The Horse Forum banner

1 - 20 of 3294 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,324 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
For quite awhile now, I've been wanting to be able to confidently ride my mare out on the trail (many of you were very helpful after my questionable first foray onto the trails earlier this spring...)

Today the BM and a couple of other women were heading out to explore some trails that we've recently been given permission to use, and asked if Isabel and I wanted to join. Figuring going out in a group of her pasturemates would be a great way to test the waters, I eagerly said yes- and she was GREAT!! I couldn't be happier. We rode for about an hour, and she encountered a lot. She rode across a big open hay field, through wooded trails, up steep inclines and down the other side, crossed the road (twice), through a parking lot with people honking and waving at us, past someone carrying a giant patio umbrella, and back across a hay field with mowers going and guys throwing tarps over other equipment. Never once did she look at anything funny, balk, shy, nothing. I'm so proud of her! :D

There were two things that we can clearly improve next:
1. It was hard to hold her back from riding over the horse in front of her. She was pretty happy to be 2nd in line, because the leader was moving at a good pace (this was all walking...), but she didn't like being 3rd or 4th behind the pokier mares. These are all buddies, so it wasn't a problem this time, but obviously not good etiquette.
2. Relatedly, she was very heavy on my hands and was chomping away at the bit (literally) the whole time I was trying to hold her back from riding up on the horse in front of her. I didn't like hauling on her mouth, but I didn't feel like there was much else I could do. So will need a lot of work on that.

I'm not sure I'm ready to say I'm 100% confident yet that I can ride her out alone, but it was so wonderful to have this experience today and know that it is pretty reasonable to expect eventually I can get her there. It was just a huge confidence booster all around- and a ton of fun. SOOOOOO much more fun than riding laps around the arena! Can't wait for our next ride!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
398 Posts
Congrats! There's not much else that can put a grin on your face than a real good ride on the trails. You know its right when you don't want to come back into the barn :)

Does your mare behave the same way concerning the bit in the arena, and with other horses in the arena? I'm not sure of her history, but this is just my experience with my horse... he was ridden hard as a barrel horse in his younger years in a HUGE bit. He was with this person from the time he was 2 til 7. Then his previous owner bought him and had him for 8 months, had him sent to a trainer, and rode him in a D ring snaffle. His long time owner was AMAZED he could be ridden, and stopped in a snaffle. I've had him just over a month now, and one day I decided to try him in a side pull in the arena of course... a much different horse. He was so much more relaxed and actually halted and listened to my cues much better than even a snaffle bit. I'm not saying this is the case with every horse but if she is uncomfortable, things are worth trying to see if she is happier!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,324 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Atomic, you're totally right, I had a huge grin on my face and my husband had to listen to the minute-by-minute account over dinner ;) He was happy for me, but I figure you all "get it" in a way he doesn't...

Anyway, as for the bit, she goes in a simple dee ring snaffle and always has since I've had her. She doesn't usually grab on to the bit in this kind of tug-of-war. She can be a pretty forward little mare, but we don't typically "argue" about it. I think mostly she was just feeling good and excited to be out, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Just want her to be a little more responsive to backing off the horse in front of her.

I was happy with her when we headed for home though, she didn't get any worse or any stronger. I was able to turn her away from the barn and ride back out down the driveway before making her whoa one last time, and she listened well to that without trying to run for the barn, so I thought that was a positive note to end on.
Posted via Mobile Device
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,324 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
We had a great weekend of trail riding adventures. We started Friday night by actually heading out alone. I was not sure how this would go, as in the past when I've tried to take Izzy out alone, she'll quickly realize no one else is around and start doing this annoying thing where she swings her entire body in one circular motion to try to get pointing home. She doesn't bolt, she doesn't rear, but she just leans her entire weight around so that I can't physically pull her back straight or disengage her hind end to prevent it.

