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Villager
Aug. 19, 2011, 01:09 AM
Simon Barnes, journalist and author thinks so.What do you all think? Gives credence to all the things we cope with out on the trails.

"What is the toughest riding discipline of them all? Which is the most important, the most difficult, the most dangerous? I shall tell you: but first of all let me outline for you the dizzying array of skills necessary.

You need, above all, a sense of calmness and trust. Without that you won’t get anywhere. But you have to combine relaxation with a constant awareness of the considerable difficulties and dangers that surround you. You need to be able to sit in a way that fills the horse with confidence.

You need to master all the basic paces. Horse and rider both need to be relaxed at all of them, from halt to gallop. You need comfortable, instant lateral work, particularly off the right leg. You need calm, soft unfidgety hands. Your aim is to combine calmness and confidence with dynamic and forward-going movement at all paces.

You need your horse to cope with other horses, close by or at a distance. Your horse needs to be sociable when among strangers and friends yet happily independent when on his own. You need balance and control; but with a sense of freedom and adventure.

You need to trust your horse in extreme situations. You must allow your horse to be a wild animal and express himself with joy and abandon and yet you must be able to bring him back to civilisation with a touch, a shift in balance, a word.

But above all, you need to understand each other’s fears; each other’s limits, each other’s strengths and weaknesses. You need to deal with situations that terrify a horse but hold no danger to him; you must deal with situations that terrify you, without imparting your terror to your horse. You must be able to deal with potentially life-threatening situations and to do so with great frequency. You must deal with them in a way that is completely calm and relaxed, as if it were the easiest thing in the world.

The reason you must bring out all these high skills in yourself and your horse is because everybody’s life depends on them. But then you must get used to the fact that your painfully acquired skills are held in low esteem – even despised in some quarters.

The discipline I am talking about is hacking. Nothing is more dangerous – yet more pleasurable – to human and horse alike. If you can hack out safely, alone or in company, you are a real rider!

If you can deal with such things as school buses, Volvo drivers, pheasants flying up at your feet, a long, long canter track, boy racers, fluttering paper bags, gloriously inviting gallops, pigs, cows, overhanging trees, fields of lunatic horses and the most scarey thing of all, the wheelie bin that wasn’t there yesterday, then you can count yourself a hacker. Or to put it another way, a very good rider indeed.

And yet, even if you are the master of all those things, your skills might be sneered at. So you apologise in advance – oh I just hack out. I’m just a happy hacker.

What? Only a master of the most testing and demanding and dangerous discipline in the horsey world, that’s all. You have to defer to obsessive show jumpers, dressage queens of either sex and showing people who prefer polishing horses to riding them – all these people are too precious to take their horse out for a merry hack and who think they’re better than you on that account.

Let’s not be snobbish back, however. Every way of enjoying your horse that doesn’t harm him is alright by me. So we won’t ask what’s so marvellous about going round and round in circles and why it is so superior to a great cantering blast up the hill, and we shan’t point out that while a square halt is hard, it’s far, far more difficult to get your horse to stand still while an articulated lorry goes past. Especially when it then stops and whistles its brakes at you.

So let’s make this Hacker’s Pride Month. Say it out loud; I hack and I’m proud! We won’t be snooty about it though. We won’t say, I know the real reason you won’t hack out. It’s not because you’re Anky von Grunsven and Bonfire come again. It’s because you are ever so slightly scared. And I’m not; so I hack.

No, we won’t say it. We’ll just think it very quietly when someone looks at you with condescension because you’ve been for a hack while they have spent an hour trying to establish a leg yield. I’ve got nothing against leg-yielding myself but I do have a great deal against snobbery.

No one will celebrate hackers for their skills of horsemanship, their mastery of fear, their overcoming of horsey temperament, so it is only right that we should do it for ourselves. Salute the hackers! Damn we’re good.

And if you have any doubts on that score, just ask our horses!"

Simon Barnes
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cyberbay
Aug. 19, 2011, 07:51 AM
Every time a student says to me that they want to go trail riding, my heart sinks a bit. They have no idea how tough it can be out there, how strong their riding skills have to be, and how unflustered they have to be. It's not that they can't be or have all of t he above, it's just that their heads are in the clouds.

They are in the dark about how much can take place out on the trails.

And out on the trails we go, because riding out is both this :eek: and this :) !

oliverreed
Aug. 19, 2011, 08:37 AM
Oh, YAY for this post!!!! I totally and completely agree!

