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I didn't want to derail the other thread, so I'm posting this quote from it here:

I ride on the buckle to let him stretch out his neck, but never on a trail. I am alert and aware of how Rusty is acting, how his muscles tense up before he decides to bolt. I am always having a "conversation" with him through the reins. In other words, I will gently twitch my fingers when I feel he is not focused on me.
This is exactly how I have felt every time I've gone on a trail ride with Pony. I don't understand how people have nice relaxing trail rides where they just give the horse its head and sit up there chatting or admiring the scenery.. Is it just experience (human and horse)? When I'm on a trail ride, I'm constantly scanning, with every sense I can use, to figure out what scary thing is about to appear that would worry the horse. Because I need to be prepared in case he spooks.

I love the idea of being out in nature, but right now I don't find it very relaxing if I'm with Pony. He's never spooked to the point of running off, he just shies at things. And not really that often. But knowing that it could happen keeps me from relaxing.

How about others? Do you guys have nice relaxing trail rides?
 

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I didn't want to derail the other thread, so I'm posting this quote from it here:



This is exactly how I have felt every time I've gone on a trail ride with Pony. I don't understand how people have nice relaxing trail rides where they just give the horse its head and sit up there chatting or admiring the scenery.. Is it just experience (human and horse)? When I'm on a trail ride, I'm constantly scanning, with every sense I can use, to figure out what scary thing is about to appear that would worry the horse. Because I need to be prepared in case he spooks.

I love the idea of being out in nature, but right now I don't find it very relaxing if I'm with Pony. He's never spooked to the point of running off, he just shies at things. And not really that often. But knowing that it could happen keeps me from relaxing.

How about others? Do you guys have nice relaxing trail rides?
Good idea to start a new thread. I will add that this doesn't mean I don't relax and enjoy myself. It's hard to describe. Rusty is happy on trails. When he bolts, he quickly tires himself out so I no longer find it scary when it happens. He will canter (maybe even gallop if I let him) a few strides, maybe get across a big field, and then decide it's more effort than it's worth and slow down on his own if I haven't asked him to stop yet. We are working on me making the decisions of when he's allowed to have a little run rather than him making the decision, but I know that even if he is the one making the decision, it won't last long. He has never tried to run home, in fact, he doesn't want to go back because he likes trails so much.

Even though I don't ride on the buckle on trails, I most certainly do enjoy the scenery. He isn't spooking so I don't worry about that. I don't know why he suddenly, randomly decides to bolt. He wasn't doing it all summer, but it started again, and I think it has something to do with hunting season and/or animals being more active as they get ready for winter. It took me a long time to get to the point where I'm enjoying our trail rides and not worrying about anything. It certainly helps that on Rusty, even at a gallop, I have never felt like I might fall off. He is wide and has this back and shoulders that just holds you in. And when he bolts, he wants to take me with him rather than get me off like Kodak used to do. I guess at some point I decided that the extra energy is something I can work with since he is never like that in the ring, so I try to harness it and use it to my advantage instead of being terrified of it. I feel like I am an active rider on trails. A lot of people imagine trail riding as very relaxing, and feel they can passively sit up there and not have a care in the world. I ride actively on trails and take that as a challenge! It's an opportunity to try new things, whether it's walking through brush, water, side-passing through a narrow passage, weaving through woods. I treat it like I would a dressage session in the ring. It might not be relaxing in the way you think, but it IS fun for us, and it can actually be quite freeing to have a bit of a gallop in a field. Afterwards, his energy comes right back down and he is completely chill. That said, it happened yesterday with Bella and my daughter behind us and Bella nearly lost her mind. She had never seen Rusty run like that. Even though I stopped him fairly quickly, and he was totally fine to walk home the rest of the way, Bella (who is 4 and quite spunky) did not recover so quickly and had to be led home because she was rearing and bucking from the excitement. So I felt bad for my daughter, but Rusty and I were fine after I shut him down.

Can you and Pony ride on trails with a really chill lead horse? As long as Rusty is walking quietly, Bella just follows him with her head down. Or work on some exercises on trails so he is focused on you rather than the environment?
 

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Skip is the most chill, relaxing ride on a trail ride. It would take way more energy than he wished to expend to spook, shy, jump around etc. He doesn’t care if he’s in front, in back, alone or with others. I can talk, listen to music, once I carried a carton of eggs at a trot for over two miles! Don’t get me wrong, I’m still aware he could act out, and I’m aware of my surroundings. BUT I’m not constantly anticipating something could set him off…in my opinion, that transfers to the horse and makes him think “She’s tense….WHAT’S OUT THERE??”


