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It would be nice to have a list of useful things we can teach our trail horses, to make trail riding easier and more pleasant! Please pitch in some ideas!

I'll start:

1) Standing still while mounting
2) Standing still after mounting
3) Positioning for mounting
4) Standing still on the trail while I try to look at my phone or map
5) Allowing me to play with halter/bridle while in the saddle (readjusting, removing a lead rope etc.)
6) Side passing
7) opening gaits
 

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I don't do too much major trail riding, but I'd say I want my horse to be unspookable. The last thing I want is my horse to spook at a loose Cheetos bag blowing across the trail and me falling off, or bolting.
Another thing is I would like him to have respect for other horses. No aggression is what I mean- biting, kicking, etc.
Good thread idea! I'm sure we could all use some tips and suggestions on this subject.
 

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I don't do too much major trail riding, but I'd say I want my horse to be unspookable. The last thing I want is my horse to spook at a loose Cheetos bag blowing across the trail and me falling off, or bolting.
I think the bolded part is utopic. They can be rock solid, and then something completely strange can set a horse off.
As an example: my former riding buddy's horse was downright unflappable: Traffic, big, noisy machinery, gunshots, bikes, deer jumping out of nowhere almost in the horse, turkeys bombing right beside the horse, cutting branches down with a machete while riding... All that got a flick of an ear, at the most. But the horse-eating butterfly that just fluttered from one flower to the next, produced a massive spook from that horse! 🤣 I have to admit I almost fell off my horse (who looked at the other one like it lost its marbles), because I was laughing so hard.

I will add to the list
8) will stand patiently (or keep on moving at the same speed), while the rider takes off a jacket, puts on a poncho etc. Same goes to the rider drinking from a water bottle (crinkling sound).
9) I want a horse to be ok with drinking unfamiliar water, eating when permitted
10) walking calmly over a fallen tree without jumping
11) same applies to water crossings
 

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What I've found useful is a horse that can accept branches falling onto and potentially getting stuck on their head/neck/hind end. Surprisingly frequently, I have to clear trails and rip or cut down branches in the process of riding and loose branches have gotten stuck around horse ears or gotten tangled in my reins. My horse doesn't care one bit.
 

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teach your horse to carry a saddle bag. teach your horse to stop if you fall off ( it can happen to any rider) Teach the horse to stand if you have to get off and tinkle. ( it happens) . Over downed trees or logs calmly. how to walk over uneven and rocky terrain . up steep and down steep . Not spook at deer bear cats hikers bikers. Cross water. Cross bridges.
 

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My top two, no ifs ands or buts:

1. The thing a great trail horse needs most is what they can’t be taught and that is to be a good thinker.

The rider finds out how important that is when they’re on a trail so narrow they can’t get off the horse, there’s a rock wall on one side and ~100 foot drop off on the other.


2. The other equally important thing is to have a horse who doesn’t try to “dance” sideways going down one of those goat trails🤠🤠
 

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I like a lot of the suggestions all good ones. The horse that can do all this is worth his/her weight in gold.
The one I really llke is the horse responds to the word whoa by stopping and completely standing still. Saved me a couple of times, But I think every horse should know this trail horse or not.
An example: I was out on a different trail with my super spooky Arab//appy and we came to a steep hill, I was on a trail I had never been before. The hill was steep and about 8 to 10 feet high. I knew if we got up it and the trail died we would have to come back the same way.
Both the horse and I had our attention on the hill and how steep it was but I thought he could do it. Just as we got to the bottom of the hill I heard that awful twang of wire. I said whoa, he stopped and stood. I looked down and there was about three strands of barbed wire laying on the ground between his front and back legs. Now what to do, I thought he would step over it and get up the hill but if we came back that way he could get tangled up in it. I didn't want to back him because he could hook a shoe in the wire.
I finally thought of the right thing to do. I got off him lifted one front foot back over the wire and then the next one. I was glad I had taken the time to teach him to stop and stand as this could have been a pretty bad scene and way back in somewhere.
We left but I came back the next week with a pair of wire cutters.

I like many of the suggestions and it reminds me to work with my horses on these ideas as I have gotten away from thinking of these things. I'm older now and don't do the rugged trails that I used to but good for the horses to know how to behave on a trail.

We have just started riding my sister's young 3 yr old and she has had her first two rides in the woods the last couple of days so we will be working on some of these good ideas.
 

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.... I looked down and there was about three strands of barbed wire laying on the ground between his front and back legs. Now what to do, I thought he would step over it and get up the hill but if we came back that way he could get tangled up in it. I didn't want to back him because he could hook a shoe in the wire.
I finally thought of the right thing to do. I got off him lifted one front foot back over the wire and then the next one. I was glad I had taken the time to teach him to stop and stand as this could have been a pretty bad scene and way back in somewhere.
We left but I came back the next week with a pair of wire cutters.
And this is the reason why I always have bolt cutters in my saddle bag - and my saddle bag is on my saddle, even when I ride on the property.
One time after some recent flooding I rode and my mare was amped up - hard to make her just walk. Until she suddenly stopped and stood stock still. Tried to make her move and she refused again, but without any sign of maritude - so I knew something was off. Hopped off and saw the problem. A long piece of barbed wire was wrapped around her hind legs. My mare stood like a statue until I told her "all done". Then the dancing was on again (after I was back in the saddle) ;)
And that mare isn't even hobble trained! :eek:

So as @walkinthewalk said, the most important "thing" in a good trail horse is a good brain.
 

