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pintopiaffe
Jan. 6, 2008, 08:37 PM
My stallion, God Bless him, isn't the brightest light in the socket at times.

I have to preface this by saying he is my dressage horse, at which he excels. He also does special olympics, and has carted my lumpy self around a CT.

But he just doesn't pay attention to where he is putting his feet when we are out and about.

He'll get to gazing at something, and start to drift toward it, and walk right into the ditch. Or he'll be concentrating so hard on, say, heading home, he walks right onto ice or into a hole or such...

Now, I pay attention and usually steer him away from such things. But I find it really odd that he just pays NO attention to where he's putting his feet down. On bad footing--rocky or muddy trails--I really wish he'd "pick" his way. NOPE. PLOWS through it. Seems like he thinks the faster he goes the faster he'll get through it?? I dunno.

It's not a huge big deal. It's quite the embarassment to his pedigree, but I only trail ride for conditioning really, though I had entertained the idea of doing a 25 LD...

But I thought you guys might know if this is anything you can ever overcome? Or do you just suck it up and know that this one isn't one to count on to take care of you in that type of situation?

CowGirlSoap
Jan. 6, 2008, 08:48 PM
My gelding was like this our first few times out... he was so interested in everything there was to look at, he didn't think to look at what was on the ground in front of him.

I started saying "watch your feet" right before I knew something was coming that he would trip on. I spent a lot of time taking my feet out of the stirrups for a quick dismount in case he tripped bady, but I only "let" him trip on the small stuff (rocks/branches). He has started associating the "watch your feet" warning with "oh, something's on the ground!" just in the last 5 or 6 rides.

It's exciting! I say it and he actually looks down, navigates his own way through the rocks or other obstacle and then we're on the other side of it. I think it's making him more aware of the relation to his feet and the ground the rest of the time too.

He sounds like a smart guy, so maybe this kind of verbal cue might help?

Jenni

Ponyclubrocks
Jan. 6, 2008, 08:54 PM
I believe that being turned out in a more rugged pasture (one that includes varied terrain, hills, woods etc) is the very best way to improve a horses footing awareness. If that is available to you, that is the optimum IMO.

birdsong
Jan. 6, 2008, 08:57 PM
I agree...When its new to them they are busy looking at other things...My cue has always been "Step Over"...Not sure if that is what has helped or him becoming more accustomed to being on uneven terrain and such...but he CAN learn.
A side note: I also taught my horse to "Step Down" when unloading from the trailer. New horse must have had a ramp before...watching him coming out is like watching a tap dancer dancing in place!!! He's finally catching on to the Step Down cue too. geesh....5-8 minutes to go 1 foot!!

pintopiaffe
Jan. 6, 2008, 09:18 PM
Hm. Not new to it. :no: :lol: Been out and about on the same roads and trails for 5 years now.

He has 24/7 turnout, hilly, some rocks, some mud... but not all that varied. Not an option since all 8.5 acres are the same. I try very hard to vary the footing in conditioning rides, getting him in the sand when I can, there's pavement of course, and also some rocky/shale type footing.

Of course, right now the universe is snow pack. :dead:

I might have to start trying a verbal command.

Today I pretty much was letting him go where he wanted just to test my theory--well, more like where he drifted--and twice he almost went up an 8' snowbank. When he hit the bottom of it, he was like "where the hell did THAT come from?" DOH!

It's slightly endearing. He's a wikkid cowardly lion--we do have bears and moose and assorted wildlife, so it's sort of warranted...

He is very smart, and kind, but SUCH a nerd on bad footing! (he's also deathly afraid of water. TERRIFIED of it. We've made huge strides, but we're talking heart-pounding-panic scared. Poor Lion.)

Auventera Two
Jan. 7, 2008, 09:04 AM
A horse's aptitude for the trail (in my opinion) is a faculty of their DNA. I owned a mare for 10 years who was just flat terrible outside of a groomed ring. Mentally and physically terrible. As much as I wanted to trail ride, she was terrified of it, and had no desire to apply herself one iota. The 3 mares I have now all act like they were born on the trail and they live for it.

But you surely could do exercises with him in the ring to increase awareness, like cavaletti lines, and trail obstacle work. I did a ton of stuff indoors with my baby to get her used to the trail.

