View Full Version : Out of the arena onto the trail?? Share?

Mar. 22, 2010, 01:14 AM
Hi all,

So I have been learning basic dressage over the last few years on my young arab mare, both of us needed to be trained nearly from scratch. Believe it or not, we have barely ever gotten out of the arena. My instructor says that if the horse is on the aids, it doesn't matter where you are, in the arena or on the trail. I have gotten more confident about my ability to keep my girl on the aids, even when she is evading or spooking (knock on wood), so I figure maybe it's time for us to get 'out there'. However, it is hard to believe that it is 'the same', since without an arena it seems that a horse has more room to evade you if they are hell-bent on it, with no walls there to help confine a bolt or whatever the case may be. Am I wrong and do I, as my instructor says, have a lot more tools and control than I give myself credit for?

I was wondering if some of you in the same boat, adult novice riders, could share about your first venturing out of the arena with your horse. Also any advice you may have...

My horse has been stuck in the arena with me so she is by no means bomb-proof or desensitized or anything, but she is pretty level-headed for the most part. She has been exposed to lots of diverse situations, loud and strange noises, all kinds of 'stimuli', at the riding barn. She does have her days when she is jumpy and buggy-eyed at stupid stuff, I suppose most of them do. Also those of you who have been riding since you were two or whatever, LOL, feel free to chime in too, just not sure you can relate to the combined terror and blissful excitement of it all, since you probably went through it when you were, four or something? LOL! Please feel free, just know that what you say may be over my head!!

Also how does all this dressage training translate out on the trail or say, doing endurance riding? You know, getting the horse forward, bending, on the bit and all of that... how does it translate 'out there'??

DressageGeek "Ribbon Ho"
Mar. 22, 2010, 01:22 AM
When we venture out, I usually have him on the buckle - it's a break from the "work' sessions, and I let him look around and see the sights. He still must be forward, and still respond to my aids. At times I will ask for something, but generally, it gives us both a break.

We do work outside (weather permitting!!!!) in an outdoor, and I expect us to do the same quality work there as we do in the indoor, whether it's day time or night time.

I say, don't worry about it. Go out, enjoy yourself, give your horse a break too!

Mar. 22, 2010, 01:44 AM
I suggest that you get an experienced rider to take the horse out on the trail a few times first so you get to observe her reactions (this will make you a lot less tense) and also have an experienced "lead" horse accompany her. If she meets something scary, she'll be much more inclined to follow the lead horse. Keep company when you take her out, don't try to venture out by yourself right away. Good luck, it really is nice to get out of the arena every so often! : )

Mar. 22, 2010, 01:50 AM
Well I haven't been riding since I was two but I was very young when I started and am now part of the blue hair club (well if I didn't color it :D). Still, I get the whole fear/concern thing everytime I take a young one out for the very first time or the very first "several" times if it's a more reactive, the type to test you at every turn, sort. First if I were you, I would ride out in a small group. Numbers can be very reassuring to both rider and horse. That is what I do with the real greenie meanies. Second, know that your horse has a stop and a go. I also find that I am more relaxed if I know that my horse will listen to my voice. I have definitely used trail riding to help my dressage and my dressage to help my trail riding. The conditioning and muscle build up I get with trail riding has kept my horses sound all the way through FEI. If I have a trying mount or a situation that is usually calm and fun becomes unexpectedly scarey due to the ATV group from hell (usually not juveniles but grown men who are reliving their youth), echoing gun shots, loose dogs, LARGE wildlife, etc, I've been thankful for shoulder in, leg yields, half passes, etc to redirect and focus my horse's mind and attention on me. Instead of giving examples of close calls, I'd like to point out that most of the time, we, my family, friends and I have a blast going out trail riding. I also go it alone quite often and when I do, choose tried and true trails/areas where my horses have been before and are comfortable with the surroundings. And FWIW, my son's Arab mare is probably the safest and most enjoyable trail mount we have (she's also been shown in dressage). Relax, find some friends to go with you and enjoy the chance to get out and do something different.

Mar. 22, 2010, 02:01 AM
since you probably went through it when you were, four or something?


Your instructor is right theoretically.

But, that's theory and reality is more complicated :yes:

Use your common sense 1st and foremost.

Getting out of the arena is very important, but don't pick a day that is twenty degrees out with a high wind or you'll be all over the place.

