Horse strong at canter in trails - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 15 Old 01-09-2013, 06:29 AM Thread Starter
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Horse strong at canter in trails

I guess I could use an advice. :)

My 7yo gelding is perfect in trails - forward going, sure footed, brave and relies on my cues, except for one case. When I got him, he was trained to be a trail guide horse, thus he is more than happy to lead a string of horses and is great as a first horse - goes, turns, stops, backs up, yields well, and the same goes to trail riding alone - he does everything from the slightest cues, I even ride him bareback and bridleless, just with a cordeo, on longer trail rides sometimes.

However, if we go on a group trail ride and he doesn't get to be the first horse, he gets more tense, and, although he still remains good at walk and trot, he tends to get strong at canter and will repeatedly "offer" to pass the horses in front of us. He doesn't bolt or barge into others, but he will try to get closer to those in front of us and get annoyed when he sees that I won't let him pass. And I recently got to know from somebody who knew his previous owners, that he had this problem before I bought him, so it has been there for a while.

To prevent that, I try to keep a steady contact with him during the ride and, if he starts getting difficult, I make him flex, yield, do transitions, etc., to get him thinking and more focused on me, but, although he does those things, he still stays ready to use the smallest opportunity to get strong again and tries to ignore the cues. Also, if we canter behind other horses, he gets harder to stop - still does it, but not without a stubborn attitude.

It reminds me his position in the herd - he is 24/7 pastured with a herd of 10 other horses, mostly geldings, and is very dominant and protective about his position in the pecking order.

He never shows this behavior in arena, of course, or anytime we ride alone/as the leading pair. What else could I do to encourage him to engage his mind more during these accompanied rides and to change this behavioral pattern? Might the reason of it be just plain disrespect towards me as a rider in a situation where he feels he should fight for his position in the herd?

Thanks in advance. :)

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/James Wright/
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post #2 of 15 Old 01-09-2013, 06:36 AM
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He just wants to gallop and be in front which most horses like to do, it is fun. I wouldn't worry about herd position just work on asking for a change of pace on your terms and making him realise there is not need to go faster and race. I can honestly say that all our horses at some point have asked to go faster and lead, but it is never an issue. Sometimes cantering next to the lead horse has helped my TB get used to faster paces without racing in front and we often change positions when out hacking - friends taking turns to go infront so they all get time being behind too.
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post #3 of 15 Old 01-09-2013, 06:40 AM Thread Starter
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It's true, he loves speed, he loves racing, and he'd sell his oats for a good gallop. He's one of the fastest in our herd, so I understand his frustration in a way. Cantering side by side with the lead horse and changing positions through the ride sounds like a good and fun idea, thanks!

I have come a long way, to surrender my shadow to the shadow of my horse.
/James Wright/
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post #4 of 15 Old 01-09-2013, 07:33 AM
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I agree with Clava.

You do indeed have a perfect trail horse if he asks to go first but yet still allows you to place him behind others and listens without trying to run off. Especially if he is a dominant horse in the herd. What a good boy!

It is natural for horses to be competitive and many horses can get very strong in these situations. The only danger here is if you give in to his demands and let him always take the front or always "win" the race. If you do that, then you may one day find yourself unable to stop him until the other horses quit running.
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post #5 of 15 Old 01-09-2013, 07:39 AM
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I don't think herd position matters or is worth worrying about. Many horses get strong and excitable in a group canter when they have other horses running in front of them. That's normal horse behaviour. The most effective method to prevent it, in my experience, is desensitization -- cantering in a group as often as possible. It then becomes normal and loses its excitement. When I was doing a lot of this, I could ride anywhere in the pack, sit back, and cruise along without worrying about where the brakes had gone. Alternatively, I know that if I haven't cantered my horse in a group on the trail for a while I'm going to be hanging on for dear life, and my horse is 19! As long as you know that you can stop, even though it may take some effort and at least in the case of my horse, involves upper level dressage movements, you just have to ride through it.

I don't know that I would advocate cantering abreast until you're sure of your brakes. Nothing convinces a horse that it's in a race like cantering abreast of another horse.
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Last edited by thesilverspear; 01-09-2013 at 07:47 AM.
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post #6 of 15 Old 01-09-2013, 08:00 AM
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Originally Posted by thesilverspear View Post
I

I don't know that I would advocate cantering abreast until you're sure of your brakes. Nothing convinces a horse that it's in a race like cantering abreast of another horse.
Yes, you need brakes, but cantering in a controlled way side by side , no-one taking he lead, can be very steadying, but you do need to do this with someone you absolutely trust and who has a horse who is in perfect control.
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post #7 of 15 Old 01-09-2013, 08:41 AM
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Group position can matter very much to horses. On a ride one fellow was near the back and having an awful time with his horse. It was suggest turning him loose and letting him find his own position which was right in the middle. Horses jockey for dominance on trail rides because they are in a herd and they will establish the pecking order if the riders allow it to happen. Unfortunately, riders often get more involved with whom they can chat with that how the horse is doing.



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post #8 of 15 Old 01-09-2013, 08:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Saddlebag View Post
Unfortunately, riders often get more involved with whom they can chat with that how the horse is doing.
The horse needs to be schooled enough so that it is happy where ever during the trail, I certainly choose who I want to chat to and don't let the horse have a say in the matter. When out hunting it is vital that horses have the manners to go anywhere they are put in a very large group of horses going at all paces.
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post #9 of 15 Old 01-09-2013, 08:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Clava View Post
...cantering in a controlled way side by side , no-one taking he lead, can be very steadying...
My cantering partner, my daughter on Trooper, is VERY steady. He would cheerfully canter side-by-side. It's MY mare who is the problem. Alone or in the arena, she's fine. If there is another horse around, however, behind, side, or in front, her inner Secretariat comes out and all she can think of is mindlessly trying to replay the '73 Belmont:



Unhappily, we don't have any safe areas to canter them with each other for any great length, so I think cantering them together is out of the question until we find a different location. I'm trying a lot of side-by-side cantering in our arena to get her used to it...but she seems to understand the difference between a confined space and an open trail in front of her...

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post #10 of 15 Old 01-09-2013, 09:04 AM
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Originally Posted by bsms View Post
My cantering partner, my daughter on Trooper, is VERY steady. He would cheerfully canter side-by-side. It's MY mare who is the problem. Alone or in the arena, she's fine. If there is another horse around, however, behind, side, or in front, her inner Secretariat comes out and all she can think of is mindlessly trying to replay the '73 Belmont:



Unhappily, we don't have any safe areas to canter them with each other for any great length, so I think cantering them together is out of the question until we find a different location. I'm trying a lot of side-by-side cantering in our arena to get her used to it...but she seems to understand the difference between a confined space and an open trail in front of her...
Yes, in an arena is just not the same, they can be totally different horses. We are lucky that we have headlands around fields which are the perfect width to go two abreast for long distances, it is great for my ex-racer. She does still get strong sometimes, but the worst she does is leap a bit and go sideways....it is of course much more fun to release her inner racehorse, but we only have a few places where I can really let her go, but even if I let her gallop flat out I only have to touch her reins and she slows so I can let my friends catch up and even overtake.
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