Do you board? It might be a little harder if you do. My youngster has never been boarded so I had a little more freedom to do things with her. I used to clean stalls, then dump new bags of shavings in the stalls, then scatter the white plastic bags in the aisle before bringing horses in. If she didn't want to step on the bags, she'd have to thread her way around and through. She'd put her nose down and find a good path. Just simple things like that only take a few minutes can really give them a good base. Or so I think.

Obviously you have to be safe, but objects that won't hurt the horse are good. Tarps, cavaletti, cones, flat boards.

Another thing I have done with her is to lay down a line of cavaletti, then cover them with a tarp. I would hand walk her over the poles, and after she hit the first one, she'd drop her nose, sniff, and put her feet between the poles, even though she couldn't see them. She thought she was walking over a smooth tarp but after the first step figured out there is something under that tarp. I would never longe over this configuration because you might not be able to control the speed enough. But this was a really great exercise to teach her there are dangers "under the snow, or in the mud, or in the deep grass."

Everything I've done with this horse since she was a foal has been in preparation for her being my 100 mile horse. I've tried to lay a really solid foundation knowing that some day we'd be out there in the dark on unfamiliar trails, trying to make time.

I think maybe some of these types of exercises in the indoor ring (or even in your back yard) would help your stallion to increase his awareness of his feet. Also, ponying them from another trail horse helps because they can figure out footing without the weight of a rider.

As for water - my horses detest walking through a little puddle when there is clean dry ground to go around. And I do NOT push the issue. Who cares? Would you want to walk through a mud puddle when you could walk around on dry ground? But everytime they've been faced with a flooded trail, creek, or river, they just walk right in. I think people get into too many fights with their horse forcing them to walk through mud puddles. (Not saying you do, just a general comment.) My horse is a trail horse because I trust her to pick the best path. I hate to micromanage every move they make. Let them make some mistakes, as long as they're small. Allow them to go around the mud puddle.

Good luck, and it sounds like you're on a great path!

mp
Jan. 7, 2008, 11:05 AM
I think some horses are handy with their feet and some aren't. Of my two "show" horses, one is a doofus on a trail -- she'll stumble on a twig. The other is sure-footed and always picks the best way in rough terrain. I've had them both out on 3-day trail rides and it's not a matter of getting used to riding in uneven/rough ground. One simply is better at it than the other.

If your horse tends to drift (physically or mentally), then don't let him. ;) Some horses you have to ride every step.

sublimequine
Jan. 7, 2008, 12:18 PM
My mom's Arab is like that. He lives outside in a hilly rugged pasture 24/7, trail rides a TON, and has been trail riding since he was 4. He's 12 now. He's still just as oblivious about his footing as the first day he went out on trail 8 years ago. :lol:

The funny thing is he doesn't even go fast. He's just so busy lookin around and enjoying the sights that he never thinks to look down. :D

Otherwise though, he's the ideal trail horse. Quiet as anything, confident, happy to go out, not barn sour, he's great. Just don't ride him near any cliffs. :lol:

arena run
Jan. 7, 2008, 02:00 PM
There are things you can do to establish greater... um, leg knowledge? LOL Cavaletti, backing over things, trotting/walking them into questionable footing conditions and leting them 'figure it out'... of course, this last one has to be done so they won't HURT themselves... just have to figure out what's what. You have to totally ignore their footing and let THEM work out what they need to do.





But it is my belief that either the horse 'has it' ----- or they don't.

I am currently working on a very green 5yo who is just wonderful about her feet and footing. Just about can't make her take a wrong step.

Then I have a very experienced 9yo who -- well, let's just say we don't play around the ditches when we ride. :)

I hate to say it but, I think you're just outta luck w/your guy. !!!!!! sylvia

arena run
Jan. 7, 2008, 02:07 PM
..
She thought she was walking over a smooth tarp but after the first step figured out there is something under that tarp. ...


WAY cool idea, A2! Never even thought of covering the caveletti up. That's a 'will do' in my training from now on.



....I think people get into too many fights with their horse forcing them to walk through mud puddles. (Not saying you do, just a general comment.) My horse is a trail horse because I trust her to pick the best path. I hate to micromanage every move they make. Let them make some mistakes, as long as they're small. Allow them to go around the mud puddle.