Start your first outings on calm quiet days. Get a feel for some things. If your horse sees or smells (and you can't see or smell) a deer she may spook a bit. Get comfortable that spooking isn't all that bad. Often my horse (who is hot and a tad spooky) is LESS spooky than I am. He handles unexpected gunshots much better than I do. Same with snakes. I tell him the weird gate is fine and he says, "ok".

But, he trusts me not to put him in a bad situation, and I try not too.

All of your schooling will pay off. If your horse comes "off the aids" (head up or a spook) for a few minutes, you should be able to put him/her back on the aids fairly quickly and go on. It gets easier and easier and finally you will be able to do all of your dressage work out on the trail or in the fields and ignore the real world.

As far as bolting goes ... if you feel your horse might be getting ready to bolt you can open one rein (completely loosen) and do a tight circle using the other rein. I have done this many times with a horse in mid-air and we have landed 180 degrees from the direction that the bolt was going in and the horse just goes, "What happened"? End of bolt, walk out nice and safe.

A bolt must be stopped in the first stride or your horse has all of the advantage. It is not that hard.

Happy Trails.

Mar. 22, 2010, 02:05 AM
Wow, some really cool advice so far, glad I asked :)!

Mar. 22, 2010, 09:31 AM
I am taking my Friesian out, and I am getting the whole fear on the trails thing for the very first time - yikes! He is afraid of the big wide world - very different from our cow horses! He not only thinks that squirrels are going to eat him (ok, so he's probably right - they do lurk up in the trees) but then on the way home, he's a nutcase in very large clothing. I have to practically keep his head to my knee to keep him from going up. My solutions? A much saner horse to keep his head to their shoulder, and a lot of miles. He's getting a bit better, although he's a bit spooky, and taking him out AFTER we ride in the ring.

And I've found that ironically, bigger groups make him more confident. He feels safety in numbers and I can wedge him between a couple of horses I know don't kick if he gets really rank.

Oh, and my daughter has been taking her young horse out on the road for comparison, and he's GREAT!!!! He is easy, doesn't spook, and gives the older guy confidence. So don't assume that just because she's green that she'll be bad :) Dumbo the flying elephant is just a big scaredy cat, and her horse is just brave, end of story.

Mar. 22, 2010, 12:31 PM
Definitely see if you can get some other very quiet horses to go out with you. When I took my OTTB out for the first time I went with three very, very quiet geldings. They sort of made a wall around me, one in front and two on each side. SO comforting for me, LOL! I quickly discovered that my guy was as quiet as a mouse out on the trails and we've been hunter pacing ever since! So get some quiet horses to follow and approach it with an attitude of fun.

Mar. 22, 2010, 12:35 PM
Pretty much agree with what everyone else says. Taking a horse out of the arena is also really good for its brain, will help it in a show environment, etc.

My advice is go out in a group. Most horses are calmer when with other horses and if yours balks and the others are all walking on ahead, it will usually decide to follow the others rather than run back to the barn. (Ask me how I know this :lol:)

It's also OK to stop when you feel like it. Try to turn around when things are going well, but if your horse is really upset, you won't break them forever if you turn around. Know your own limits.

I don't trail ride alone, mostly for safety reasons. However, my mare is road safe, and I would ride her on the road alone just because there are other people -- cars, drivers etc. who could at least notice me and call 911 if I was laying in a ditch!

Also, take it slowly! Your horse is probably less of a spook than you are :). I started out with riding maresy just to the end of the driveway to look at the road, then would take her 50 yards or so and bring her back, and eventually we were going nearly a mile in either direction. It took several months but that was because of me not her. (This photo (http://annsrats.com/horses/feronia/may19_2009/white_sign.jpg) always cracks me up because I am practically begging her to spook at the sign on the ground, and she's like, "Whatever, mom.") If I get nervous, she gets nervous. In my favor, she is more a "spook in place" kind of horse than a bolter, although she has a wicked spin and half-rear if something *really* scares her.

Mar. 22, 2010, 12:53 PM
Lots of good advice here.

As a trainer, I get asked all the time to take horses out. I am the only one at my barn who goes out regularly on my own horse. I take my clients horses out for the first couple of rides in the spring when they have had a winter break from trail.
I let them walk on the buckle as long as they behave, even if they speed walk. (My horse is a champion speed walker! Very comfy and fun!). Once we trot and canter it is back on the bit with shoulder-in or leg yielding to help keep thing under control. And LOTS of half halts.