Char
Aug. 19, 2011, 08:55 AM
We REALLY need a 'Like' button! This post is awesome! Thanks for sharing!

wildlifer
Aug. 19, 2011, 09:06 AM
Kind of funny that he kept saying he didn't want to be a snob but made condescending remarks about other disciplines. Please -- guess what, we event AND can ride through the mountains for hours. To imply that it is the norm for someone who competes in any discipline to never leave the ring is ridiculous. I often cross train with endurance riders -- oh and guess what, my eventer who leg yields, jumps 5' ditches or a huge wall (guess I'm 'obsessive' huh?), he's the one leading the endurance horses past "scary" things and he's the one standing calmly while all the rest lose their minds at the deer bursting out across the path. He's the one with best manners and most well-developed cues while the rest don't even have a decent set of brakes or steering.

So, it's not the discipline, it's the person on the horse's back who matters.

tabula rashah
Aug. 19, 2011, 09:08 AM
:):):)

Me much like!
And a question- why is it more important to move off the right leg? (Maybe I'm just daft this morning who knows- LOL!)

wylde sage
Aug. 19, 2011, 09:09 AM
I love this!! Thank you for posting, I am going to copy, paste, print and staple it to the foreheads of some snobby (read scared) people I know!

PRS
Aug. 19, 2011, 09:39 AM
Love It! I cannot agree more....I can't think of anything more mind numbing and boring than going round and round in an arena. I know arena work has it's uses but you can work on leg yields in the field and on the trails too.

katarine
Aug. 19, 2011, 10:11 AM
I do feel for people afraid to ride out and go somewhere. Yes, it can be dangerous, very much so. But me, I'm too lazy to hike, I don't want to roll my ankle, etc...yet I love getting out into the woods. I love to trail ride...and that leg yield to the blackberry bush is a handy trick to have up my sleeve :)

Count me in the combined training group.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/31281399@N06/5830255417/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rockandracehorses/5764034496/

The snobbery/misunderstanding can cut both ways: A friend of mine who is a serious trail rider on some dang good horses...said she didn't understand dressage at all, why the Hell would you keep riding around in circles and never think you got it right? It's just a circle! Go somewhere!!

I just laughed and went on with things...but dang...I like my dressage work, I enjoy it, and getting a good circle, I kinda like that feel. Why the need to diss someone's fun?

carp
Aug. 19, 2011, 10:12 AM
:):):)

Me much like!
And a question- why is it more important to move off the right leg? (Maybe I'm just daft this morning who knows- LOL!)

I think it is so you can get Dobbin to quickly move off the road when the articulated lorry comes roaring down on you. If you were riding with traffic, you'd be on the left side of the road and would therefore need to move further left.

tabula rashah
Aug. 19, 2011, 10:25 AM
I think it is so you can get Dobbin to quickly move off the road when the articulated lorry comes roaring down on you. If you were riding with traffic, you'd be on the left side of the road and would therefore need to move further left.

Ahh, makes sense- LOL! My brain was just not getting it! So I guess American horses should move sharply off the left leg then ;)

tabula rashah
Aug. 19, 2011, 10:33 AM
Count me in the combined training group.

The snobbery/misunderstanding can cut both ways:


Exactly!

Hinderella
Aug. 19, 2011, 10:53 AM
I love this post! But I have to disagree on one count....where the author says "it's because you're ever so slightly scared..and I'm not"

Well, I'll be the first to admit that I AM scared, but I go out anyway. And with each successful ride, the fear subsides, sliding more into the category of reasonable caution.

My previous horse was very prone to bucks, spooks and bolts on the trail (yes, real bolts of the mad dash for home can't be stopped variety). She's gone now, but that history lingers in my mind. I am trying to overcome that with a wonderful new pony, and we're learning to go out together.

I agree that the skills required to hack out are much underrated. And I agree that there is really no room in riding, or in life, for snobbery. We can each enjoy our horses in our own way, and can each learn something from another discipline.

Heart's Journey
Aug. 19, 2011, 12:38 PM
I've been riding 45+years and have done a variety of disciplines: Hunt seat flat & jumping, dressage, western pleasure, equitation, games, fox hunted, team penning, Obstacle Challenges, and now I mainly camp and trail ride all over Fla, but I have also gone on weeks long rides around the world.

I have long believed that us trail riders are vastly underrated for what our horses and we have to cope with. How many riders in a ring come across rattlesnakes, bears, wild hogs, etc? Semis, barking ferocious dogs, tree limbs falling, etc

I do believe in getting riding instruction as I feel you can never stop learning, but I get far more enjoyment out on the trail and I know my horse prefers it as well. When we get into the woods, he seems to sigh and relax.

