Ultimate trail horse? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 34 Old 07-06-2011, 07:35 PM Thread Starter
Green Broke
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Brazoria County, TX
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Ultimate trail horse?

In your opinion what makes the ultimate trail horse?

As far as personality is the horse should be willing, trusting, confident, and steady. The horse should also think before it reacts.

But what about the obsticles? What should the ultimate trail horse be able to do?

I'm asking these because I would like to turn my mare into an amazing trail horse. She has the personality for it and I think we could excell in this area. I'd like to join ACTHA and do the competative trail rides in the future, and maybe some trail classes as well.

We have most of the basics down such as crossing water, bridges, logs, roads, railroads, we can open gates (need somemore work to perfect it), our back and stand still need work as well.

We cannot side pass or ground tie and I plan on working n those both.

So, what are the things you think an amazing trail horse should be able to do?

When In Doubt Let Your Horse Do The Thinkin
Originally Posted by spookychick13
What Lone said.
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post #2 of 34 Old 07-06-2011, 07:40 PM
Join Date: Jan 2011
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The horse should move off your leg. Stand for long periods of time tied. Know how to Whoa. Walk threw under brush. Cross water and mud. Pack anything on its back.

live for the moment.
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post #3 of 34 Old 07-06-2011, 08:09 PM
Green Broke
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Location: Georgia
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I could go on all day!

* A great trail horse is consistant in its paces. You should be able to put this horse on a lose rein and it will continue to go forward at your desired speed, stopping nor slowing down and certainly not speeding up. The horse should cruise control at the walk, trot, and canter. Your horse should not change its speed for anything, including heading back to the barn or other horses trotting in front. Strictly no jigging. No constant kicking. Cruise control.

* Three solid, enjoyable gaits. A medium walk, medium trot, and relaxed, easy canter.

* Neck reining. I mean real neck reining, where you can stop, turn, and shift gears without using more than one hand.

* Independent. No buddy sourness. A good trail horse is focused on its job.

* Stand for mounting, on and off sides.

* Ground tie.

* Stand tied to anything: trees, trailers, posts, fences, cross ties, any kind of ties in those scary horse camps, etc.

* Not be afraid of water in any form. Muddy puddles, small, narrow streams, wide shallow creek crossings, deep dark rivers. You'd be surprised how some horses cross some types of water and are bad about others. My horse use to be able to cross wide streams and rivers, but would jump narrow creeks.

* Climb steep, rocky hills without scrambling. Climb hills quietly without breaking into a trot. Horses LOVE rushing up hills.

* Same with down hills. Horses like trotting at the end of long downhills. It's annoying and sometimes dangerous.

* Leg yield. When you're on the trail and avoiding holes, being able to yield your horse in both directions is nice. The horse shouldn't trot off when asked to leg yield.

* BACK. Backing is important for safety! Horses should be able to back into and out of tight spaces, back through turns, back around trees. If you're on the end of a trail and can't turn around, sometimes you have to back out. Sometimes you have to back out a long way too, so no fighting the back up command. Head down, submissive, and soft in the mouth.

*Sidepass. Sidepassing is the hardest thing in the world for me, but if you're going to do CTRs, they're going to ask. I've also found uses for it in real life, but not as much as backing.

* STAND. Whoa means whoa! Stand means no more motion in any direction. Just standing still is one of the best things a horse can learn.

* Load into a trailer. Never bring a horse that takes a struggle to load to a CTR . For safety reasons, a horse should get into a trailer right when you ask -- no two or three or 10 minute struggle required. If your horse is hurt at a CTR and the "horse ambulance" arrives, your horse should get on. If something happens and you have to get your horse into a trailer quickly, he better get in there QUICKLY. When you're ready to go home after a long day competing, your horse better get in that trailer. One poor lady got struck at a CTR for two days because her horse wouldn't load.

* Drink and eat on the trail. Your horse shoud drink water from the saddest looking mud puddle and eat whatever grass offered. He should eat only with permission. I taught my horse it was okay to eat when I push down on her poll.

If I think of any more, I'd add them. A good trail horse is tough to train.

Last edited by Brighteyes; 07-06-2011 at 08:19 PM.
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post #4 of 34 Old 07-06-2011, 08:18 PM
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a trail horse must be confident and have full trust in the rider. The horse should think before reacting, yes. A bolter or spooky horse is not going to cut it as a trail horse (unless you train the heck out of it, then maybe) The horse should be naturally curious. It is always good if the horse gets along with others. Being able to ride in the front, middle, back or alone is what makes a REALLY good trail horse. Being able to pony or be ponied is also a great asset. If your horse or another is having problems, ponying can help sometimes. Having horses near to the butt or being near to another horses butt and accepting it is also a good skill. You never know when the other horse might spook into you, and you son't want your horse to start a fight. Horses that don't race are also good. Going on trail with a racer is not that much fun, and can annoy your horse too.

as for skills, anything goes. You can't train for everything, but you should do the usual: mud, water, sand, rivers, rocks, bridges, steep slopes (important), lakes, log piles, and all the people stuff too: umbrellas, strollers, bikes, motorcycles, cars, farm machinery, honking, loud noises. Also animals; dogs, cows (bison, lol), deer, llamas (alpacas), birds (turkeys, chickens, etc.). Especially practice dogs coming up to the horse, following it, running under it etc. Standing still around dogs is important if they want to chase you (and your horse wants to run).