One thing I tell everyone: If you are going out, the first few times either ride your horse or lunge your horse first. If you ride, do the normal amount of riding your would regularly. Then give him an hour or two break and then go out. This way the horse is a little tired and more relaxed. And just WALK with maybe a little trotting. Then when the trotting is calmer and you feel more confident you can canter.
After a few rides, you can skip the "warm up' and just hop on and go out.
I also recommend having your trainer or someone you really trust take our horse out a couple of times with a steady-eddy.
Save going out solo for when your feel confident you can handle the silly stuff (OMG Who moved that bush there?!?! Is that a branch on the ground? That squirrel moved quickly!) )

I went out both days these weekend. My horse got to gallop which is his favorite thing! I usually go solo with him becasue most people just want to have fun out there. I take him to school cross country.
I took my cleints TB out with a group, including my friend on his 5 year old Freisian, Dutch. Dutch is a born leader and AWESOME trail horse. Stupid TB acting up? Whatever. Crowding into my tail, fine. Squish him becasue the bush is moving and your horse crabbing away from it? All good! Other horses going to nip out of excitement? That's cool becasue it means I have company. He is a real saint. Once in a while he will be unsure (like kids playing paintball in the woods) Then he will check and see what the other horses are doing. If they don't mind, well all is good.

Trail riding is so much fun. Be smart and carry your cell. Take along a rope halter and lead in case you have to dismount and lead the horse.

Mar. 22, 2010, 12:58 PM
Yay, I am loving this advice and stories from you guys. My instructor loves loves LOVES the arena, because of course for her, advanced dressage rider that she is, it is all about 'riding the horse every step' which is really an amazing, consuming experience if you can really do that. I am only beginning to get glimpses since I am such a novice, but really, when you are communicating that intensively with such a glorious beast, it is a wonderful, even mind-altering experience, even if you are in the boring old arena!

Nevertheless I have talked her into going out with me, with an aim towards my horse and I getting comfy on the trail, so we will start out by just poking around the barn (there are no real 'trails' to speak of). We are also talking about going out for a few days doing a summer camp type thing with another boarder or two, which she used to do all the time with the kids. We are more of a ladies' barn these days, not tons of kids and teens like the old days. So I have a little help getting started, but am still a bit apprehensive. Like Quietann said, I am probably the bigger chicken of the two of us, me and my mare! She is the kind who will pretend to be spooky about something when I am leading her around outside so that she can get a mouth full of grass while I am trying to figure out what the problem is!

I am also glad to hear that some greenies are quiet on the trail right from the get go. The horses, I mean... LOL.

ETA: totally cute picture, yes I can see who's the one spooking LOL. Looks just like me on Najah :).

Arizona DQ
Mar. 22, 2010, 02:45 PM
We always finish up each training session with a walk down the road. I too was the "spookier" of us. My mare could care less for the most part (except when the emu acorss the road popped out of nowhere...:D.

I would set a goal (ride to first mail box, ride to next driveway, etc.) and just stay within my comfort zone. Each additional step beyond my set goal was a really big deal for me......;) Now, I actually trust myself and my mare enough to just ride her on the buckle! I let her pretty much set the course (with a few adjustments by me), but I have no problem turning around when I feel uncomfortable or a little scared (loose dogs really bother me!).....

Go as far or as short as you want. Small steps and have fun! :winkgrin:

Mar. 22, 2010, 02:47 PM
My retirement plan is that when I run out of money I'll take my overly sensitive, reactive, spooky, silly warmblood out on a trail ride. It will save my son from having to visit me in a retirement home.

Mar. 23, 2010, 10:22 AM
As a novice rider, I've found that taking my mare out on the trails at our barn has increased her confidence in me and my confidence in myself as a rider. I started small, going with some very calm horses for about 10-15 minutes. I went with several different horses, several different times. No problem. She is happy to follow a horse.

