Should I let the horse the horse choose the footing? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 11-09-2015, 12:08 AM Thread Starter
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Should I let the horse the horse choose the footing?

Silly question, do I let the horse choose the footing when out on a trail?

I went on a trail ride on the same horse twice, and I could not get her to move from the grassy edgy to the middle of the road either time. I know why she does it, she is barefoot and I'm sure it's more comfortable to trott on the grass but I was worried that we'll fall into the ditch. She seemed to know what she was doing and I didn't want to get into a fight with a horse I don't know so, after trying to move her over gently I gave up and let her get on with it. Should I have insisted? Just to clarify, the mare grew up in those woods and I've never been there before so she knew the path much better than me.

And, to extend the question a bit, when riding on difficult terrain, should I let the horse decide how to tackle a particular obstacle? I'm leaning towards yes. If I was carrying someone on my back, I'm sure it would be safer for me to judge the safest route.
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post #2 of 14 Old 11-09-2015, 12:15 AM
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I've ridden horses who were so experienced and surefooted I would not have presumed to pick their trail for them. I've also ridden horses who terrified me because they never watched where they were going.

I guess what I'm saying is that it depends.
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post #3 of 14 Old 11-09-2015, 12:41 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Avna View Post
I've ridden horses who were so experienced and surefooted I would not have presumed to pick their trail for them. I've also ridden horses who terrified me because they never watched where they were going.

I guess what I'm saying is that it depends.
That makes a lot of sense, thank you.

Now that I think of it, I don't let my favourite mare, a leggy OTTB, choose anything out on trail. The silly, hurtling thing seems to think that stumbling is a natural part of her gaits :)
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post #4 of 14 Old 11-09-2015, 01:06 AM
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well, if the horse is ouchy trotting on NON grass, making her trot there is not fair. either shoe her, or let her pick her footing,
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post #5 of 14 Old 11-09-2015, 01:17 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by tinyliny View Post
well, if the horse is ouchy trotting on NON grass, making her trot there is not fair. either shoe her, or let her pick her footing,
Yes, my thoughts exactly, that's one of the reasons I didn't insist. It's not my horse so I have no input into the shoeing situation.
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post #6 of 14 Old 11-09-2015, 04:16 AM
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Sometimes I let my horse pick and sometimes I don't.

He seems to always want to walk over the ant nest but if he does he will get all angry and stompy so I always intervene for that.

Other times he chooses.
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post #7 of 14 Old 11-09-2015, 05:29 AM
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It depends on the horse.

My lazy old QH gets very stubborn with what he wants to walk on, which varies by day. He's got sensitive feet so obviously rocky ground is avoided, but there have been times he's preferred tar to grass, grass to smooth dirt, and he prefers ANYTHING over sand.

My other horse doesn't really care what he walks on. I let him pick the path home once and he went off the dirt road into the long grass. He was walking at top speed, ignored my check when a ditch/dip appeared in front of us, stumbled down into the dip and almost went to his knees when he didn't lift his leg high enough to get out. I don't trust him to pick our path anymore.
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post #8 of 14 Old 11-09-2015, 06:39 AM
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When in Idaho I had the chance to help bring cattle down from the mountains. Th horse I was riding was so ugly it was unbelievable. A QH. I had to go after a heifer that had broken away from the main herd. That was fine and soon had it headed back. The mare took off with me down the side of the mountain. I was swinging off her trying to gain control, (bear in mind there were few racehorses that bettered me when it came to control.)

It was steep, a lot of rocks and shale. After the first 100 or so yards I thought that it was rather like the ponies of my childhood tanking off with us down the hills, they knew what they were doing and so did she.
I sat back, shoved my feet forward, one hand on the now loose reins, the other braced against the horn and let her get on with it. We were fine!

On the other hand I have ridden horses that didn't seem to realise their feet were there to keep them upright! One of those would have been unsafe to even walk down such terrain.

I would trust her, she doesn't want to end up in the ditch anymore than you do.
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post #9 of 14 Old 11-09-2015, 09:04 AM
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I ride a trail horse who is barefoot, with people on horses who are shod. Having had a year to adjust, the footing doesn't bother him anymore and with the occasional exception, he no longer chooses the soft ground over the rocks or gravel. I still let him take the softer footing if he asks to, they are ultimately his feet. If it hurts, I'm not going to make him unnecessarily ride in pain. I want him to like the trails, not dread them.

He has proven himself to be very good at knowing where his feet are, so I do let him select the route on bigger obstacles, for instance how to navigate a steep rocky hill but....I reserve the right to take back control at any time. Even a thoughtful sure footed horse can make a mistake in judgment sometimes!

In addition he has learned the voice command "easy" which tells him I want him to take it slow and careful.
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post #10 of 14 Old 11-09-2015, 09:29 AM
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Horses have to learn, just like us. Experienced horses know what they can do and want to do and it's not an issue to let them choose their way. Horses that are green to carrying a rider in uneven terrain benefit from guidance.

When I first got my guy out on the trails, he made some poor choices, but if it was only a mildly terrible idea, I'd let him, and when he sunk or slipped or whatever, it was his own fault. He quickly learned I wasn't going to "babysit" him, and while I chose direction and speed, out on the trail it was his job to pay attention and keep all four feet under us and on solid ground. I still will override his choice at times when I think I do know better, but all in all, he's learned very well and takes care of his end of the deal. Not all horses seem to learn very quickly though.

If this girl knows the trail well, I'd trust her. As Foxhunter said, they don't want to fall and potentially get hurt any more than you do. I will say that some chronic (years in one case) stumblers and/or "clumsy" horses actually do have a good reason and it's not that they don't care about taking care of themselves. I know several who were magically 'cured' by different farrier work and/or medical rehab, usually accidentally when a farrier switch or rest was forced for another reason.
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