The toughest two rides I've ever done were both out in Wyoming on a week long ride. One day we rode for 10 hours (no exaggeration) and rode up and down steep canyons, through snow drifts, had to stop and wait out a hailstorm, the hardest wind I've ever ridden in, and lots of trotting to cover the ground we needed to cover (they were afraid of flash floods in camp).

The other time, was the first day of the ride and the truck bringing the horses broke down. We drove back from the trailhead, saddled up beside the highway, climbed on horses we'd never ridden and rode 20 miles (I was also leading a pack horse) through the forest, climbing up and down ravines, jumping huge trees that were down on the trail, etc. We covered the 25 miles in a little over 2 hours as we trotted and cantered the whole time as dark was coming in.

Those were some rides and I'm proud I was up to the challenge. I am glad there are so many disciplines available to us and variety is great, but please realize that especially the serious trail riders are very good riders and capable of so much more than you would think.

Chall
Aug. 19, 2011, 01:24 PM
Katarine, your horse is gorgeous. He is beautifully proportioned, and such a pretty face and neck. I had to check and see what breed he was. You must love him.

katarine
Aug. 19, 2011, 01:36 PM
Who, Me? Love that hunkadunk dee dunk? NEVER.

He's very, very, cool: One man's trash is another's treasure :)

candyappy
Aug. 19, 2011, 02:46 PM
I didn't care much for the author's article. Why? Because it is just another way to " divide" people by what they do with their horses. I do what I want and could really care less if someone else feels superior. Riding is dangerous, period. I just ride for my own pleasure. I used to show, again, for my own pleasure. Why do people get so caught up in what others think ?

Malda
Aug. 19, 2011, 02:47 PM
Do you have a link for this article? I'd like to post it some other places. Thanks. :)

Villager
Aug. 20, 2011, 02:25 AM
Hi Malda,
It was a quotation from an English forum "New rider" in the Mature section. It is quoted with the author. After reading 'good books to read' in OFF Topic Day on Coth, someone recommended Simon Barnes so after googling I came up with that essay and here is another gem of his writing. He has written a few books and many of his journal pieces from the The Times are put into the book-"The Horsey Life: A Journey of Discovery with a Rather Remarkable Mare"


"Why shouldn’t city folk feel the horsey love too?"
Simon Barnes: Commentary-the Times

It was hosing down with rain. There was me, three Cockney ladies effing and blinding at the tops of their voices, one beaten-up lorry, one old banger and four rather scruffy horses. And we won the lot that day. We cleaned up. Us lot from Codicote – the disreputable lot – had done it again.

These women all did crappy jobs for crappy money. All their money went on horses. They were London overspill types: ancestors hadn’t seen a horse that wasn’t pulling a tram. And they loved all the horsey life and rode beautifully and their horses lived the life of Riley: they were great mates of mine and we shared head-spinning adventures almost weekly.

This was in Hertfordshire, a few miles outside the M25, a few miles from London. That’s the trouble with towns: there aren’t enough trees, there aren’t enough birds and there aren’t enough horses. And many people find so much of what they seek in horses. That’s why there are more than a million horses in this country kept for nothing more – or nothing less – than pleasure. Than joy. Horsiness is not something to do with poshness. Horsiness is a life-enhancing disease that affects all kinds of unexpected people. I come from a nonhorsey family: these days I have cut back to four horses, which I keep at home, ride and muck out daily. But you can’t do that in a city. The cities are full of people who have horsiness in them, and it is crying out for expression. But in a city, the door of horsiness is banged-to at birth. A way of finding meaning and joy is cut off by circumstance.

So I support any campaign to change this: not for the sake of future medals but for the sake of the profound fulfilment that can be found in horses for those who get a toehold into the horsey world. Horses cost money, but it’s all about priorities, as the Codicote Gang demonstrated. Horsiness is not about social class. Horsiness exists for itself alone. I have talked horse with rulers and dukes and my friends from Codicote, with millionaires and paupers, with Olympic medallists and those who got fifth at the local show. And it’s always been the same glorious unending conversation. If Hoof in Town opens doors for people, then I am cheering because it will improve the quality of life for all it touches."
Related Links

* The new face of British equestrianism

The Horsey Life: A Journey of Discovery with a Rather Remarkable Mare by Simon Barnes is published by Short Books on October 2.