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I didn't want to derail the other thread, so I'm posting this quote from it here:



This is exactly how I have felt every time I've gone on a trail ride with Pony. I don't understand how people have nice relaxing trail rides where they just give the horse its head and sit up there chatting or admiring the scenery.. Is it just experience (human and horse)? When I'm on a trail ride, I'm constantly scanning, with every sense I can use, to figure out what scary thing is about to appear that would worry the horse. Because I need to be prepared in case he spooks.

I love the idea of being out in nature, but right now I don't find it very relaxing if I'm with Pony. He's never spooked to the point of running off, he just shies at things. And not really that often. But knowing that it could happen keeps me from relaxing.

How about others? Do you guys have nice relaxing trail rides?
You're joking, right? I've been riding Arabians out on the trails, mostly by myself, for 40 years. You know the reputation that Arabians have as the all-time "Masters of the Spook." I don't know at what point I mastered the art of being both relaxed and aware at the same time. It'll come. Been well balanced in (on?) the saddle helps a bunch. Quick reactions help, also. Those are the two most important things for safe riding, IMO. Enjoy the trails.
 

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The horse feeds off the riders confidence. Don't blame the horse when you need to look inside you for the answer. I constantly look for ways I can improve to help the horse and all rides are learning experiences for the horse. All my rides are relaxing and I ride on a loose rein. Sure there maybe a surprise every now and then but, you need to relax to help him
 

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I rarely ride in the ring and instead hack around the property where I board. this isn't exactly what I'd call "trail riding", but it's certainly close. My horse and I have a few different routes, though we usually go the same way almost every day and then I might throw in a "hey let's go over here, we haven't done that in a while" side excursion. We also "work" in the big field surrounding the ring (we aren't fans of the ring....boooorrrring). So, most of my schooling and asking things of him (lateral work, transitions, figures, etc) happens in the field. I try to make the rest of the parts of our ride more fun for him by not asking much of him. I do ask him to jog and lope down some of the bridle paths between the pastures, but mostly I just want him to walk along, relaxed yet obedient. He's a very "looky" horse and can definitely be a spookmeister. There are certain parts of our ride where he gets tense and I have to take hold of his mouth and put my leg on a little (I think of it as "holding his hand" during the scary parts). I mostly just ask him to listen to me instead of reacting to whatever is bothering him. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes we manage to ride through the scary stuff on tip-toe, sometimes we spin around and try to get out of Dodge a few times before skittering past the monster. As soon as any tense or spooky situation is over, and I feel him relax again, the reins are loose and we are right back to moseying along. Because our route is so established, I know where he's likely to be "up" and where he's going to go back to "ho-hum" mode.

I do scan for things that will possible set him off, but I try not to let him know this. I stay as relaxed as possible and might just check in with him to remind him that I'm on his back and he needs to listen to me (all he needs to do is flick his ear back and that's good enough). Usually as we approach something that I'm pretty sure he's going to react to, I'll just lightly take the reins in both hands (I ride with one when we're just moseying) and ask him to listen to me, drop his head, flex, maybe move laterally. Basically I just try to keep him busy and check that all of his buttons are working as we get close to a potential trouble spot. Sometimes he never even reacts to the thing I was worried about, or he reacts but not very much. Sometimes it's too much for him and we have some spinning and bolting and snorting and backing and acting like the world is about to end. And often, after I insist that he get his silly butt by whatever it is, he walks past like it's no big deal. Goofball.

I broke my horse as a two-year-old and he's now 14. I know him inside and out and am positive I can handle anything he throws at me. He's a good soul...just a chicken about certain things. We are relaxed with each other, and that makes it easier to relax when riding out and about.
 

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When I first started riding Elle in 2015, I remember riding her on a couple of trails, with one or two other horses, and she was perfectly fine. The only thing she "did" was do a sort of jump-over-and-to-the-side suddenly to avoid a big mud puddle, but fair enough. The next year, I frequently hacked her alone... but just around the edge of the paddocks, always within sight of many other horses, so it didn't really count as "trail riding."

But then she was just used in arenas for several years, with very few exceptions, and there were no trails to ride on and no one to ride with. So both she and I lost our knack and our nerve for a while. I did fall off her hacking at the back of the property, two years ago, when we were solo, and she did a sudden 180 and cantered a few strides (before thankfully stopping to wait for me), so it's made me more wary.