I then tried doing that exact path with just me and her. If she starts to spook, I will leg yield her, do turns on the forehand, etc - any kind of work that I kind think of. I do wear spurs and carry a whip when it is just me and her, since if she starts to spook these things are super helpful for getting her to listen to me. I like to keep a little feel of her mouth, so I can get her back more easily if she does spook. If we reach an impasse where I cannot get her forward, I will hop off and lead her a little bit (she likes a lead horse and I am acceptable for this, apparently) and then get back on.

The first time we went out, she did get light on the front end in a few spots, and I kicked her forward and it was fine. Each time we went out, it got easier, and we worked up to 45 minutes alone (still on my barn's property) with trotting and cantering where the footing is nice.

I also take her on some barn organized trail rides off the property and she does great there (like I said, she is happy plodding along behind the lead horse - sometimes 1/4 of a mile behind ...)

Trail riding is a skill like any other discipline and the change of scenery/easier ride makes my mare so happy!

Mar. 23, 2010, 10:31 AM
I would set up some simple, spooky things in the arena or around the property so you have some idea of what her reactions will be. You can throw a horse blanket over a chair, put a tape recording of a dog barking, a fan blowing, trash cans, tarps, kids bouncy balls in a box, a million things. Set up a few things that you have easy access to, then go about your ride as if they aren't there. (If you're anticipating something, it's not a true test). Does she remain responsive, no reaction, big reaction, curious, but still listening? If she spooks, but remains under control and relys on you, I'd say you're good to go out. I wouldn't go out alone the first time and for me, I like trail rides to be break time from the work.

Mar. 23, 2010, 10:45 AM
I love to trail ride and found that it is really good for my horses to get used to footing that is not perfect like in an arena. When I go back to the arena, it seems so easy and they have better balance.

I generally go as a break from schooling in the arena. Of course if the horse is fresh, then we'll work on something, but if he is good then it's meant to be a nice relaxing ride where I am not always asking something of him.

99.5% of the time I ride alone and go out on the trails alone. My late gelding was not good when I first started taking him out. This was the result of being a pampered show horse out west and he had no idea how to balance himself on uneven terrain. He'd buck going down a tiny slope. I just kept taking him out little by little and he came to like the trails. I also took carrots with me when riding him and would stop for no reason and reward him with a carrot while out in the big scary world, to reinforce this is FUN. :)

If you don't have anyone to go with at first, you can always hand walk for a little bit and see how the horse does, then hop on it she is good.

Mar. 23, 2010, 11:01 AM
My retirement plan is that when I run out of money I'll take my overly sensitive, reactive, spooky, silly warmblood out on a trail ride. It will save my son from having to visit me in a retirement home.


I find a hot, reactive horse is the one I want in the ring with me.. but that doesn't tend to translate well onto a trail.

Best of luck, if your horse isn't always so "up", you've gotten some good advice.

Mar. 23, 2010, 12:15 PM
Absolutely agree that groups are the key! Very few horses could be expected to go out alone, especially on the first time! It sounds like you are nervous about the idea too, so trying it alone is a recipe for disaster.

Also, I wouldn't start with a full fledged trail ride. We are just getting warm and dry enough to ride outside here, and we start by just riding around the property. Go around the barn a few times. Ride up and down the driveway if it's safe. Most of our horses, even the ones who do trail ride alone, are more up and nervous the first few trail rides of spring. We'll go through puddles, go through mud, walk through snowbanks, deal with any "I'm scared!" issues near home, and branch out.

I see trail riding as a break and bonding time. It should be relaxing and fun. I will school some movements - doing lateral work up and down a driveway is a lot of fun, and also a good way to work with a spooky horse. I know if Pi gets uppity that I can use my aids and dressage work to distract him and make him relax, so that helps. I also struggled with "letting him go" for a long time, until I KNEW I had brakes, because he has so much power and speed that he even scared the resident fearless teenager the first time she ran him!

I'm one of those who has "ridden since I was two" LOL ... but I had only casual trail riding experience up to about 3.5 years ago. The terror and nerves can still be there. First time I take out a new horse ... it's a bit nerve wracking. Or my 16.2hh QH - he's an emotional mess in the spring - I know I'm going to be dealing with anxiety and blowups and tantrums. Takes a bit of talking myself into getting on his back - and a whip or two LOL (yes, I've carried a whip in each hand on him!) But it's like any other training thing - it just takes time and patience and not asking too much. So next time after your lesson, if it's possible, cool out by walking around outside instead of in the arena. See how that goes.