-BUT- happy to say, she did not do any of that nonsense at all. We marched down the driveway, crossed the road, and walked calmly across the hay field. Since I know part of the problems with trail riding alone are my own nervousness, I set a pretty modest goal for us- it was simply to ride across the road, across the field, and do a little trotting at an old outdoor sand ring that is probably 1/4 mile, if that, away from the barn. She was so good and calm with that, I decided to actually make things a little more challenging and ride past the ring into the woods on the trail. She was a little more hesitant there, as it had rained pretty hard last week and there were lots of really thick mud spots, which she generally doesn't like. But, she listened, rode as far as I wanted to until we got to a clearing, and then turned around to head back. She was a little quick going home, so we did some circling and changes of direction, but even though her walk was a little jiggy, she was generally ok.

Saturday we went back out with a group, and it's been interesting to see how she does in various positions in line. She definitely likes to be near or on the lead. She did well when she was 1st or 2nd (of 4), but she was miserable when she was 3rd- pulling and pulling so much and running up on the horse in front of her. We really need to work on this, because I couldn't find anything that helped her slow down and back off that horse, and eventually just had to ask to go past. I felt like I was just sawing away at the reins, which I hate. But there was nothing else that would get her to slow down (though hauling on the reins wasn't effective either).

I would love advice about getting her more relaxed and responsive when not allowed to be in or near the lead.

Finally, a couple of pictures!

Trying to work on patience while #3 in line (she's the little bay)


Treats! She was helping me take some pictures we would use to promote a "movie night" at the barn, so I got some cute ones of her with her nose in a big bowl of popcorn (get it, horses + popcorn=barn movie night ;)) She wasn't quite sure about the popcorn, but she looked funny playing with it.



 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,324 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
Had a so-so ride out today. I did my usual 30 minute ride in the arena to warm up, and then headed out. Another horse came into the arena for schooling right as we were walking out, and he started calling to Izzy as we were riding down the driveway. I was impressed that she didn't call back and didn't hesitate walking off the property even with him calling to her. So that was good.

We headed across the street, and she gave me a little "I don't really want to do this" pause as we walked through the gate to the big hay field. Still, she went forward with just firm legs, so again, that was good.

We got out into the field, and she was a little gawky looking around at the haying equipment and pickup parked out there. But this is where I felt that the ride didn't go great. She hasn't done this to me in probably a year, but last year when I was feeling really down about the possibility of her ever being a trail horse, she used to do this annoying thing to me in open fields where she'd bulge her right shoulder around in this spin-type move to pull us around 180 degrees so we'd be facing home. And then when I tried to turn her around, she'd just keep spinning around. OK, so today, this wasn't as extreme, maybe I'm more confident or maybe she is (probably me) but I could feel her taking baby steps to trying to pull this maneuver. I kind of wish someone had been filming because I'd actually love to see what it really looks like, but here's what it feels like it looks like:

1. We are walking straight, and gradually I feel her start to get twisted with the front half of her body.
2. As she gets twisted, she snakes her head/neck/shoulders around to the left (her head gets so cocked around, it's almost like she's doing a one-rein stop- but I'm not asking her to do that)
3. As she gets her head all twisted, she bulges out her right shoulder dramatically and you can feel her really shift her weight to the right (like her energy is really coiled in that front right shoulder).

In the PAST, what would happen is that I would try to get her to straighten up by using the right rein to ask her to bring her head back around. I think that was sort of the opening she was looking for, because she'd quickly go from being hyper flexed left to saying, oh thank you for opening that door, you want to pull me right, I'm going to REALLLLLY go right and basically put all my power into spinning around that right shoulder and turning back towards home. She doesn't spin around and bolt, she spins around and continues walking along as though she was asked for a quick turn, which obviously she wasn't.