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I think the bolded part is utopic. They can be rock solid, and then something completely strange can set a horse off.
As an example: my former riding buddy's horse was downright unflappable: Traffic, big, noisy machinery, gunshots, bikes, deer jumping out of nowhere almost in the horse, turkeys bombing right beside the horse, cutting branches down with a machete while riding... All that got a flick of an ear, at the most. But the horse-eating butterfly that just fluttered from one flower to the next, produced a massive spook from that horse! 🤣 I have to admit I almost fell off my horse (who looked at the other one like it lost its marbles), because I was laughing so hard.

I will add to the list
8) will stand patiently (or keep on moving at the same speed), while the rider takes off a jacket, puts on a poncho etc. Same goes to the rider drinking from a water bottle (crinkling sound).
9) I want a horse to be ok with drinking unfamiliar water, eating when permitted
10) walking calmly over a fallen tree without jumping
11) same applies to water crossings
I 100% agree with you, I was just using that term as in I want to do as much exposing to 'scary things' as possible. Obviously a horse can spook at that one scary butterfly, but I'll try to prep my horse as best I can to be able to have them not to. 🙂
Lots of great replies! Definitely helps me to see what people would like in a trail horse.
 

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A lot of things that one rider thinks are a must aren't important or so important for another rider.

I do like horses to stand still for mounting and to wait for the rider to be all 'correct' before heading off - my youngest son didn't care and would happily vault on his mare while she was walking along and get his stirrups sorted as well. I guess it didn't bother me much when I was younger because vaulting on a cantering pony was a must for gymkhana

All horses should stand still when asked but I'd not worry about them doing that while I looked at my phone!

Sidepassing, turn on forehand, backing up, opening gates etc are all useful

Safety wise - the most important thing for me is that the horse learns to 'spook in place'. No horse is ever going to be 100% bombproof but its great if they can learn to not overreact and bolt off at every little thing that bothers them.
We had to ride on busy, narrow roads in the UK and it was vital that our horses didn't bolt off or leap sideways into traffic every time something rustled in the hedge or a dog barked on someone's driveway.
 

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I rode a mare a few times who knew how to show the rider where the horse fly landed and to allow the rider to swish a branch full of leaves to drive them away. It was great - she wouldn’t get antsy and irritable and I could help her. I don’t know how one would teach something like that though. I guess she had some sympathetic riders and figured it out herself.
 

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I liked all of the posts. Everyone has good ideas.

If I were to add one, it would be saddle bags and coats. I guess I like the ability to take a coat off and tie it on the saddle, or to get my raincoat off of the saddle and put it on. I like to pack a lunch to work, and coffee too. ;) So, I’m in and out of those bags.

All my horses eventually get broke to these things, but on colts it sure feels hairy in the beginning. If I were to buy a horse for trail riding, I would appreciate that ability.
 

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I want all my horses to beable to carry bags of stuff if needed, like someone handing/handed a trash bag thats got some sleeping bags, clothes or what ever in it to you from the ground that needs to be carried to a truck, trailer or were ever it needs to go,So this way if you cant get off to get it and then try to mount again with a big bag its really handy when someone can pass/hand it to you without your horse freaking out.
 

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I want a horse to be patient while out somewhere and I am trying to get on holding something in one hand.
I was out riding my beloved heart horse one day and we grew market veggies etc. I was back where the cantaloupes were and I could see a nice ripe one so thought I would get off and take it to the house. I am 5'4'" and have you ever seen anyone try to get on a 16h horse in an english saddle holding a cantaloupe in one hand? It just didn't work, I tried sitting it on his rump, no rolled off, tried tucking in my tshirt no fell through, tried finding a higher spot, getting on trying reach it on the ground nope.
The only way I could do this was to take off my tshirt and put it in there and get on but we were right by a busy road so didn't want to do that.
Finally had to trot back to the house to get a shopping bag.

I have to say my good horse stood so patiently and quietly through it all and I gave him some cantaloupe when we got back and he actually liked it.

Just a silly story I remembered while reading all these posts.
 

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There are a few things people have mentioned on here that I need to look up how to teach:
-How to stop if you fall off
I was kind of wondering that about this piece. How do you do that? Repeatedly fake fall off and grab reins? Or jump off real quick with the reins in your hand?

Every time I've fallen off Pony, he's just stood there. "Break time!" If he was spooking to the point of being out of his mind, I'm not sure he would, though. I'm also not sure that's something you could train for.
 
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In addition to the above:

Able to judge potentially dangerous terrain and footing such as bog/mud/ - My gelding and I work extremely well together. I can tell how deep it will be by his reactions leading into it. If he refuses my first few attempts then I will not push him. I have seen what he feels he is capable of crossing together, I trust his judgement and don't want to go through anything deeper.

Being exposed to all kinds of wildlife and their smells such as deer, elk, moose, coyote, wolf, bear, wild horses. The best way to survive encounters with dangerous wildlife are sound heads (rider and horse) and being able to stay on your horse.

Being able to tie to a tree for a reasonable amount of time safely. I am not of the old school mentality that you should be able to tie a horse to a tree in the mountains and leave him all day unattended but he should be able to tie while having lunch, cutting a fallen tree or whatever else.

I have found that you can't really target desensitization. I find it works best developing a good bond and trust and seeing life together. If you have a great bond and some skills together, your horse shouldn't be losing his marbles at everything.

The best trait is a good partner like with most things.
 
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