even know how to control the parts.

Are you riding a green horse or an experienced trail horse? Do you think you could just tell a green horse walk, trot, canter? Clearly, you are reaping the rewards of someone's hard work.
She's an experienced horse, but not, I think, an experienced trail horse. I don't know any of her history before I got her, other than that she spent several years living in a field and not being ridden, but I suspect that at one point she may have been trained for dressage or showing. Certainly a lot of things out on the trails seem new to her.

There's an example of intention vs control of body parts. The first time we came to a creek (just a little one, about a foot wide), she would not cross it. I could not (not surprising given my inexperience) get her to cross, nor could my vastly more experienced buddy/teacher. But after about half an hour of trying, I got off and led her back & forth across it a dozen times, then got back on and she went right over and has never had a problem with creek crossing since.

Now if I'd had that 100% control you talk about, she should have gone across that scary thing right away, no? Suppose the next scary thing that I pushed her into turned out to be a serious hazard?

I agree, it's training, but what exactly are you training for? There I did a little bit of training to teach her that little creeks aren't a threat, and it's ok to jump over or wade through them. I didn't do 100% control of body parts: "Ok, bunch up your hind quarters, and extend your front legs while pushing off from the rear, and now when the front hooves hit the ground pull the back legs in..."

And how would you teach creek-crossing in an arena, anyway? Or how to react to cows, deer, cattle guards...?

Last edited by jamesqf; 04-20-2013 at 03:04 PM.
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post #60 of 82 Old 04-20-2013, 03:19 PM
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Ah, I think we are having a break through, james! You are controlling your horse, you are just calling it something different. You want to call it directing the intention, fine.

I do think you are missing the point a tiny bit, though. What happened at the creek? She balked because she didn't want to cross. You did whatever you had to do to get her across the creek. Even if you had to get off and lead her across, you were controlling her feet. Directing her where to go. If you keep working on it, you will accomplish that from the saddle. The point is you controlled where she was going by getting her body from point a to point b. You didn't say "oh geez, she doesn't want to go across the creek, I 'spose we ought to meander home". Does that make sense?

What I am not suggesting is that all horses should automatically just do what I say. First, it is my job to teach them what my aids mean. After they have demonstrated that they understand that aid, they better respond to that aid every time I ask them to. If they can't, then I have to take a step back, break it down and reteach. If I am going out on a trail ride I certainly want to be able to stop, back, turn. How do you turn a horse without controlling the shoulder and hip? You say you pick up the reins and apply pressure. Or maybe a leg aid is applied. That, my friend, is controlling the horse's body parts.

Groundwork is important because it ultimately has nothing to do with whether you are presenting them with a trailer, a tarp to cross, a creek to cross, a dead log blocking the trail. Groundwork prepares your horse to look to you for direction. If you prepare them right and send them somewhere with your aids, they should listen, whether you are sending them in the trailer, across a tarp or across a creek, because you have control of their feet, shoulders, hips, what have you.

You can certainly train these things absolutely anywhere. No roundpen or fancy arena required.
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