I agree w/you here to a point. I like to have mine so they will hold that straight line no matter if there's dry ground on either side of the puddle or not. I've found that if I let them choose to not go through the puddle when there's plenty of room on either side they also choose to not go through the puddle when there are bushes, trees, or even other horses in the way. :) sylvia

Ponyclubrocks
Jan. 7, 2008, 02:35 PM
I hate to micromanage every move they make. Let them make some mistakes, as long as they're small.

I agree with this. I am thrilled that my horse is so smart and trustworthy. I respect her opinion regarding routes and footing. When we cross water she likes to sniff the bank as she enters, I have learned to slip my reins, let her drop her head and she never hesitates.

Here's why I trust her so much...one time I was on a trail, new to the both of us. There were a lot of creeks and lots of mud and my mare did not hesitate at all, just slogged thru everything until we got to what looked like a fairly innocent puddle. It spanned the width of the trail and extended maybe ten or twelve feet in front of us. For the first time that day she balked. I got annoyed because she doest balk at things and I pushed her on and she proceeded at the walk. The first two steps were no big deal then all at once we fell into a hole all the way up to her neck. I still can't believe how she got us out of there; we were in a pit of water and clay and silt, she rocked back on her haunches and did something like a levade and launched us both up and out in one huge leap. When she landed on the other side I could feel her pissed off thoughts along the line of "I told you we shouldn't go there!" I still am amazed at the entire thing which probably took a matter of seconds, somehow I stayed in the middle of her back while she powered us out of there.

When we got home and I finished power washing both of us and all the tack I looked her in the eye and said, "I promise to trust your judgment in the future" To which she replied "It's about time!". Since then we have a great partnership. There are things on which she knows I won't compromise, such as she must stand perfectly still while I mount, and she must self load immediately when presented to the trailer ramp. One the other hand there I things I let her decide, such as where to cross the creeks, or which part of a steep hill she wants to slide down. Oh and when she tells me there is something/someone up ahead on the trail, I know she is always right...even though I can't see or hear anything at the time....

Didn't mean to go so off subject, but I think my mare is an example of what you want in a good trail horse.

pintopiaffe
Jan. 7, 2008, 05:27 PM
The funny thing is he doesn't even go fast. He's just so busy lookin around and enjoying the sights that he never thinks to look down. :D

:yes: Yup. That's us.

He's not ignoring me as a rider per se--our deal is he gets a slack rein to free walk as long as he is relaxed about it. It's not like he's 'blowing off aids' or any such. It's just that he's too busy being a tourist. :p

Interesting exercises.

He HAS gotten far, far better going downhill, but that was a strength/conditioning issue *on top* of not paying attention. We can canter (or trot) down not-so-even grass footing now and actually USE it for conditioning. We can walk down the quite steep conditioning hill without pacing, rushing or fussing... That's an improvement.

Interesting. It will be fascinating to see how his kids are. Their dam was pretty sure footed, and very smart on trail. One son is just the smartest, kindest, most interested beast I've ever met. We trudged through snow up over my thighs a week or two ago, and it was so deep I had to have him stop every few steps because *I* couldn't go fast enough for him to walk normally. I told him "watch" and "back" and sure enough he did. Was very careful not to climb up the backs of my boots, which is what I was worried about. It was a good bonding moment as he is slated to be my police horse. He also was a SAINT when I fell hard and hit my knee right on the nerve last year. By all rights should've walked right over me, but absolutely didn't and was a saint.

His full sister, OTOH, tends to not walk on her own feet but prefer mine. We'll have to see how she comes along... :uhoh:

Then there's the Colonial Spanish filly, who although not feral by any stretch of the imagination, is the smartest thing I've ever met. Very careful about footing--while not 'appearing' to be.

sublimequine
Jan. 7, 2008, 08:32 PM
:yes: Yup. That's us.

He's not ignoring me as a rider per se--our deal is he gets a slack rein to free walk as long as he is relaxed about it. It's not like he's 'blowing off aids' or any such. It's just that he's too busy being a tourist. :p

Interesting exercises.

He HAS gotten far, far better going downhill, but that was a strength/conditioning issue *on top* of not paying attention. We can canter (or trot) down not-so-even grass footing now and actually USE it for conditioning. We can walk down the quite steep conditioning hill without pacing, rushing or fussing... That's an improvement.

