Caption 1 for Photos 1 & 2: This mare is "cinchy" - sensitive to the girth. She is one of the ones we are helping with this issue, and in the process she fired with the saddle on, focused on and kicking at her underbelly. Its nice if we can keep them from bucking but sometimes it happens. When it does, its best if it happens during the warm up thats for sure, not out on the trail. That way you can do your best to keep both horse and the person out of a bind.
Photo Credit: Dixie Stewart
See Photo 3
This trail ride is a "tranquil" one - through some of the prettiest country you can imagine.
Photo Credit: Dixie Stewart
Pull quote: “The horse was following closer than he should have been, and pushing on the fellow without actually touching him throughout the day. When the fellow slipped going up a short hill his horse used him for traction and never slowed down one bit. Walked right over the top of the guy. In both cases the people were not injured but were sure puckered up. The one fellow learnt something from it the other one still blames the horse."
Deck: Some things to think about for creating an enjoyable trail horse.
Trail Riding - Tranquil or Terrifying?
See Photo 1&2
While you are reading this we will be in the mountains 80 miles from the nearest roads starting young horses, and helping a few sort out some problems, and riding in some of the prettiest country I’ve ever seen. The horses are raised in the mountains and there isn’t much we need to do in the way of helping them get through the rivers, creeks, bogs, steep hills or drops, muddy trails and windfall. They are used to the terrain and walk around in it 365 days of the year with no problems at all.
See Photo 3
If these were “town horses” they might need some help to get through the rougher spots without a panic. Some riders are on the trails all the time and some riders never take their horses out on a trail. We can ride out on the trails and hope our horse do great or we can make sure that every trip they get better so they will for sure get great. The opposite is also true they could actually start out great trail horse and end up not so great.
The main thing is, horses should be relaxed out on the trail. Not be rushing up on other horses, and be able to walk calmly through wet spots, whether being lead or ridden. They should walk up and down the hills whether the trail is muddy or not. Sometimes they slide down the hill because it’s steep and muddy but should still be calm. They should walk well back from the person leading them, and stop when you stop, maintaining the same distance. They should be able to stop half way up or down a slope if you ask them to, unless it’s too muddy. You should never feel like you need to run or hurry to keep from being stepped on. They should watch where they are putting their feet so they are not stumbling and stepping in holes.
See Photo 4&5&6
How are they going to know all this? First make sure none of it happens in the corral or yard at home. We are the teachers; the ones that help them become the horse we want. If we panic and run across a muddy spot or scramble up a hill the horse sees and feels what we do. Give yourself time to walk calmly through, under, over and have your horse wait for you. Then ask them to follow in the same calm/thinking manner. Give them time to pick their way through.
See Photo 7
For example if you come to a steep spot and you allow your horse to pick up speed going up the hill you are telling him its OK to get impulsive whenever you get to a hill. If you come to a wet spot or muddy creek to cross, if you allow the horse to lunge, rush, or bolt through that is what they learn to do. Ride calmly down the bank, step quietly into the area that is really worrying your horse and stay there until you feel the horse relax. Then calmly step forward and up the other bank.
When you are leading your horse they should stay at any distance behind you that is sensible to be for the terrain your in. Give the horse lots of rope so you are not pulling him up on you. When you do ask for them to move forward and they start to rush, slow them down, and cause them to think and walk with a calm mind. We are supposed to be in charge and the ones to set the tone of how the ride will go.
I have seen the funniest things created on a trail ride. One fellow on a long muddy hill had inadvertently trained his horse over the course of day to walk into him when he led him. On the trail going up the hill the fellow leading the horse started to run from spot to spot and not because he wanted to. He would hide behind a tree until he caught his breath then jump out from behind the tree and bolt to the next tree before the horse stepped on his heels. Another fellow did something much the same. The horse was following closer than he should have been, and pushing on the fellow without actually touching him throughout the day. When the fellow slipped going up a short hill his horse used him for traction and never slowed down one bit. Walked right over the top of the guy. In both cases the people were not injured but were sure puckered up. The one fellow learnt something from it the other one still blames the horse.
If you are out on the trail riding, think about creating a better horse rather than hoping that they might get great. Have fun on the trails.
Glenn Stewart travels extensively conducting clinics, demonstrations, and colt starting sessions, and also offers Camps and a 3 month Horsemanship Course at his home The Horse Ranch, as well as the Horsemanship Learning Adventure Series; two completely different experiences, High & Wild in the Northern BC Rockies, and Working Equitation with Lusitanos in Brazil. He rides 30-60 client horses per year, including young horses, restarts, challenging horses, and foundation training. Glenn is a former Calgary Stampede Champion of the Cowboy Up Challenge and was chosen as one of the Canadian representatives in the 2012 Road to the Horse, the World Championship of Colt Starting in Murfreesboro, TN. More information by calling 1 877 728 8987 or visiting www.thehorseranch.com