Trail rides aren’t just for goofing off

I often write about how Kurt and I just go out and goof off on the trails sometimes racing each other at a gallop. That stuff is fun to do but not really part of my training process. If it isn’t going to undo my training than there is always a time and place for having fun but I think that the first few trails rides are absolutely critical in a horses training.

I have a few rules:

-I only go with a super good lead horse who can handle things if my horses has a total meltdown. I don’t want to worry about another horse or rider when I’m trying to concentrate.

– I only ride with somebody who absolutely knows that I’m sitting on a very green horse and can control their horse at all costs. Sounds silly but it is so important that things go well. 9 times out 10 these ottb’s are awesome on the trails but having a reliable horse out with you makes for positive experiences.

-have the right equipment. Have your stirrups adjusted before getting on and girth tight. You may be on a horse feeling good and won’t have time to adjust for a while. Helmet, vest, neck strap, martingale. I don’t always ride with a martingale but a martingale is excellent for situations where a horse may react and want to evade the bit leaving you out of control.

– enough bit to have brakes. I rarely ride outside of the ring with anything different from I have on in the ring but sometimes it is necessary. No shame in it if needed. I would rather teach a horse to half halt than have my arms pulled off.

-pick a straightforward trail with good footing and just plan a short ride for the first few times. The horse will be stressed even if they don’t show it. Make it short and sweet to reward good behavior.

– Let the GO FORWARD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Worse thing that I see people do is try to hold the horses making them a tense mess. If I get on and the horse wants to go then I go. I try to just trot but if I have control than a canter is fine. Most of the time they will improve but holding them doesn’t help so let them go. This is why you must have a reliable horse out with you. A horse that can stay back off your butt and give you some room to trot and canter up if needed. I often just get off the horses back and get in 2pt with my hands down and let them go a bit and then bring them back.

– teach the horse something. Don’t just go out and ride around. Work on transitions, leg yields and installing half halts. I do work my horses into the bridle if needed to keep their attention. Hacking out is the best way to start teaching a horse to come forward into the hand a bit. Use that forward energy! I want my horse to focus on me so I try to pick landmarks where I’m going to transition between gaits. I hate riding with people who just trot a million miles an hour. Half halts..install them. You will be thankful for them later 🙂

Love had his 2nd trail ride today and was so much more relaxed. Got off the trailer and stood quietly. Just took it all in like he knew he had been there before and it was no big deal. He walked for a good 10 minutes just relaxed as can be. I did use a different bit (called a wilke, wonder bit or beval bit by some- http://www.thesaddleryshop.co.uk/P/Neue_Schule_Beval_Bit-(1020).aspx) He has no intentions on going anywhere on me but he doesn’t have half halts installed yet so I needed a bit of help. This is just a bit more to say hey listen up without being harsh. I also use a running martingale.

When I pick up the trot he wants to just go quick so I would do a lot of transitions and he quickly was focused on listening to me. Good boy! He never looks at a thing out there which is awesome. We also did our first canter and he was great. I had Kurt just stay back and give me some room in case he got nervous but he was really soft and relaxed in the canter. He just doesn’t know how to use his parts in the trot just yet. That is coming along but he has to be shown that he can slow down, push from behind and relax his topline not just pull himself along with the bottom of his neck.

He was getting attacked by deer flies and bombers and he didn’t mind that at all which is excellent! We go on a trail where you ride out and then turn around to come back so I always know a horse is good when we turn around and they don’t turn into complete asses. They know they are going back to the trailer so you can really gauge their behavior on the way home. He was very relaxed and not in a hurry. I don’t canter on the way back to the trailer in these first few rides. Again just making sure I’m training good behavior and not bad. I liked that on the way back he was walking along on the buckle. He is so smart and just figures out the purpose of all these things quickly. When he got back home he was very sure he deserved a bunch of treats. Funny to see the horse who wouldn’t eat any treats begging for them.

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One response to “Trail rides aren’t just for goofing off

  1. Missed your blog for a few days and had lots to catch up on. You’ve been busy! It was so cool to see the pictures of Mort.
    I think all of your trail riding with Shoes made such a difference. He absolutely loves to go out anywhere. It sounds like we may have to start a Chicago chapter of CMA!

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