Occasionally I feel bold and will hack out alone with total success -- but I always gauge her mood first and will cancel the mission VERY quickly if she doesn't feel relaxed -- which unfortunately happens more often than not. And that's fine. I'd rather NOT ride her out than ride her out tense. It needs to be a good experience for both of us, or else it's kind of useless and will just reinforce that it's a scary experience.

This was our first ride outside, spring of last year, after being in the indoor aaaaall winter. It was drizzly and gross, and I decided that not only should we ride up the side driveway, we should do it in a BAREBACK PAD. We even encountered a neighbour's vehicle and had a chat with her. And Elle was super calm and happy and perfect about everything. So yeah... I choose my moments. Others might "ride through" stuff but... mehhhhhhh. I'd rather get off and LEAD HER through stuff if it's going to be a struggle.


There was hacking aplenty at the place we just left -- gorgeous hacking -- but they were stuffing Elle to the gills with sugary feed, I found out later, so it's not a shock to say that she was very reactive and spooky there and I didn't trust her to enjoy ourselves in those fields more than just twice the whole time. :( What a shame!!
 

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I have plenty of relaxing rides, if I didn't I wouldn't enjoy being on horseback.

The extent to which I ride on the buckle does depend on the location and horse but even those who need attention should still allow you to chat with friends while being aware of your surroundings.

I agree with @Txshecat0423 , the more you transmit stress, and ultra awareness the more likely the horse will think that there is something to worry about.

At the extremes:

My ride this morning wasn't on my usual horse, it was on a fit ready to hunt hot-head with zero patience at being behind the group. Half of our ride was on roads with heavy traffic, the other, fast work through fields and tracks with some jumps. At no time was he allowed to wander or stretch his neck until the end of the ride when we were on familiar ground so that he could cool down.

My usual horse can be strong but out on tracks he is allowed to stretch and relax, take in his surroundings and enjoy his outing. Generally, he isn't the spooky type and I hope that he enjoys himself as much as me.

My own horses were a mix and fell somewhere inbetween. My gelding could spook so I had to choose my location and his mood but I did trust him to relax on a long rein. One of my mares was never allowed though as she was known to rear and bolt if spooked. She was never a relaxing ride!
 

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It depends on the horse. I'm able to keep an eye on the surroundings and my horses ears while thinking about something else or admiring the scenery. Neither of mine tend to care about spooky stuff. We've had deer and things run out in front of us and my mare would plow through them if I ket her. She doesn't care. She's seen hogs before too and just stopped and let them pass. No spook. And she's half Arabian.

It also depends on your balance...some people can just naturally ride a spook and act like nothing happened. I used to get on the horses in the pitch dark on the back ten acres and send them running up to the house with me on board for feeding time. They had to run through open gates and make sharp turns. I sometimes closed my eyes to make it more interesting and test my ability to stay with the horse just through feeling. All without a helmet. While I do NOT condone this behavior since it was really unsafe I do credit my stupidity back then with building some ability to stay onboard no matter what even if I didn't see it coming.

But I've also almost come off for stupid reasons that weren't even spook or buck related, like her stopping too fast at a trot and nearly sending my unbalanced butt over her head. So it really can be situational as well. I trust my mare with my life. She'd take care of me. My gelding might just take off like an idiot if something really bad came out of those woods.
 

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I don't understand how people have nice relaxing trail rides where they just give the horse its head and sit up there chatting or admiring the scenery.. Is it just experience (human and horse)?
Lots of people do this. Yes, it needs to be the right horse but lots of people do this.

These are "the people" I sold my Shotgun to. They like to go trail riding a couple times a month as in, go with family and friends, and drink a beer while you ride. True leisure trail riding! And they don't have time to ride the horses in-between so their horses need to be able to sit for weeks at a time, then hop on and go. My Shotgun can do that so that's why I called them when I was looking for a new home for him. (And don't get me wrong, they take great, great care of their horses so I knew it would be a good home for him.) And they love him. They send me pictures and videos once in a while. Last ones were two little girls (maybe around age 8??) that were learning to ride on him and having a blast. But he's one of those true horses that you can just walk around with slack in the reins and whole time and he's just going to stay at a steady walk. And one of those true ones that can sit for months, and you hop on and go without a worry.