Jackie & Starlette
Aug. 20, 2011, 10:08 AM
I love this...I bought my mare from a WP "trainer" (sarcastic yes), because she was not good enought for WP, and was "just a trail horse".

Well, she had never been on the trails...took me two years to get her to "just a trail horse" status...and during the process, I found out how hard it can be, particularly with a horse that was abused in WP training and who did not trust anything or anyone.

My other "trail horse" gelding I got last December (yes, I finally got a horse as a Christmas present after 54 years!). He also had been ridden a lot on the trails...with other horses...but not alone. We are getting there, though!

Christa P
Aug. 20, 2011, 12:16 PM
:):):)

Me much like!
And a question- why is it more important to move off the right leg? (Maybe I'm just daft this morning who knows- LOL!)

From what I read he is in England moving off the right leg gets you out of the road. Over here we need them to move off the left leg.

Christa

Who picks the discipline to suit the horse, but I expect them all to be willing to hack out or trail ride.

PRS
Aug. 20, 2011, 03:15 PM
I love this...I bought my mare from a WP "trainer" (sarcastic yes), because she was not good enought for WP, and was "just a trail horse".

Well, she had never been on the trails...took me two years to get her to "just a trail horse" status...and during the process, I found out how hard it can be, particularly with a horse that was abused in WP training and who did not trust anything or anyone.

I really hate to hear that term "Just a Trail Horse" It usually sets my teeth on edge. A good trail horse is one that is willing and brave and not afraid to try new things. He will cross a stream without fuss, scale the side of mountain, not spook at wildlife as it suddenly appears or disappears, take all kinds of vehicles in stride etc etc etc. "Trail horse" should not be considered the default career for a horse that gets washed out of a show career. I think show horses should aspire to be good trail horses first....then train them in what ever discipline you want...that is just my own opinion on the subject.

wcporter
Aug. 20, 2011, 03:42 PM
Great article. Because the barn where I now ride is lacking a good ring but has 100's of acres of outstanding trails, I primarily hack. And I love it. Not to mention the conditioning is great.

But very scary for sure. Just ask the 18 hand perch. TB cross I rode this morning who nearly lost his mind when we went past a field with a miniature horse wearing a grazing muzzle who came trotting up to the fence line. :eek:

I know, right? Super scary! :lol::lol:

PRS
Aug. 20, 2011, 04:44 PM
Great article. Because the barn where I now ride is lacking a good ring but has 100's of acres of outstanding trails, I primarily hack. And I love it. Not to mention the conditioning is great.

But very scary for sure. Just ask the 18 hand perch. TB cross I rode this morning who nearly lost his mind when we went past a field with a miniature horse wearing a grazing muzzle who came trotting up to the fence line. :eek:

I know, right? Super scary! :lol::lol:

Minis with fly masks have gotten us! Scared my horse half to death when a herd of them ran up to fence squealing. It think it had something to do with all that hair flopping around as they ran.

AlfalfaGirl
Aug. 20, 2011, 10:40 PM
It takes a terrific horse to be "just a trail horse". My new horse (I have had him 9 months) was quiet when I got him but he had been treated harshly. He would carry anyone but was really just a nose to tail guy and would gallop instead of canter and throw his head up and tremble and freeze when people touched him. He had been harshly treated by a "trainer" not his owner. Very harsh bit on a very gentle boy.

After working with him I am gaining his trust - he no longer freezes...he can hold a slow western "jog" for miles, he still can't canter slow but no longer tosses his head up. He doesn't put his nose up other horses backsides and he will now lead a trail ride where before I couldn't get him to go first for anything! A few months ago we were riding in the forests of Louisiana and wild hogs were exploding literally from under his feet. My boy just flinched hard and went on....his price (IF he was for sale) went up several thousand $$!!! To quietly go up and down hills without rushing, crowding, slipping or sliding, cross water, deal with wildlife, other riders/horses who may not be in control, cross trees, muddy sloughs, cross bridges of different materials, side pass in both directions, back up, stop on command....it is a ton of training to make an experienced trail horse. A good trail horse is worth a lot of money!

My boy is getting better and better and he does it looking nice too...I have had several people offer to buy him...LOL he is not for sale. So yes, I think a great trail horse could be great at other disciplines but not all horses make great trail horses. It does take a certain personality! Some of my friends have terrific trail horses and some I'd just as soon not ride with because their horses are anything but good trail horses!!

Lisa Preston
Aug. 21, 2011, 12:44 AM
Love trails and trail horses. Fine w/ someone else not loving them.