Interesting. It will be fascinating to see how his kids are. Their dam was pretty sure footed, and very smart on trail. One son is just the smartest, kindest, most interested beast I've ever met. We trudged through snow up over my thighs a week or two ago, and it was so deep I had to have him stop every few steps because *I* couldn't go fast enough for him to walk normally. I told him "watch" and "back" and sure enough he did. Was very careful not to climb up the backs of my boots, which is what I was worried about. It was a good bonding moment as he is slated to be my police horse. He also was a SAINT when I fell hard and hit my knee right on the nerve last year. By all rights should've walked right over me, but absolutely didn't and was a saint.

His full sister, OTOH, tends to not walk on her own feet but prefer mine. We'll have to see how she comes along... :uhoh:

Then there's the Colonial Spanish filly, who although not feral by any stretch of the imagination, is the smartest thing I've ever met. Very careful about footing--while not 'appearing' to be.

Yep, your guy sounds like my mom's Arab. He also will BARREL DOWN A HILL at a hand-gallop if you let him. Every hill we take, the second we start going down, he takes like one trot step to see if the rider will let him run down it like a maniac. We've NEVER let him do that, either. I guess he's just a daredevil. :D

arena run
Jan. 7, 2008, 09:23 PM
Yep, your guy sounds like my mom's Arab. He also will BARREL DOWN A HILL at a hand-gallop if you let him. Every hill we take, the second we start going down, he takes like one trot step to see if the rider will let him run down it like a maniac. We've NEVER let him do that, either. I guess he's just a daredevil. :D


I think this should be the COTH mantra but -- this behavior could be evidence of poor saddle fit - pinching or pressure or being too far forward or whatever.

It could also be that the horse doesn't have the balance or muscle structure to support himself and a rider while going downhill.

It is, I believe, pretty well accepted that a horse who rushes up or down a hill simply isn't strong enough (or doesn't know how) to balance himself properly. I have a mare who was plains scary going down hills. Felt like she was going to flip heels over head and she would try to power DOWN them and rush them.

Very scary indeed.

I rode her on some short rises and would stop her and make her stand halfway up and then halfway down. When she got good at that I'd ask her to stop and then back a couple steps, up and down.

I also rode her on some very hilly trails about 3 times... that third time she was beginning to catch on and I could feel her set her hocks and sit down a bit to go down and she began going up by step-step-stepping instead of lunging herself up them. She is balanced well-enough now that you an trot her down hills and some of the less steep ones can be cantered... and she remains light and balanced and listening instead of rushing and trying to power through the bit.

Anywho... just wanted to give you something else to think about as to why your mother's horse rushes down hills. :) sylvia


Oh yes, if she ever felt like she was getting unbalanced or 'head heavy' I would stop her, set her up for a back up (and actually take a few back-up steps if necessary) until I felt her rebalance and sit back over her hocks again. Then I would let her continue down... repeating this as needed for her to remain balanced over her hocks in descent.

sublimequine
Jan. 7, 2008, 09:27 PM
I think this should be the COTH mantra but -- this behavior could be evidence of poor saddle fit - pinching or pressure or being too far forward or whatever.

It could also be that the horse doesn't have the balance or muscle structure to support himself and a rider while going downhill.

It is, I believe, pretty well accepted that a horse who rushes up or down a hill simply isn't strong enough (or doesn't know how) to balance himself properly. I have a mare who was plains scary going down hills. Felt like she was going to flip heels over head and she would try to power DOWN them and rush them.

Very scary indeed.

I rode her on some short rises and would stop her and make her stand halfway up and then halfway down. When she got good at that I'd ask her to stop and then back a couple steps, up and down.

I also rode her on some very hilly trails about 3 times... that third time she was beginning to catch on and I could feel her set her hocks and sit down a bit to go down and she began going up by step-step-stepping instead of lunging herself up them. She is balanced well-enough now that you an trot her down hills and some of the less steep ones can be cantered... and she remains light and balanced and listening instead of rushing and trying to power through the bit.

Anywho... just wanted to give you something else to think about as to why your mother's horse rushes down hills. :) sylvia

He does it bareback too. ;)

I don't think it's any of the stuff you mentioned; I think he likes running down hills. He's just that kind of horse. :lol: Especially considering he's also Dressage trained, so balance is not an issue.