You can't train for everything, but you can try, lol =P I once met a couple walking a sheep that was wearing a bright red coat on a trail in the middle of the wilderness... my horse was not a fan, but how can you expect stuff like that? The most important thing is that your horse trusts you.

hope this helps =)
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post #5 of 34 Old 07-06-2011, 08:47 PM
Green Broke
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Southeast Texas
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I don't know that I could add anything to those wonderful descriptions! I am working on Biscuit becoming the ultimate trail horse and I think I am going to print that out and check it off as I work with him.

Enjoying my Garmin and mapping trails
Visit my trail riding blog at
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post #6 of 34 Old 07-06-2011, 09:06 PM
Join Date: May 2011
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Adding on to what everyone else has said, a trail horse (any horse, really) MUST MOVE OFF YOUR LEG. One of the hardest things I'm working out with my older mare is NO BALKING. She's a fantastic little trail horse, but has been a kid's horse for years and has picked up some habits. When she gets really scared, she'll balk, and when she doesn't want to go somewhere, she'll take iddy biddy baby steps, and when she gets stubborn, no amount of leg is going to make her go anywhere. Split reins and the over-under slap has been my friend in working her.

Horses who will ride out quietly both alone and with a group, at the front, back, or middle of the pack. Horses who will go wherever you point their head, no complaints, at whatever speed you choose.

On the trail, my list of pet peeves is:
-Herd/home bound: screaming, balking, trying to turn, all that good stuff
-Horses who will fight you and are anything but submissive and compliant
-A horse who won't stand
-Trying to run home
I can't think of any more right now, but basically, a decent trail horse doesn't do any of the above.
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post #7 of 34 Old 07-06-2011, 09:06 PM
Join Date: Apr 2010
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Prepare for loud noises. Horse should be okay riding bareback and in just a halter (in case of worst case scenario tack breaking!). Being able to drag noisy, odd shaped, or heavy objects. Opening and closing mailboxes. Opening and closing gates while mounted. Awkward and "scary" jumps. Tight or claustrophobic passages.

Lol basically imagine anything that could ever happen (even in your wildest imagination) and prepare for that! ;)

Challenge me, Dare me, or even defy me. But do NOT underestimate me...
For on the back of my horse nothing is impossible!
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post #8 of 34 Old 07-07-2011, 04:18 PM
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It should be confident riding by itself. It should leave the barn willingly and walk coming home. It should handle new situations well.

And one really good quality- it should listen to it's rider and ignore the other horses (if there are any). I've had several good trail horses, but the Mustang I own now I would call AWESOME because he totally listens to me and doesn't care where the other horses are, or what they are doing, or even if they are there at all!

It sounds simple enough, but a lot of horses have trouble with it. I swear other horses can gallop past us or completely leave us and he doesn't even care. There have been times I have split up with friends and then wanted to join them again, and I'm like "John, help me out here, where are they?" and he doesn't even care if they are with us or which way they went. But that is SUCH a nice thing. A whole lot of horses go batty when they are separated.

So more than what obstacles they can do, etc, I want an independent horse that listens to it's rider above everything else, and does what I want it to do, whether we are riding alone or in a group.

Also, extra credit if the horse is sound barefoot and has good bone substance and large feet.
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post #9 of 34 Old 07-07-2011, 05:17 PM Thread Starter
Green Broke
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Brazoria County, TX
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OK, so what we really need to work on is standing, side passing, backing, and cruise control. She gets fast at the canter.

Any suggestions as far as excersizes to help with these?

How do I make her soft and supple while backing? She tends to raise her head instead of lower it. I have been releasing pressure when she drops her head, but then she stops backing. How do I fix this?

When In Doubt Let Your Horse Do The Thinkin
Originally Posted by spookychick13
What Lone said.
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post #10 of 34 Old 07-07-2011, 05:58 PM
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Ohio
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The ultimate trail horse is a horse that you can drop the reins on and know the horse will negotiate his own path. A trail horse should use his own mind to consider where to go and how to handle obstacles. He should also be very willing, obediant, and CONSISTENT. He should know a boulder is a boulder today, yesterday, and the next day, and not spook at it after walking past it for a year with no problems. And, he should be fine to go out alone and not try to charge home for his buddies.
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