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I'm sending my trail horse to a trainer since I just don't have time to polish up her training. So I was wondering, what maneuvers and basic training do you think is essential for a trail horse?

My horse doesn't really spook much and will cross creeks, step over logs, etc. really well. I just want to know what all to expect a trainer to teach her to be a good trail horse - things like backing up, stopping more consistently, standing still for mounting, etc.

I'm trying to find a good trainer and I want to make sure the trainer and I have the same or similar goals for my girl.
 

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I think knowing how to sidepass is a good thing for a trail horse to know. I also like trail horses to know how to turn on their haunches and how to do a turn on the forehand. Crossing bridges and running water is something I like them to be very familiar with too.
I like trail horses to have excellent manners, be very responsive to leg and seat aids and in general be good riding horses.
 

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Agree with Gidji. Sidepassing is a must. IMHO, so is neck reining but lots of people don't agree. Trail horses should be willing to cross any kind of bridge, regardless of whether it is a wooden one or concrete. If a horse has never crossed a concrete bridge before, it will freak most of them out because it vibrates and echoes differently than other bridges. I would expect any horse to stand for mounting and dismounting, ground tie, and solid tie calmly with no fighting. They need to be good with having their feet and legs handled in case you have to untangle them from something or pick their feet. Make sure that they are okay with the rider leaning off the side, down on their neck, and back on their butt. I believe that a good trail horse should also be comfortable with riding double just in case a friend has to hitch a ride in an emergency. Ropes, hats, plastic, loud noises, flashing lights, vehicles, atv's (motorcycle and 4-wheeler), even gunshots should be addressed in training. They should be able to go in any direction (back, forward, left, right, and diagonal) at any speed you want and you should be able to control their forequarter and hindquarter separately.
 

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i think smrobs gave a very good answer. you just never know what you're going to run into out on the trail. a horse that will stop when the legs are entangled in vines or wire will make you real happy if that ever happens to you. i also think neck reining is important. stand quietly tied at all times is a big deal and standing still to mount and dismount is a must.
crossing bridges, noise, flapping stuff, flashing stuff, all important. never know when a turkey or deer will jump from under your horses nose.
happy trails to you.
 

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Not much to add to whats been said above.
I wouldn't worry to much about neck reining at the trainers. A few trail rides and the horse will learn it on the job. As you head down a trail, the horse can see the trail, and basically he knows where he needs to go. But you keep signalling him with neck rein queues. He will figure it out. I've never had to conciously teach a horse to neck rein. Just be an active rider while riding the trail and the horses will pick up your slightest queue.

I hate a horse that won't stand still, If I spot an elk or deer and want to glass it with some binos, I don't want my horse fidgiting around. I want him to STAND STILL.

I can't tell you how many times, I've pulled a rain coat or jacket off my strings and put it on while still in the saddle. I also take the jackets off and tie them back on the strings from the saddle. Make sure you can pull out a coat, shake out the folds and put it on with out the horses worrying.

I don't like a horse banging my knees into trees. It takes a while for them to learn how wide a berth they need to maintain when they go past trees. Probably not something your trainer will teach, But you need to teach. Also they need to learn to look up and see branches that would brush or knock me off the saddle. That is more difficult to teach. I've got a 15 year old gleding I like to ride. I can head up the canyon in pitch darkness and know he will skirt wide enough that I won't get slapped in the face with a branch in the dark. My younger horses all cut the corners trying to save steps, and I get the surprise of banging a knee or scratches on my cheeks. Now if I could just teach him to spot the spider webs!

My horses need to Hobble and Highline. I aways carry hobbles on trail rides. When I stop for lunch, hobble and let the horses graze. Overnight camps require highlines. The horses need to be comfortable being tied all night. They need to be able to eat all kinds of feed. At the truck I feed baled hay, at lunch they get to graze on grass, and if we packed in ( especially during late fall and winter when there is no graze) they get pellets/cubes that I have packed for them.

Spook in place, My horses will run into something along a trail that they have never seen. Something will jump out of the bushes and surprise them, I don't want to get slapped in the face with branches for the next hundred yards trying to get a spooked horse under control. Grouse, Pheasant, Turkeys all flush and fly off from under foot. Deer and moose jump up out of their beds, and bounce off. We ride past cattle on grazing permits, and it always seems the calf will be on the other side from the cow and they will sprint in front of us trying to get back. Add to the wild life, Hikers that don't talk with funny shaped back packs, mountain bikers, ATVs with loud engines, Dogs, strange animals like Llamas or camels. Even the surpise noise of lightning clap or a microburst of wind knocking over a nearby tree. They can spook, thats OK, but we are not going to allow them to spook and run.