Easy Choice
Mar. 23, 2010, 11:41 PM
I picked up Clint Anderson's DVD on trail riding and it really helps - I've only viewed the first of the 3 disk set so far and applied his suggestions. It worked VERY well!!! And I have an OTTB that, a year ago, wouldn't let me ride him around the outside of the barn:) I'm also waiting on an order for some Ex-Stress to help him relax while we're out trail riding.

Mar. 24, 2010, 12:08 AM
All good advice you've gotten here. My method for teaching a "newbie" about trails is as other have said: go out with a nice, quiet horse (although I'm not a fan of "groups", just one quiet horse is ideal, I think). Also, I like to start out by riding first and then heading out to the trails for my "cool out". My horses quickly learn that the trail ride part is "easy", the arena work "hard". My event horse (and OTTB) is one who now tries to head out to the trails every time I get on! :D

The barn where I board is ideal for gradually working into outside work. Our outdoor arena has no fence and there is a LONG dirt driveway, several hayfields to go around, and some wooded trails. I can start out riding in the arena, then head out into the fields. Newbies are usually ok because they are not going TOO far from the pastures and they can still see their buddies in the distance.

As an example, tonight, I rode my 3 year old in the outdoor arena (W/T/C) and then headed down the long driveway (alone) as our cool out. She was a gem and seemed to enjoy the walk out thoroughly (and it was a heck of a lot easier than what she had to do in the arena). We had a lovely walk and got to see the geese starting to gather by the pond in the middle hayfield. You just don't get to enjoy that when you are in the arena!

Mar. 24, 2010, 12:12 AM
Lots of good advice here. Build up your confidence riding with a buddy or buddies who are riding bombproof horses if possible. Once you relax, your mare will also relax.

My daughter's Arab was a show horse for 11 years and I don't think the former owners ever took him out of the arena. The first time she tried to take him on a trail ride he spun around and refused to walk past the barn! Once we got an experienced buddy to come along he slowly got braver. Now he loves to trail ride, will go alone on the buckle, and take young kids on their first trail rides.

I take my own Arab on the trail as often as I can, it is a nice change from the arena, I think we both enjoy it thoroughly. Initially, when going out by himself, he could spook at his own shadow and had the nasty habit of jumping sideways. When I came off in one of those occasions, he immediately stopped and looked at me like "what are you doing down there??" :lol:

We are long past his silliness and I can take him out bareback with a halter and leadrope, find a nice spot for a little cantering and I can stop him with a whoa and change in seat position. Most of the time he will just moose along, head down, as relaxed as he can be.

Enjoy and let us know how it goes!

Mar. 24, 2010, 12:24 AM
If anything you may find that trail work will improve your dressage. Weather permitting, I try to hit the trails at least 3-4 times a month (more if I can, but I have to trailer out to trails) and find they are wonderful for conditioning and adding muscle tone.

Most of my rides are done at a nice, relaxed forward walk or trot, but I'll take a few minutes in select spots to work on various movements...a little half pass here...some shoulder in...let him move out in a medium trot...practice some canter to walk transitons etc. My guy responds to it quite well.

In fact, I had one horse years ago, where our "break through" moments for certain things - such as canter to walk-canter transitions came to us on the trail. You don't have to do your whole ride "on the aids". But trail riding sure helps in teaching your horse that they must work "on the aids" whenever and wherever you ask for it.

Go for it, and most importantly, relax and have fun!

Mar. 24, 2010, 12:44 AM
My horse and I LOVE trail rides. We try to get out at least 3 times per week. All the hills build up her muscles and she has lots of open space to gallop (for example at the beach and in the vineyards). She has gotten braver too- she's an OTTB who was at first scared of the ocean but now she will go in up to her belly! It is so good for their bodies and their minds. Not to mention great for us too. And just because you are on a trail ride doesn't mean you can't work on many of the things you are working on in the arena. Go out and see the great big world!!!

Mar. 24, 2010, 12:51 PM
Thanks so far for all the great advice!