So, I have no idea if this is some kind of evasion move that people could put a name to, but it's really pretty annoying. For whatever reason today, when she tried to do this, my reaction was not to try to pull her around to the right, but rather to keep firm leg on her right side so there was really no way to spin around, and do more of a gradual tickle on the right rein to get her to straighten out. Does that make sense? It seemed to work ok, we never got to the point where she could lurch her body around to head back home. But curious if anyone has any thoughts about this and what I could do?

The footing was really terrible as we've gotten drenching rain the past couple of days, so I didn't really do much more than ride the perimeter of the hay field, but it's been great to have these short outings alone to continue to build confidence.

At the end of the ride when we do turn around to head back, I don't like that she's still so fixated on getting home that she gets really prancy at the walk, but so far she does listen enough to technically stay at the walk. I make it a point not to just ride a straight line home, we do lots of loops and circling around bushes or other random objects. It seems to make her pretty annoyed, but I feel like right now it's a level of "annoyed" that I can still make my point and be safe doing it. Any other tips?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,738 Posts
In the PAST, what would happen is that I would try to get her to straighten up by using the right rein to ask her to bring her head back around. I think that was sort of the opening she was looking for, because she'd quickly go from being hyper flexed left to saying, oh thank you for opening that door, you want to pull me right, I'm going to REALLLLLY go right and basically put all my power into spinning around that right shoulder and turning back towards home. She doesn't spin around and bolt, she spins around and continues walking along as though she was asked for a quick turn, which obviously she wasn't.

Lacey would do the same thing!!
With her, the trick ended up being just riding her forward. Giving her a solid kick [or a smack with the crop if a kick didn't work] seemed to do the trick if she managed to get her head around. Of course, there were sticky spots [she had specific spots where she believed we "needed" to head home] but I realized that mostly it was MY fault. I'd get so "oh this is a lovely trail!" and she'd do her head thing as a sort of "hey! I'm here too, buddy!"
If I stayed conscious as a rider, kept her impulsion up, I found she would rarely even try. The minute I let her get ploddy, the more she'd start taking charge of the ride and swing her head around.

With the trying to lead/getting prancy, if she's anything like Lacey, it's just her inexperience showing. Lacey felt safest when she was leading so, as a green trail horse, I generally let her lead [I suppose it's something like being backseat driver? haha She wasn't sure the horse in front could handle whatever might happen, but she knew she could handle it better. :lol:] since she was a perfect ride in the lead and the people I'd generally ride with loved not having to worry about leading.
As she gained more experience on the trail, she became fine anywhere in line - no fighting [actually, she got SO comfortable that getting her going, in company, became an issue hahaha]. My only guess is that, at first, she wanted to see the scary stuff first and didn't like feeling blocked in. Later on, she realized that she wasn't missing much so she might as well take the easy job. :lol:
Same with prancing - it's something that just went away as she gained confidence on the trail. In Lacey's case, prancing directly correlated to nerves which directly correlated to energy. SO, back when she was green, I'd take her out and let her run away from home. We'd go out for hours and she would be happy to plod home. Again, as time progressed and she became more confident on the trails, we could have rides that were all walking and no running. But, at first, we did some walking, mostly trotting, and some long stretches of cantering. [somewhere in this transition phase, I also started using a pelham when we went out on the trails - I just kept the curb rein handy "just in case" as my emergency brake, and rode on the snaffle rein. But, that way, I knew I could stop her if she got overly excited at any point]
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,324 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
Lacey would do the same thing!!
With her, the trick ended up being just riding her forward. Giving her a solid kick [or a smack with the crop if a kick didn't work] seemed to do the trick if she managed to get her head around. Of course, there were sticky spots [she had specific spots where she believed we "needed" to head home] but I realized that mostly it was MY fault. I'd get so "oh this is a lovely trail!" and she'd do her head thing as a sort of "hey! I'm here too, buddy!"
If I stayed conscious as a rider, kept her impulsion up, I found she would rarely even try. The minute I let her get ploddy, the more she'd start taking charge of the ride and swing her head around.
This is really helpful! I think because I've been a bit nervous about riding out of the ring, working on letting myself be calm, and "enjoy the ride"- I could very well be so focused on myself that I am sort of ignoring the fact that I actually have to ride. I will check on this next time!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,324 Posts
Discussion Starter #10
Big day guys, we went on an honest-to-goodness solo ride today. It was a gorgeous, sunny day, it was just too good to pass up. We have a 45 minute trail loop that has some nice hills, some nice woods, and some easy turnaround spots, so I figured it was time to try.