When I'm on a trail ride, I'm constantly scanning, with every sense I can use, to figure out what scary thing is about to appear that would worry the horse. Because I need to be prepared in case he spooks.
Hmmmmm, and I would counter, that you might very well be creating the spook.

Your horse can sense that you are constantly scanning up there. Thus, they are going to constantly scan and "look" for something to be scared of. Because you are.

Just a thought!!
 

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I've seen no correlation between riding with contact or some slack and spooks. My horses spook regardless, and my rein contact won't stop them. The day after this photo was taken, we were repeating this when Bandit spooked over...what? I don't know. He leaped and spun for the corral and started in that direction. I got my reins, and turned him back within 50-60 feet. Starting like this:
If in doubt, I like a long leg, feet forward of my hip, feet deep in the stirrup. If I have some warning, I'll hold the horn with my free hand. I sometimes decide to urge Bandit on when he is feeling tense. This photo was on Mia, and using an Aussie-style saddle, but the position is the same. With this position, I'll stay on my horse regardless of how fast he spins or how quick he leaps away:
Practice lots of transitions, including walk to canter and canter to full stop. Practice sharp turns. A spook is nothing more than an unasked for acceleration and or sharp turn, sometimes with an immediate stop just before the sharp turn and acceleration. Build the muscle memory and instinct when you are asking for it and it will be there when he does it without being asked!
 

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When I first started riding Elle in 2015, I remember riding her on a couple of trails, with one or two other horses, and she was perfectly fine. The only thing she "did" was do a sort of jump-over-and-to-the-side suddenly to avoid a big mud puddle, but fair enough. The next year, I frequently hacked her alone... but just around the edge of the paddocks, always within sight of many other horses, so it didn't really count as "trail riding."

But then she was just used in arenas for several years, with very few exceptions, and there were no trails to ride on and no one to ride with. So both she and I lost our knack and our nerve for a while. I did fall off her hacking at the back of the property, two years ago, when we were solo, and she did a sudden 180 and cantered a few strides (before thankfully stopping to wait for me), so it's made me more wary.

Occasionally I feel bold and will hack out alone with total success -- but I always gauge her mood first and will cancel the mission VERY quickly if she doesn't feel relaxed -- which unfortunately happens more often than not. And that's fine. I'd rather NOT ride her out than ride her out tense. It needs to be a good experience for both of us, or else it's kind of useless and will just reinforce that it's a scary experience.

This was our first ride outside, spring of last year, after being in the indoor aaaaall winter. It was drizzly and gross, and I decided that not only should we ride up the side driveway, we should do it in a BAREBACK PAD. We even encountered a neighbour's vehicle and had a chat with her. And Elle was super calm and happy and perfect about everything. So yeah... I choose my moments. Others might "ride through" stuff but... mehhhhhhh. I'd rather get off and LEAD HER through stuff if it's going to be a struggle.


There was hacking aplenty at the place we just left -- gorgeous hacking -- but they were stuffing Elle to the gills with sugary feed, I found out later, so it's not a shock to say that she was very reactive and spooky there and I didn't trust her to enjoy ourselves in those fields more than just twice the whole time. :( What a shame!!
My late Annie, an Arabian out of TX, used to jump like that because of...anything, a butterfly, a lizard, that she spotted out of the corner of her eye. It was truly amazing how quickly she could change directions. I just learned to go with the flow and laugh with her about it. When she passed away, I called the lady who sold her to me (we have remained friends) and she confessed that she hadn't been entirely honest with me when I bought Annie. Back then, the story she told me was that a woman she knew had asked her to take care of Annie while she found a new place to live. The woman was never heard from, again. And although that part of the story was true, she failed to mention that the true reason she was selling Annie was because she was tired of being dumped and having to walk back home, where she always found Annie waiting for her. :)
 

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I'll add this: What made spooks so scary with Mia were A) they were true fear bolts and a true fear bolt is always scary, and B) once she spooked, she'd be on the edge of spooking for the next 20 minutes. Maybe not boiling over, but at 208 degrees and the tiniest thing could put her over the top again. We had rides where she spooked and bolted multiple times in 20 minutes - and I couldn't dismount, because that to her meant the Captain was abandoning the ship and she did NOT want me to dismount!

Her startle was also a 360-720 degree spin, which is pretty weird. So her spooks were genuinely something to be afraid of. They HURT even though I stayed on! My first Aussie saddle has a broken poley! That took some doing!