I am going to be trading off horses this summer i.e. bringing my arab mare home to the country and putting my new second horse (andalusian gelding) in her spot at the barn for continuing dressage lessons. So the idea is to turn the mare into my big-time, at home, trail horse which I think she would enjoy. I have a couple of endurance champs, an older very very seasoned horse gal and her arab gelding, who will be sharing the same pasture with my mare at home so I am hoping to be going out with those guys. Her gelding is about as fearless as can be out on the trail, and she and her husband have taken out another young neighbor (teenager) on some pretty long rides out here in the boonies, so I am hoping to do the same with them!! So far that is my genius plan, hope it pans out!!

ETA: Will be hauling in my mare periodically to keep her dressage training in tact, about to enter into the wonderful world of hauling horses too, yikes!! LOL!! I love the idea of eventually keeping them both at home with me and hauling in for lessons. Will save me a butt-load of board money! Sounds good theoretically, anyways!

Mar. 24, 2010, 12:56 PM
Sounds like you couldn't have a better situation if you asked for it :yes:

Mar. 24, 2010, 05:29 PM
Sounds like you couldn't have a better situation if you asked for it :yes:

Thanks for your vote of confidence re: my plan, Baroque Pony! Believe it or not I have had many a panic attack wondering if it is a good plan/if it will all work out.

Thanks so much to everyone for your wonderful, pertinent advice, anecdotes and encouragement to get out there! I have been reading each post with great interest and making lots of mental notes!!

I'm about 6 or 7 years into horses now, started out in my late thirties on very (!) green horses and sometimes questionable instructors (silent scream!!). Things are finally coming together with current horse and trainer... so it has been a rather tentative, sometimes fraught journey to this point... also full of joy and wonder or I would not have hung in.

ETA: Glad to hear how steady some of your Arabs are out on the trail, I do believe they are very smart albeit playful (sometimes at our expense:)), little horses! I am looking forward to seeing how my girl will enjoy adventures outside the arena.

Mar. 24, 2010, 08:38 PM
You can do as much dressage on the trail rides or in hay fields as a closed in arena.
It is free-ing(mentally & physically) for the horse because there are no boundaries to block you from sorting out an issue or continuing on because there is not a corner to stop you.
Riding a ring sour, not-in-front of your leg horse is NO fun and lot of work!!!!

As much we need a little variety in our life, they need it in theirs to--such as training. Add some trot poles, cross rails, find a log on the trail to jump, go to an event place that has open schooling days (also go with a trainer[if needed]) and jump around the beginner novice or novice jumps.

I use the hay field for conditioning, to do intervals of trot and canter.

You could pony your young mare off of your well-schooled endurance horses when you have her home this summer. I pony all my youngsters off my more experienced ones. Especially when I don't want to drill the lunging on 2 yr olds. Also helps the babies with activities above their heads that they need to know about when getting broke to ride. I do have to admit that the 14.2 1/2 hand welsh cob is now soon to be dwarfed by the 15.2 hand {and growing} 2 yr old, he is a 1/2 arab, that he has to pony around.

For my welsh cob, I train in the dressage ring, around the jumps in the jump field as well as the hay field(when it is available). he doesn't know when I get on if we start in the dressage that we finish there or start there and move to the jump field or hay field. It could be a dressage - conditioning day or a dressage - hack day, or hack - dressage.

Mar. 24, 2010, 08:55 PM
I love this thread!

I'm mid-purchase of my first dressage horse, an 8 year old OTTB. We're converting him from an eventer, so to him outside the arena = FAST, and if we're not going fast everything is supposed to be scary. I've always trail ridden, and found trails were the secret to getting my former AQHA western pleasure horse to do slow, collected gaits while still carrying himself and not dragging his hooves. (Can you tell why I don't want to show quarter horses now?) I've always done a lot of lateral work with my horses, and long straight trails are a great place to learn that! Twisty trails and steering with seat/legs work well, too.

Thanks for the thread - it inspired me a bit!

Mar. 24, 2010, 11:41 PM
We're converting him from an eventer, so to him outside the arena = FAST, and if we're not going fast everything is supposed to be scary.

Netg--FYI--this isn't typical with all event horses. Eventers do conditioning in fields and on trails. For that, I do a LOT of walking in the spring and then work up to doing trot and canter sets too. My horse certainly doesn't think that "outside the arena = fast" and she is an OTTB. You need to work on getting your horse to work outside at whatever pace you ask him/her for. Event horses need to be responsive to their rider on x-c--not just "balls to the walls". Hopefully you can teach your guy that!