Horses need to stand while you mount. No moving off until I'm in the saddle and signal my intent. I've been hurt too many times in the back country. And somes times it just hard to climb into the saddle with a broken arm, wrist, bundled up with heavy winter cloths, if you are a small person on a tall horse etc. If the horses is moving while you are trying to get on, It can be very hard and dangerous. They need to stand, no matter how hard I struggle to climb up.

Good luck.
 

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In addition to all of the above excellent points, in my part of the world, a trail horse should be able to allow the rider to open and close a gate (turn on the forehand) pony another horse and be ponied, ride in front or in back or the group, move away from the group willingly when asked, back off the trail and stand quietly and allow another horse or horses to pass.

I much prefer a trail horse that lengthens and shortens stride when asked so you can match the pace of others in the ride without breaking gait, but that's not an absolute necessity.
 

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I agree about the ponying suggestion above. I once was on a trail ride on a seasoned old horse, b/c my horse was on stall rest, and one of the girls decided she wanted to show off. To make a long story short, she fell off, passed out, and we had to tie her onto her saddle and I had to pony her back to the house. Good thing both the horses were used to it.
 

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One thing to add. The horse should know not to rush downhill. It should also be comfortable with loose footing, rocky footing, and mud. It should also not panic going into deeper water and cramped spaces. I have gone on CTRs before where we had to deal with all of that. My 4 year old dealt with it better than my mom's 10 year old. There was a water crossing where my mom's horse actually got stuck in a hole you couldn't see. The water was up her saddle, adn the horse freaked for a few minutes. Half halts are a must. That was actually how I trained my horse to go downhill nicely. It should also not freak when other horses panic, act up, or run off. There have been times that easily could have caused me a bad accident. Instead we were able to help catch the runaways and calm teh ones that were freaking.

I think almost everything else has been covered. :)
 

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P.S. I love Paintedhorse's points. It's no fun when yu have to get off, put on a ponche, and then try to get back on without ripping the flimsy little thing. I would rather just pull it out, use my horses neck as a table to unfold it, and put it on. We got judged on that at CTRs sometimes, and my horse loved it because he got a break and a nice pat for being good.
 

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...pony another horse and be ponied...
I second this, and few people that I know other than some trainers ever work on this. A horse that ponies well has learned to behave and work well close to other horses, and a good pony horse is worth its weight in gold (for many reasons). I pony our young ones from our lead mare everywhere through all the gaits.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks for the great tips - and keep 'em coming. Very helpful.

My horse is very good about many of the things you're all mentioning and has always been good about them - she barely spooks and I've exposed her to a lot on rides. When she does spook, she jumps a little, but stays in one place and I don't lose control or anything. I can move all around in the saddle, put on on a noisy coat, etc. without problems. She crosses bridges, crosses creeks, and goes up and down hills pretty well. I neck rein with her and she does that better than direct reining. I know that the trainer she'll probably go to teaches them to be okay with the rider shooting a gun while riding - a very important thing here in hunting territory!

It's the other stuff, the basic riding - side pass, backing, turning on haunches & forehand, and standing still. We definitely have trouble with standing still - during riding, during tacking, during mounting, heck - during grooming. If he fixes that one thing I'll be thrilled!

I wouldn't have thought about teaching her to pony or be ponied - I'll talk to the trainer about that. I can see where that would be very helpful if there was a problem on one of our long rides. If he doesn't teach that, should I just try it with my husband's horse (they're buddies) and then maybe some friends' horses.

Painted Horse - how do you teach them to allow room for your head and legs? If the trainer doesn't teach that, I sure need to. Some days my little darling is more bulldozer than horse! I've had to do some quick ducking to avoid getting knocked in the head.

Again, thanks for all of the ideas! I'm going to hate not seeing her for a month or two, so I'm hoping to only have to do this once!
 

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Put a couple blocks of salt in some panniers and have her pack them around for a day. If no panniers, Then tie an old tire on both sides of the saddle and pony her. After she bangs into a few trees, she will learn to go a little wider.