I'm probably not young or hip enough to do the "selfie" thing, but I tried to snap one to show off the oh-so-sexy construction worker vest my husband thoughtfully bought me to protect us when on the road (we got a good laugh out of the "one size fits most" label on the package):

(Isabel has some Swat under her eyes to keep the bugs away)


It was a bit nerve-wracking in the beginning, we need to ride about 1/4 mile on the road to get to the trail. It's a twisty, country road and people don't tend to respect the speed limit or Horse Crossing signs. However, a very nice woman did see us and slow down plenty- problem was, she slowed down to a creep and wouldn't pass us at all, which was freaking me out. So, I asked Izzy for a trot, she moved forward smartly and I was able to "park" on the shoulder of the road for the lady to go by. Of course when we stopped about 200 feet from the barn driveway, Izzy thought about trying her whole spin-towards-home move, but we successfully got going forward again. I really focused on keeping her moving forward, riding along rather than sightseeing, and keeping her mind busy. At first she was a little gawky, but she settled right down, gave me a couple of nice big sighs, and was a very good girl!

I will probably look back at this in the future and think it was silly to feel so invigorated about walking a couple miles on an easy trail, but I have to say, I just really feel like we accomplished something! I honestly never knew if we would be able to ride like this, and it just feels so great! :lol:

Here we are "pulling into the driveway," safe and sound (though with a few more bug bites than either of us would like):


Tirrreeeddd old lady- you'd think she just did a long distance ride:



And yaaaawwwwnnnn (wish this was with a real camera instead of crappy cell phone):


Next step: Begin to build in some trotting and cantering in some of the nice open stretches on the trail.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,324 Posts
Discussion Starter #11
Interesting ride Friday afternoon. Some really good things happened, but I think maybe I pushed a little too hard in some respects.

Started off by riding out with two people and horses I don't typically ride with. One of the other women joked, "if you could pick three horses at this barn most likely to kill each other on a trail ride, it would be these three." Everyone was perfectly behaved though, and interestingly, Isabel got the spot at the back of the line, and actually did well there. No crazy pulling/rushing, she generally stayed a respectful difference from the horse in front of her unlike the last time we went out with a group. That was definitely positive. The other two were just using the trail ride to cool out their horses from jumping, but for me it was a warm up. I didn't think I could ride away from the group and keep going on the trail, so I went back to the arena with the others, did a little w/t/c in the ring alone, and then decided to ride back out to a different trail alone.

This is where maybe I pushed my luck a little, by going back to the barn and riding out a second time?

OK, so we ride to a different trail, and I decide today will be the day I try trotting away from the barn. There is a nice, long stretch of open field, so we trot off, she's a little bit of a "drunken sailor" and we're not necessarily going straight. Across the hay field, there's an old sand outdoor riding ring, so I decide that's where I'll continue asking for a little trotting. This is where she starts to have a bit of a meltdown. I ask her to keep trotting, simple figure 8s and serpentines, and she's feeling a bit on the verge of out of control. First of all, she has herself completely washed out and drenched in sweat. Whenever we turn through a corner and are trotting in the direction of home, she is going at super speed, these awful short little choppy strides. When we turn back away from home, she is a little more controllable and relaxes a tiny bit, which I try to reward with a little more give to the reins and deep breaths. But it's not a huge outdoor arena, so for every 10 calm-ish strides, we're turning a corner again and she gets frantic again. I really, really wanted just one simple lap of the ring with a completely calm trot, and we were probably out there for 15 or 20 minutes trying for it. It was starting to feel really counterproductive because she was just not getting any calmer, so I asked her to walk and walked away from the ring continuing along the trail. That seemed to give her a bit of a mental break, she did calm a bit. At that point, when she was calmer, we turned around and walked home. I don't know if this was the right decision (did it just make her think that being all worked up was the ticket out of trotting?) but we'll try again.