Mar. 25, 2010, 11:47 AM
Netg--FYI--this isn't typical with all event horses. Eventers do conditioning in fields and on trails. For that, I do a LOT of walking in the spring and then work up to doing trot and canter sets too. My horse certainly doesn't think that "outside the arena = fast" and she is an OTTB. You need to work on getting your horse to work outside at whatever pace you ask him/her for. Event horses need to be responsive to their rider on x-c--not just "balls to the walls". Hopefully you can teach your guy that!

Oh, definitely!

I should clarify - if we've already worked in the arena to warm up, he thinks going out means we should go fast. I think it's part eventing (he actually seemed to love x-c in general) and part OTTB. I've learned if I take him out before he gets in "work" mode he relaxes more, so we'll start with that, and work our way backwards. Since I'm not an eventer (jumping is just NOT my thing!) we can get out of that mindset altogether! With this guy, relaxation is the key to *everything* we do, not just trail riding, so a lot of it is just his personality.

Mar. 25, 2010, 12:07 PM
With horses that are green to being out of the ring, pick a day when they have worked hard, but been good. Walk on a loose rein in an area they have been hand walked before. 5 minutes is enough. Next time do the same and add a new location to the old, again WALKING. Each time add time and new places. If the horse becomes spooked or nervous don't add anything new, stick with the tried and true. Once you have a good trail of 20 minutes walking, add some transition work with trotting to see how the horse responds. If too much excitement go back to walking. Always be willing to go back a step in your training if your horse tells you they aren't ready.

Practice deep breathing and relaxing for you. If you are nervous, your horse will be worried about the boogey man, because you are tense.

I wouldn't ride completely on the buckle until your horse has proven themselves to be trustworthy. That doesn't mean you should ride them collected out there either. Find a happy medium that you can let your horse relax, but get them on the aids if it needs support.

If you have friends to ride with, get them to ride with you in the ring first, then go out on the trails. This will let you gauge how your horse responds to groups. Some relax and others get more charged up. Some like to follow and some demand to lead.

Best of luck and have fun!!

Mar. 25, 2010, 02:10 PM
I suggest that you get an experienced rider to take the horse out on the trail a few times first so you get to observe her reactions (this will make you a lot less tense) and also have an experienced "lead" horse accompany her. If she meets something scary, she'll be much more inclined to follow the lead horse. Keep company when you take her out, don't try to venture out by yourself right away. Good luck, it really is nice to get out of the arena every so often! : )
Smart advice here!

Mar. 25, 2010, 02:16 PM
Oh, and when you've been out for a few trail rides and you realize how much you are going to like it ..... there are sandwich kits and other pieces of equipment that you can buckle onto your saddle and take OATMEAL cookies with you .... and hard boiled eggs stand up to cantering very well. Of course you could always carry a hunt flask full of bourbon ... but then you'd have to start foxhunting :yes:

Dressage Art
Mar. 25, 2010, 02:59 PM
Also how does all this dressage training translate out on the trail or say, doing endurance riding? You know, getting the horse forward, bending, on the bit and all of that... how does it translate 'out there'??

I love trail riding and endurance riding. I take all of my dressage horses for trail rides, even my FEI ones. And not only the short 30 minutes ones, but once per year we go to the 3 day equestrian weekend getaway with friends and trail ride for 3 solid days for about 8 hours per day. Last time it was 4 of us, my mare was showing 4th and other mare was showing 3rd and + 2 Arab geldings who were both at Training Level dressage. Even our WB-mares were mid dressage level fit, Training level Arabs outdid our supper fit horses on the long trail rides :lol:

I also love to board at the barns with the immediate trail access and do the short 15 minutes trail warm up and cool down, instead of walking in the same sand box.

For the longer trail rides, I highly recommend going with the seasoned horse that projects the confidence and wouldn't look twice on the deer or cows, who can cross the water, and wooden bridges and knows how to open the gates.

It's best to go in the loops, with out the one way that leads to the 180 turn around = then horse knows that they turned back home and some tend to take off and even buck off the riders and gallop home. (My mare did that with her previous owner and it took me some time to teach her not to try to gallop home)

I think the hardest thing is to teach the horse to calmly walk over the small, narrow stream, they tend to want to take a huge jump over it and if you have trees around, they might land too close to a tree and take out your knee cap. We stood in those little streams for a long times for many years, yet still if not leg yielded, my mare would rather just jump it.

