I'm hoping to work up to trail riding with my guy. He has had a extremely controlled upbringing preparing for the show ring. I'm hoping to learn more tools other than lounging until the horse is tired. I completely agree while under saddle expecting to hop off an lounge wouldn't work well at all. I happened to be working on ground work that night so it aligned with my schooling plans.
Do you have any other suggestions on making the transition from a show to trail horse? I appreciate your insight!
I also agree with your statement about only focusing on one trainer. I am attempting to broaden my understanding of horses and learn other tools to help make me a better rider and owner for my horse. Any other trainers that you have found helpful with your horses?
The best advice I can give you is to forget on the trail that you are riding a horse for a show. This year I have been helping to ride an Arabian show horse (hunt seat) on the trail. When I started lessons with him in March, he spooked at a snow drift in the arena and he had never been on the trail before. You could say that this is the most challenging horse I've ridden, and to this day I have not taken him out for an entire ride on my own. (Twice I took the long way home solo when his trainer had to rush back to the barn.)
The woman from whom I learned trail riding said, "You are a team out there, and you have to watch out for each other!" and "Trail riding should be fun for you and the horse!"
In addition to this Arabian, I rode a number of OTTBs on the trail, and the single most important things are: Be a confident leader and don't micromanage the horse. A relaxed horse is a safe horse, and by overcorrecting and overcontrolling the horse you will prevent it from finding a place of ease, especially when it's still green and in unfamiliar terrain. That in turn means that you have to ride the horse expecting that incidences will happen while pretending that they won't.
Not micromanaging the horse is contrary to CA's style.
The Arabian's trainer told me when he saw me ride Everest for the first time at the warm-up: "People don't usually ride green horses on a loose rein." And recently he told me, "With you, he's much calmer than with [other professional at the farm
], I don't know why!" Be the calm you want your horse to be, because he'll get excited enough when he starts going out there. All the lunging will not prevent him from experiencing and processing new stimuli, and excess energy is best spent on the pasture. I am very much opposed to "lunging until tired." It's really a fast way to suck the joy out of being with you for the horse.
So how would I take a greenie on the trail? Well, I have some confidence, but I'm not fearless, so my first step would be hand walking to see what I'm dealing with from the ground. Simultaneously, I'd start with really short outings (my Arabian started with outdoors cool-down walks after the arena lessons). Show him that you'll bring him home safely each time you go out.
Then build on it. Go out until you feel the tension, do a few more steps, then take him home. Before you know it, you'll be on an hourlong ride. Your horse will still spook at unfamiliar and startling things, but he will not be intimidated by distance to the farm anymore. It's one thing off his plate, out of his "cup of worry."
Furthermore, I have read that not all "make the horse move" is created equal. Movements that enhances the horse's balance (a nice long rhythmic trot) improve his mental state; movements that upsets the horse's balance (tight circles, rapid changes of direction) deteriorate it: in addition to the original stress, the horse has to deal with the stress of staying upright. Also not something CA teaches. He just makes the horse move - into submission. ("Denying oxygen privileges" is what I like to call it.)
Work your edge, work your horse's edge, the "edge" being where things are exciting but not scary. This leaves you with a margin of error for when the unforeseen happens.