Romantic Rider
Jan. 7, 2008, 10:32 PM
There are horses that just like to run hills. My Mom has an Arab gelding that's like that. He was supposed to be an endurance horse, but has a bad, er... crippled foot, long story. Yes he was that way when we bought him. But even with a funny foot, he is the most balanced, athletic, powerful little horse I've ever ridden. It's incredible. And he loves to run up and down hills, not wild run. He has a ginormous trot, gets his hindquarter under himself beautifully, and just powers up hills and scoots down them like they make his day. I've had other horses like that too. They are fun and kind of scary.

We've also had horses who don't watch there feet. There was another Arab gelding (I honestly hate to admit he was and Arab because he was the MOST pathetic specimin of that breed I've ever ridden) He was just as sweet as he could be, and unfortunately just as stupid. All he was good for was a trail horse, but he just would not watch his feet for anything. He could trip going down a flat hay field. It was astonishing. We sold him, so I don't know if he ever got out of it. Now my sister has another Arab gelding, this one is incredibly smart, but also does not watch his feet. We just started his training last fall, so I don't know how he'll turn out.

Auventera Two
Jan. 8, 2008, 09:11 AM
I agree with this. I am thrilled that my horse is so smart and trustworthy. I respect her opinion regarding routes and footing. When we cross water she likes to sniff the bank as she enters, I have learned to slip my reins, let her drop her head and she never hesitates.

Here's why I trust her so much...one time I was on a trail, new to the both of us. There were a lot of creeks and lots of mud and my mare did not hesitate at all, just slogged thru everything until we got to what looked like a fairly innocent puddle. It spanned the width of the trail and extended maybe ten or twelve feet in front of us. For the first time that day she balked. I got annoyed because she doest balk at things and I pushed her on and she proceeded at the walk. The first two steps were no big deal then all at once we fell into a hole all the way up to her neck. I still can't believe how she got us out of there; we were in a pit of water and clay and silt, she rocked back on her haunches and did something like a levade and launched us both up and out in one huge leap. When she landed on the other side I could feel her pissed off thoughts along the line of "I told you we shouldn't go there!" I still am amazed at the entire thing which probably took a matter of seconds, somehow I stayed in the middle of her back while she powered us out of there.

When we got home and I finished power washing both of us and all the tack I looked her in the eye and said, "I promise to trust your judgment in the future" To which she replied "It's about time!". Since then we have a great partnership. There are things on which she knows I won't compromise, such as she must stand perfectly still while I mount, and she must self load immediately when presented to the trailer ramp. One the other hand there I things I let her decide, such as where to cross the creeks, or which part of a steep hill she wants to slide down. Oh and when she tells me there is something/someone up ahead on the trail, I know she is always right...even though I can't see or hear anything at the time....

Didn't mean to go so off subject, but I think my mare is an example of what you want in a good trail horse.

Wow, your story gave me chills. So glad you and your mare made it out safely. How terrifying. I boarded briefly with a girl who sunk her and her mare in a drainage ditch and had to be pulled out with a truck. One of the trails we ride all the time has this little innocent looking creek running parallel to it and they call it "Snake River." She came to a road crossing, it was hot, she was looking for a break. Thought the beautiful little creek looked inviting. I don't recall how she said her mare acted, but long story short, she ended up sunk up to her neck and unable to get out. I can't remember all the details of how she went for help, but they had a vet and some rescuers meet her on the trail to pull the mare out. She was struggling for a couple of hours and ended up being cut up pretty badly.

I've decided to never fight with my horse over where to step. I refuse to get into a battle of the witts of "You WILL go here dammit" on the trail. I trust my horses, they trust me, and I just see no reason to prove points out there or fight over dominance. When we're going down the trail, my horse isn't purposely trying to tick me off and be dominant by going where she wants to go. She's just trying to find the safest, most direct route.

My QH is a great little trail pony and has been around just about everywhere, up in the mountains, and has done a little bit of everything. If she ever balks, there's a reason for it.

SarahR
Jan. 10, 2008, 10:52 AM
My little mare tends to space out and stumble on trails. I can feel when she's doing it as she gets heavy on the forehand. I began to half halt her when she would do this and say the verbal cue 'careful'. Now when I say careful she gathers herself up and pays attention.

Sarah
www.fourcornerstrails.com