I love to train "on the bit" or "Turn on the hunches" or "Half steps" or "Leg Yields" on the trails.

I don't really gallop on the trails, mostly walk, may be some light jog, since we have a mostly hard rocky ground here.

If you will go out for a trail ride, make sure to tell somebody in your barn and take a whistle with you.

Sandy M
Mar. 25, 2010, 03:09 PM
All of my horses (until now!) have been trail horses from the moment they seemed to have the basics down (i.e., brakes!). Since all my previous horses were destined to be jumpers/eventers, being well behaved "outside" was v. important.

As for translating "dressage" out on the trail, I was much amused once when some Parelli-ites (who actually rode!!!!) joined me on a trail ride, and were amazed that my horse worked gates with such ease. I MUST have taught him "The Squeeze Game." Uh, no.... I taught him to halt, to leg yield, to back, to do turns on the forehand and the haunches...makes opening gates easy. He's gone now (RIP), but that was back when he was only about 6 or 7 - early on in his training as a dressage/hunter/trail horse.

My bebe, wellllll, he's almost six, but he's coming off a six month layup/rehab and he's ....to put it charitably, not "reliable" at present - but he gets better every day). Before he was hurt, we had made good progress with trail riding, but like Dressage Art, I regard it as relaxation (and maybe conditioning - nothing like hills, even at a walk, to build up the haunches). He's more reactive than my previous horses, so still pretty green on the trail riding thing. My guy hadn't (hasn't!!) reached the point where I'd quite trust him on the buckle, but I ride with a loop in the reins and little or no contact unless there is a crisis of some sort. He's managed to cope with dogs, strollers, bikes and hikers with backpacks without having a melt down, and once he's more steadily in work and has the yee-hahs worked out of him, we hope to head out for the trails again.

Be sure to make those first rides accompanied by another, calmer "babysitter" horse. It really helps spooky/nervous/young horses learn the ropes.

Dressage Art
Mar. 25, 2010, 04:47 PM
Here is my dressage mare all dressed up for trails :) http://www.dressageart.com/Zena/zena_2008_beach.jpg
This is going towards that beach breathtaking view:
This is same mare in the dressage show ring http://www.dressageart.com/Zena/zena_2008_cc7
God, I love that mare! Or any other horse that is a well rounded in both trail and dressage! So many fun times that a rider and horse can share with each other!

Mar. 25, 2010, 11:13 PM
We have trials at are barn that are essentially loops around the barn. I've found it helpful to hand walk my mare along the trails. It gave me great comfort to see that she wasn't fazed by the many deer taking off around us. We went out for the first time last weekend. She did fine but when I saw the peacock ahead in the distance, I decided I wasn't up to challenging him. I wasn't sure what she would do if he spread his tail and I didn't want to find out. I do keep my mare on contact and I started out by just walking around the barn with my instructor giving me instruction - keep the contact and make her walk on.

Mar. 25, 2010, 11:50 PM
You have gotten a ton of good advice here.

I would just add: play it by ear and in small steps. Listen to your horse.

Most horses I have ridden really enjoy trail riding. My current horse HATES it. She hated it as a 4 year old and she hates it as a 12 year old. Birds freak her out. Insects freak her out. Odd patches of lighting or colored logs spook her. She ran into a butterfly once and got freaked out. She enjoys galloping and ends up trying to run away in a flat out gallop - and then into a line of bucks. Trails have never been fun with this horse and usually blend fear (nature) and fun (galloping). Oh yes, and she has trained and successfully shown through the upper levels of dressage (her main job). SHe is considered as quiet, but not dull. Certainly not hot by any stretch.

She is much better with calm buddies and much much better if ridden on the same trails repeatedly until they become familiar.

Honestly, she enjoys the familiarity of the ring and she'd rather jump or do something different in the ring than go out on a trail. I can haul her to dressage shows and she's fine in the ring. I have hauled her to little cross country events and trail rides with friends and she's a nightmare. I usually have to cool her out in the ring after a trail ride. Interestingly, this horse was born and raised in outdoor turnout and never experienced a stall until she was 6. She has had daily pasture turnout her *whole* life.

Go figure! Who knows what goes on in the mind of a horse? :) I miss those relaxing and fun trail rides!