Bandit NEVER loses his mind. He never loses control of HIMSELF. He may be ignoring me, but he's always in control of himself! So his spooks aren't scary. Just something to ride out. And afterward, it takes him 30 seconds to adjust. HUGE difference between them - and part of why I adore Bandit.
 

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Oh goodness :eek: if you are always on EDGE at all times on a nice relaxing trail ride I think I would just stay home and ride in a arena, lol.. A nice relaxing trail ride is suppose to be nice and relaxing.. When I trail ride I stay alert to my surroundings because theres crazy people out there, but if you stay tense all the time it feeds into your horse so he/she is going to be a bit on edge too, so every little thing will look like its going to eat him/her because you tense up at something that should be nothing. :whistle:
 

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With Mocha I absolutely ride on the buckle and go full passenger mode, sometimes raised out my stirrups to talk to the person behind because she's got such a stride. When she talks though, I always give her my full focus and she definitely appreciates that. It sounds really silly writing it out, but we just have a connection that I've never had before in my life. She just knows I'm there for her and I feel so safe, which is insane considering her reputation. I bet if I asked more of her though or got heavy handed I'd get my butt handed to me. As long as I'm up for chilled rides she enjoys taking me places, her brave and adventurous self. I also ride Katie like that when its possible but she mostly wants to go together, un less we're in familiar territory. Sometimes Katie thinks she should have the last say on how to evade the packet of crisps. But first and foremost, it took getting to know both of them very well. When Mocha spooks, its usually a splat and continue. When Katie spooks it's always either a splat or a sideways jump but I always have 3-5 seconds to collect one or both reins as there's a solid chance she'll try tank off. Special note: I thread the buckle under my fingers in the "proper" English position. They can't easily be taken out my grip. I lift and grab the inside rein in a pinch and over time learned to use my leg more effectively.

Location is just as important, I'd never do that on a road. For me the second thing is the terrain and footing. And it depends on the day. Sometimes I can take Katie for a long trot and she'll calm down. Other times she's like runnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn. I'm slowly getting better at discerning which is which.

But maybe I've not the best person on this topic. I've had quite a few people over the years gape when I ride Katie on the buckle or without reins in the arena. I don't understand what her being a big horse has to do with it but I get more criticism for it on those grounds.

My first yard when I was hacking alone on Katie was a quiet bridleway with only lots of horse traffic which was cool. We frequently passed teams of hackers out trotting. Then we'd spend maybe a solid 30mins just browsing the bushes for yummy things, me helping by standing my stirrups and pulling down branches. Go for short canters alone and lost not one, but two, pairs of glasses because she's so tall. She was greener then and yet somehow I felt I was braver then than I am now...

Hacking Katie solo is now is either a leg work out on the way out, or flying sideways home. But we're getting there... my back is almost completely healed and I am ramping up to getting properly back in the saddle :)
 

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I'll add this: What made spooks so scary with Mia were A) they were true fear bolts and a true fear bolt is always scary, and B) once she spooked, she'd be on the edge of spooking for the next 20 minutes. Maybe not boiling over, but at 208 degrees and the tiniest thing could put her over the top again. We had rides where she spooked and bolted multiple times in 20 minutes - and I couldn't dismount, because that to her meant the Captain was abandoning the ship and she did NOT want me to dismount!

Her startle was also a 360-720 degree spin, which is pretty weird. So her spooks were genuinely something to be afraid of. They HURT even though I stayed on! My first Aussie saddle has a broken poley! That took some doing!

Bandit NEVER loses his mind. He never loses control of HIMSELF. He may be ignoring me, but he's always in control of himself! So his spooks aren't scary. Just something to ride out. And afterward, it takes him 30 seconds to adjust. HUGE difference between them - and part of why I adore Bandit.
THIS. I fully agree. On Kodak, they were true fear spooks and she wanted me off her. On Rusty, they are not true spooks, or if they are, they are over very quickly. These are bolts out of excitement.

So if I ride with long reins, by the time I stop him, he's gotten pretty far. I ride in woods trails with low limbs that could scrape me off his back in an instant. With short reins, I can shut it down quickly, or let him run a bit, knowing that I have the reins right there when I need to stop him. If I rode on the buckle on a trail we'd be in the trees. He is just far too easily distracted. That doesn't mean neither of us relaxes, ever. Unlike with Kodak, I am quite relaxed in my body when I am out on trails. Enough to take out my camera and take a picture. But throwing away the reins is a bad idea with Rusty, not because he'll be out of control, but because he'll get distracted and decides he wants to make friends with the squirrel that just ran up the tree beside us.