Yesterday we took it easy, just a quick ride in the arena. I'm meeting someone to ride together this afternoon, and that should be fun- we're going to try a new trail extension.

Here are a few pictures. I finally couldn't stand her scraggly mane anymore, so I bit the bullet and "pulled" it- "pulled" in quotes because I'm horribly impatient and don't show and just can't stand taking the time to really pull it. So as you can probably tell, this was a scissor job, but even so, I think it looks a ton better. And look at all the mane that actually came off!! It grows super-fast, so I'm sure by the end of the summer it will be long again...

Before:


After:


 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,324 Posts
Discussion Starter #12
Just a quick addendum from today-we found a great trail connection and ended up being able to ride on nice dirt roads around the perimeter of several large corn fields. Isabel got to be the leader (actually made her quite pokey at first being out there in front) and barely batted an eye when a bunch of deer ran out in front of her and a big mama turkey and her 6 poults flew out of te corn into a tree. All this while a big thunderstorm was blowing in so the wind was picking up. She really doesn't seem spooky about stuff at all, which is only giving ME confidence (very clear that I'm the problem here!). Couldn't be happier with our ride today :)
Posted via Mobile Device
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,324 Posts
Discussion Starter #13
Another great solo ride this morning! We covered most of the territory we did on Sunday at the trot, which cut the time basically in half. It was so nice to let her move out a bit, she seemed to like it too.

She's so darn smart though...I wanted to see if one of the new roads we just found this weekend went any farther in a different direction- we've only ridden on this particular loop once, but when I "missed" the turn to head home and went a different way, she obviously knew it was not the way home and looked around over her shoulder like "hey lady, do I need to get us back to safety or are you paying attention to where we are?"- and was none too happy when I made her keep going in the "wrong" direction before turning back.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,324 Posts
Discussion Starter #14
Such a great ride yesterday! I really do think that with every ride, she's getting even better at taking in all the sights and sounds outside (or, I am :)) Mounted up outside just as the septic truck was pulling in to the barn, making a ton of noise as they started pumping. She really didn't care at all.

Had a bit of a dicey moment crossing the road to get to the hay field, but we made it. I asked her to trot out right away, and she was a little resistant at first. Typically I do warm up briefly in the ring before we go, but it was being used yesterday so I figured I'd just head out. Maybe she needs a little more warming up before being asked to trot on.

The best part of the ride though was that I finally got the nerve to ask her to canter- and she was amazing. There is a really nice clearing between one of the wooded trails and a road, slightly uphill but a nice long stretch, and I decided it was time to just go for it- and it was wonderful. I felt like a rider having my first canter, it was just such an invigorating feeling. And her canter was so much nicer outside, really smooth and powerful, not the sort of half-hearted stutter step she's giving me inside. I know it sounds cheezy, but it just really feels like this is what riding should be like!

Good girl get a few nibbles of grass in the shade after her bath:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,738 Posts
The best part of the ride though was that I finally got the nerve to ask her to canter- and she was amazing. There is a really nice clearing between one of the wooded trails and a road, slightly uphill but a nice long stretch, and I decided it was time to just go for it- and it was wonderful. I felt like a rider having my first canter, it was just such an invigorating feeling. And her canter was so much nicer outside, really smooth and powerful, not the sort of half-hearted stutter step she's giving me inside. I know it sounds cheezy, but it just really feels like this is what riding should be like!

