Are trail rides "fun" or "work" for your horse? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 42 Old 09-04-2009, 02:47 PM Thread Starter
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Are trail rides "fun" or "work" for your horse?

I just have a question, or rather, I have an opinion, and I want to know your opinions.

My horse and I typically school [dressage] in the pasture. It's pretty sandy, kicks up a lot of dust, and is deep in some spots and has a few bumpy spots, but it works. So every once in awhile, we go on a trail ride. When we go out, I throw her western gear on, give her her head, and just walk or run or whatever. We don't work on collection, bend, anything, I just like to let her get out and not have to worry about carrying herself. I think it's important to go out and do something that isn't "work," you know?

Now, I have a friend, and she doesn't trail ride much, because her horse doesn't collect on the trails. She wants her to walk through the trails like she's in a dressage test. We went out together and we went for a trot, and while I just got in two point and let my pony trot, my friend was struggling with her mare to lower her head and collect. She said if she doesn't, her horse's trot gets too rough to sit or post or two-point to. Personally, I thought she should have got in two point and let her go, trail rides are supposed to be fun, right? After all, the not being able to post or two point to her trot is a rider error, and how better to work on it than do it? But it's her horse, so I didn't say anything.

On the way back, I was letting my horse have a run. My friend didn't want to run her horse, and she said it was okay for me to go, so I ran up the trail and back to my friend a few times, it was really no big deal. So eventually, my friend apparently decided to let her horse have a run. And her horse bolted, took off, my friend couldn't stay on and ended up falling off. She's fine, she landed on her feet, she didn't loose her horse, it all really is fine.

But I think her horse bolted like that because she hadn't been allowed to have fun the whole ride, and when she finally got the chance to go, she really went. Granted, there's a lack of training involved, I understand that. "Whoa" should always mean "whoa" no matter what the horse is doing.

Later on, I suggested that my friend work on transitions, LOTS of transitions, and drill in her horse's head that "whoa" means "whoa." I'm not sure if she took me seriously or not, I'm pretty sure she just won't go out on the trails with me anymore, and I hate to admit that it really frustrates me. But that's my issue, I won't do or say anything, it's her horse and it's her decision.

My question to you is, what do you think a trail ride should be for your horse? Do you think your horse should continue down a trail in a frame and carrying itself correctly, or do you think your horse should just get to walk and trot as it would in the wild? I don't let my horse go crazy, she always stops and turns when I ask, so that's not what I'm getting at. So rather, do you think your horse should be allowed to go on a loose rein and relax and have fun? Or is it another "schooling" session like it would be in the arena?

Thanks for reading my novel, and thanks for any replies with your opinions. =]

"Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds."
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post #2 of 42 Old 09-04-2009, 02:56 PM
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Trail rides for my horse are for fun. He's a show horse but when we're trail riding I don't have those kinds of standards for him, he can just chill. My friend used to always ride her horse like she would "schooling in the arena" out on the trails and he ended up hating showing.

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post #3 of 42 Old 09-04-2009, 03:04 PM
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Well, I've only been once on my horse, but it was just fun. We couldn't walk on a loose rein because he's 16.3 and I was with two 13HHish ponies, but except for keeping pace with ponies he was just allowed to wonder around and have fun, no working on bending or using his butt, etc.
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post #4 of 42 Old 09-04-2009, 03:08 PM Thread Starter
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I suppose I should have explained what I meant by loose rein. I didn't mean holding your horse back while walking with a slower horse or anything, or simply maintaining contact. I just meant "loose rein" like you aren't working for a frame.

There are plenty of times when I want my horse to move slower, my mare typically walks a LOT faster than anyone else. =]

"Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds."
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post #5 of 42 Old 09-04-2009, 03:13 PM
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Here's a really bad picture of Ben and "his girls" right before our trail ride I was in show clothes because it was at a show and I just finished my class

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post #6 of 42 Old 09-04-2009, 03:15 PM
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well i do showjumping with phoebe so i do alot of flatwork schooling and once a week jumping work but i would think of trails as fun and i tend to take her on them as much as i can
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post #7 of 42 Old 09-04-2009, 03:18 PM
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I usually let him do his own thing on a trail ride. So long as he stays in the gate I have asked him for I let him go whatever pace he wants, and carry himself naturally. I usually use the trail ride if we worked really hard the day before and I think he might have a little muscle soreness, or if I just don't feel like working.

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post #8 of 42 Old 09-04-2009, 05:36 PM
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Trail rides should be fun and relaxing for the horse. That doesn't mean you can't say "I wonder if I could do a haunches in down the path?" You can play with things every once in awhile, but it's not a place to work.

My horse loves trail rides. He doesn't like too much consistancy, he gets bored pretty fast, so it's my job to keep variety in his life.
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post #9 of 42 Old 09-04-2009, 05:55 PM
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Interesting question. I trail ride exclusively and much of our terrain is demanding, rocky, steep, muddy or wet. It's very often wisest not to interfere with a good, sane trail horse, but rather let them find their own balance and way, not mess with their mouths or ask for collection when it might not be at all the best way to handle a particular trail. In long stretches of trotting or cantering I'll ask for a little rounding up and i expect my horse to be flexible and responsive and move away nicely from my leg in tight quarters, but normally it's hands off the mouth.

don't worry, spiders, I keep house casually.
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post #10 of 42 Old 09-04-2009, 06:48 PM
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Nelson absolutely loves to hack! LOVES IT, LOVES IT, LOVES IT!

I think it is a wonderful avenue for horses to beable to reach in order to clear their minds and relax after being drilled non stop in an arena. Actually, if I do too much arena work with Nelson, he gets bored, bitter and sour.

Hacking is the best way as well for Nelson and I to condition up for our Eventing Season, you get the best of everything out there. Hills, walk work, trot work, canter work - I cannot suggest anything better.

Nelson and I love to Fox Hunt, do Hunter Paces and just hack in general. We have fun, while working - without realizing we are working.

We do collection work, extention work, rhythm work, responsive to aids work - doesn't matter, it's all still fun. We do half passes on two tracks, or serpentines. We jump anything jumpable, we gallop up hills, we gallop through water - bah - Nelson has no clue he's working.

At all times, his ears are perked up, he wants to go, go, go, go.

If I tack him up and lead him to the arena, he slows down and becomes pokey. If I lead him to the mounting block that is in the general direction of the starting trail for a 2 hour hack - he wont stand still. I put my foot in the stirrup and he's already taking off.

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