I have heard time and time again that it was my nervousness that caused Kodak's anxiety. I firmly disagree. First off, I was not nervous on her until she started dumping me. Of course, after being dumped a few times by her massive spooks, I began to grow more nervous. I'd have been stupid not to. And yes, it may have made her worse because we began feeding off each other's nervous energy, but I did not make her an anxious horse, she was like that before I got her. Other more experienced riders tried to ride her and she was just as spooky.

Rusty is very chill. Even when he decides to have a little run, his energy comes right back down. Some days, he is practically falling asleep on the trail. So I react accordingly and don't feel nervous on him at all, not even when he bolts. But with him, you have to nip things in the bud. He can't bolt whenever he feels like it so I have to be the one making decisions on his back. Like working with a child with ADHD, I have to find ways to keep him focused on me or his brain will leave me, and his body will follow. It's better if I direct that energy and keep him focused than let things unravel and then I have to use far more energy to bring him back.

Do horses feel your energy? Sure. But it's unfair to say that the rider is always causing a horse to be anxious. Some horses are just anxious, and I know my mare Kodak certainly was, no matter how much I tried to relax and be Zen on her back. And some horses can be ridden on the buckle while others need to know you're there. I don't think that creates tension if you have soft, elastic hands -- or at least that the tension is necessarily a bad thing. Rusty needs to know I am there with him or he kind of forgets. It's hard to explain, he's a peculiar horse, but gentle, soft contact works well for us. It's more like I'm holding the hand of the ADHD kid while we cross the street because I know he might see a bug on the road and decide to follow it. Holding his hand keeps us connected so I can sense if he's about to drift off. That's what it feels like to trail ride on Rusty.
 

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I don't give Novia too much rein at the moment for two reasons. 1. Because she has had bucking fits in the past and I'm not 100% in trusting her just yet 2. If I give her all of the rein she will just mosey over to a patch of grass and start eating because, you know, normally I starve her. I'm still relaxed though and not worrying about spooks.
Laela is a different story. She loves to go and explore everything. If she puts her nose to the ground, it's because she wants to smell the ground. I think that she is part blood hound. She's never failed to take me home, to the trailer, or back to camp if I get lost. I am pretty relaxed on her as well and not worrying about spooks.

I spent my childhood riding mostly bareback. That probably goes a long way for balance and unexpected movements. I've also spent the last 35 years walking about a moving train. That has probably helped me have good balance as well, even for the years that I wasn't riding.

Sometimes I'm a rider and sometimes I'm just a passenger. It just depends on how I feel and what I want to do that day. I almost always am relaxed and enjoying the ride, the scenery, and the company if I have any.
 

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On trails my horse spooks more and argues a lot more when I have too much contact. We work better on a trail when I'm giving him responsibility to take care of us. Sure I direct the ride, which direction, no don't go up this hill, etc. But I trust him not to kill us. He has had some big spooks when we first started riding together and he never reared or bucked. He just cowers down and bounces to the side snorting. Which I laugh off because this type of spooking doesnt throw me. I think that alone has really helped him not be so scared, because when he gets scared it isnt scary to me. I wont say he wont EVER hurt me someday, anyones horse can have a freak accident, but I can't control the what ifs and history tells me I shouldn't be worried.

BUT this is so personal to each rider and the horse. Everyone and every horse has a different personality. Some horses hate trails, because it's not structured and scary. Some horses, like mine, like trails but hate arenas.
 

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I find it irksome when people say , "You have to relax". you cannot force or demand relaxation!

Relaxation on a horse is a biproduct of other things, like confidence, knowledge and having other things to occupy your mind with. For people who have 'busy' minds, this can be hard to do. And, yes, it does impact the horse if you are anxious, but again, you cannot force yourself to be relaxed.

You can help yourself a bit, though. For example, I often use the self-talk mantra "This is so boring" to kind of get myself to see it all as mundane. I also will pat the horse's neck at random, sing or laugh, sometimes pick up one rein , or both randomly, turn and walk the horse in a small circle or other sort of random and directionless activities. They distract my mind and make picking up the reins not a distinct signal to the horse that his rider is getting ready for something bad.

another thing that can help the nervous rider is to start the trail ride, right off the bat, with a long trot out. Once your horse is winded , you will feel he is more relaxed and you will too

you cannot demand relaxation.
 
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