If I'm in the saddle, I put a foot against the tree and push away when ever she gets too close. They get tired of getting knocked off balance and pretty soon start to give a wider berth around trees.
 

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If I'm in the saddle, I put a foot against the tree and push away when ever she gets too close. They get tired of getting knocked off balance and pretty soon start to give a wider berth around trees.[/quote]

That is a very simple and great solution, I did that when I started doing gates on my horse - her natural instinct when she gets to a gate is to push and lean on it.

How the heck do I stop my horse from rushing down hill? She has a natural big fast walk, unfortunately it doesn't change going down hill no matter how steep or rough it is. She is not doing anything wrong but it feels really scary when she doesn't check her pace. She resents being made to walk slower than is normal for her so if I do try to check her she fights and ends up tripping and stumbling. Maybe I should just lighten up and let her go for it, she never wants to go faster than a walk but she sure likes to walk fast.
 

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How the heck do I stop my horse from rushing down hill? She has a natural big fast walk, unfortunately it doesn't change going down hill no matter how steep or rough it is. She is not doing anything wrong but it feels really scary when she doesn't check her pace. She resents being made to walk slower than is normal for her so if I do try to check her she fights and ends up tripping and stumbling. Maybe I should just lighten up and let her go for it, she never wants to go faster than a walk but she sure likes to walk fast.
I do a series of half halts while going down a very steep hill. My guy walks fast too so I check him by saying "easy" and making him almost stop. I do not say "whoa" when I check him since that means to stop right now, not another step but using the easy causes him to check himself , that verbal command plus a gentle reminder with the reins.
This series of half halts gets him digging in more with his hind end to check forward motion.
 

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I do a series of half halts while going down a very steep hill. My guy walks fast too so I check him by saying "easy" and making him almost stop. I do not say "whoa" when I check him since that means to stop right now, not another step but using the easy causes him to check himself , that verbal command plus a gentle reminder with the reins.
This series of half halts gets him digging in more with his hind end to check forward motion.
Really good advice. :) I taught my guy using the same thing.
 

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How do you teach your horse to look up and avoid things over his head from hitting you?

I had one horse that I was training that had a problem with the sound of my nylon jacket brushing on branches or brush. He would bolt forward as soon as he heard the noise. I realized that we needed to desensitize him to that sound, so started working on the ground, and then started riding with lots of noisy clothes on.

Since he got scared every time a branch rubbed on my jacket, he taught himself to look up and avoid low-hanging limbs. He did get over his fear of the noise, but he always watched overhead for low-hanging branches and went around. He was great to ride, because I didn't have to worry about getting hit!

But I was able to capitalize on his issue. If a horse doesn't worry about the noise, how would you get across to him what you want?
 

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Discussion Starter #18
How do you teach your horse to look up and avoid things over his head from hitting you?
Yeah, I've had trouble with this at times too - I'm flexible and have done lots of backwards ducking when necessary! (Limbo competition anyone?) :wink:

Honey is so fearless, she'll bulldoze through all sorts of things, low branches mean nothing! How do you fix that?
 

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I personnaly don't try to teach my horse to avoid them. I really enjoy using low branches as leg aid training tools. I like to try and make my horse go around them just by using my legs. It is great for getting my horse flexible and is good for schooling on the trail. Of course occassionaly I get a bit scraped but generally we can dodge and weave without me having to touch the reins. This is just a little game I like to play with myself.

Thanks for the advice Riosdad on the half halts for a hill rushing horse. I have been out a couple of times and once Phoenny got what I was trying to do it worked a treat. Another thing which I have been working on lately is getting my mare to walk down a hill nice and straight rather than mincing and prancing down sideways. Finally we are going down hill like a sane horse and rider for the most part.
 

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It's funny, my horse'll duck his head to go under branches fix feet high.

For me, I think it is very important for a trail horse (well, all horses)to have good ground manners. The last thing I want when I'm trying to open the lines of an electric fence is for my horse not to follow me through and risk us both being shocked.

On the subject of manners, I taught my horse to stop grazing with a voice command, he isn't perfect at it but he is getting better, it's an extremely useful trick after you stop/take a break to not have to fight to get your horse's head back up (I believe in letting horses graze on trails if we are stopped, it keeps them from getting antsy).
 
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