1. YAY!! Congrats!!

2. I totally, totally, get that!! I feel the same way! There's nothing better than a good canter or gallop when you're trail riding.
I'm jealous that you have indoor stuff AND lots of trails...can I move in with you? :lol:
 
  • Like
Reactions: egrogan

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,324 Posts
Discussion Starter #16
I'm jealous that you have indoor stuff AND lots of trails...can I move in with you? :lol:
I do feel pretty lucky. The indoor is absolutely vital in our cold New Hampshire winters! The trail thing is new this year, as we recently got permission from the barn's "across the road neighbor" to ride through his fields and woods, but it's amazing that he said yes, because it allows us access to a ton of other space, and decent roadside options too.

You'd have to travel quite a ways to get here, but we'd love to have you. Isabel is also a therapy horse dropout, so I'm sure she and Fabio would have some good stories to tell each other :)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,324 Posts
Discussion Starter #18
Picture perfect day to ride yesterday. Beautiful blue skies:


We rode around the corns fields, and I figured out that there are actually 3-4 huge adjoining fields, all with a nice dirt track around them, so we went exploring a little farther than I expected, but she did great:


It was the perfect space for going for a nice, long canter, and we actually even hit a hand gallop for a minute- who knew the old lady could even move that fast?! I probably shouldn't have let her do it, as I didn't really ask her to, and I don't want to instill any "runaway horsie" thoughts in her head. But to be honest, it was just really fun, so I let her go for a bit before reining her back in :oops:

She's really getting to the point where you can just point her anywhere and she's happy to go, even if she hasn't been that way before. We rode off on a deer path coming out of one of the fields, and pretty soon we were in the middle of a meadow with grass up above my waist. She really didn't care at all.

It is clear to me though that I need to use our arena time to work on downward transitions. She gets really eager, particularly at the trot, and I feel like I'm just hauling on her face to get her to come down a gait. She's not super responsive off your seat to begin with, so I feel like when she's a bit amped up, I could be the heaviest, limpest sack of potatoes on her back and it wouldn't really matter to her. So I need to work on that.

I have a question for all of you who are more experienced than me- talk to me about "surefootedness." I have always assumed that in dicey spots on the trail, you sort of give the horse her head and let her find the best way through. Obviously staying balanced in the saddle and not getting in the way, but at the end of the day, it seems like it's her responsibility to keep us standing, right? (As an aside, at 35 years old, I've never learned to ride a bike, and my friends are always incredulous about this given they know I ride horses. In my opinion, a horse and I share a mutual desire to stay upright, something a bike's not going to do for me!!) We have a couple of places through the woods where we really have to scramble through some pretty thick mud, with tons of rocks, on an incline. It seems like Izzy is really clumsy and just sort of stumbles and trips her way through (she has grabbed her front right heel bulb at least once on the way through)- and it sometimes seems like she's going exactly the wrong way, finding every big slippery rock she can step on, rather than going around them. I don't know if this just takes practice, or if there's something I should be doing to help her pick the best path through?

 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,228 Posts
I really can't speak about sure footedness, as I have only ever ridden on trails through those silly companies.

But! I did want to, again, congratulate you on how well she is coming along! That, and these between the ear pictures are my favorite <3

I'm sure it says on the first page, but what are your long term goals? Are you planning to do anything competitive?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,324 Posts
Discussion Starter #20
Thanks, Zexious! My biggest goal in all of this was really just to gain the confidence to ride off the property alone, and I think I've managed to accomplish that!

As a longer-term personal goal, I think some day I'd really enjoy trying some long distance rides, but I'm not sure if this is the horse that's built to do that. Also, I don't have a trailer or any friends who are in to long distance rides, so it's hard to imagine when that will become a reality, but it's just something that sounds really appealing to me one day. For now, "happy hacking" seems like it will be perfect for both of us.
 
1 - 20 of 3294 Posts
Top