Wellspotted
Aug. 21, 2011, 05:23 AM
:):):)

Me much like!
And a question- why is it more important to move off the right leg? (Maybe I'm just daft this morning who knows- LOL!)

Perhaps because in Britain people drive on the left side of the road and also ride on the left shoulder of the road and so you would be doing leg-yields to the left to get away from cars, bicycles, and articulated lorries that whistle their brakes at you.

My guess, anyway. :) Simon Barnes writes with an English accent, IMO.

bizbachfan
Aug. 21, 2011, 08:19 AM
I love trail riding and that is mostly what I do now. It does take a special horse and/or very competent rider. However watching the riders and horses at the Rolex doing 3 day or the insane Grand Prix jumping courses or wild steeple chases or even an insane Fox Hunt all seem a bit more challenging on the whole than "hacking."

I agree lots of people don't realize all the things that can happen on the trail or are ready for it, but trying to make it through the HSBC water park in Lexingon looked a lot harder than my gallop through the trails, even when deer leap out at you or kids come out of the woods with sticks, etc. But I am proud to be a hacker! I know endurance riding and week long rides are very different but hacking vs. say 3 day eventing, simply on a "challenge" level just are not the same.

FlightCheck
Aug. 21, 2011, 08:37 AM
bizbachfan, I respectfully disagree with you ;)

I am an eventer, and the scariest thing to me is not well maintained footing with obstacles that have been carefully constructed. When I event, I know "someone" has checked the footing, "someone" will be there in seconds to help me if I get into trouble. My horse is focused on the job ahead, and so am I.


The scariest thing? Trying to ride an event horse at a walk down the road or on the trail. Trotting or cantering are fine, but the walk - oh, the predators that appear at the walk. ;)

bizbachfan
Aug. 21, 2011, 08:46 AM
bizbachfan, I respectfully disagree with you ;)

I am an eventer, and the scariest thing to me is not well maintained footing with obstacles that have been carefully constructed. When I event, I know "someone" has checked the footing, "someone" will be there in seconds to help me if I get into trouble. My horse is focused on the job ahead, and so am I.


The scariest thing? Trying to ride an event horse at a walk down the road or on the trail. Trotting or cantering are fine, but the walk - oh, the predators that appear at the walk. ;)

FlightCheck,
thanks for the perspective. I guess my reasoning is this I bet a 3 day eventer (you) can handle my spooky TB mare on the trail even on a bad day but can I hop on your event horse and be successful at Lexington? Probably not.

BTW good point on the safety measures that are not really available on the trail. No way around that.

AlfalfaGirl
Aug. 21, 2011, 09:06 AM
LOL looks to me like Eventing and fox hunting are like super duty trail riding in some ways...but as pointed out - the obstacles have been created and checked and there is someone to help if something goes wrong.

I do not trail ride by myself....maybe in the future but now I do go out with other riders and thank God, several people I ride with are nurses - ER nurses at that. They are handy folks to have riding with you! Our group did have someone ride with them last Oct (I wasn't there yet but hubby was) and she came off of her horse when he startled in the water, her shirt hung on the horn and she was dragged up (hubby said looked like she was barefoot skiing across the water) and hit the beach and was knocked out. OMG - the ER nurse was off of her horse in an instant and girls boyfriend was yelling to leave her alone and girl finally woke up and screamed the same. ER nurse had life flight on the phone. What an idiot. Glad she was ok but it could have been ugly...brain injuries are deadly and you often are unaware that you have them til you wake up dead (old Charley Pride line in a song)

In June we had just left the park when someone came up to the camp all upset because their horse had drowned a few moments before...my cousin was there at the park and talked to the lady. So some scary stuff can happen to both people and horses on trail rides. What can start off as a fun day can quickly escalate into an emergency.

mildot
Aug. 21, 2011, 09:55 AM
People pay big money for a made hunter that will jump whatever obstacle is in its way while waiting in a line, will cross water without a second thought, canter through winding trails in the woods, stand quietly at checks while hounds go everywhere, not spook at the sight of wildlife or the sounds of the outdoors (both natural and man made), respond to leg yields without question, be able to change pace at the will of the rider regardless of what the field does, have great speed and endurance, and basically be a safe, reliable mount when the going gets tough.

It seems to me a trail horse has to display all those qualities so why should they be thought of as less?

Just an observation........

bizbachfan
Aug. 21, 2011, 10:41 AM
To a me a good trail horse is just as valuable as a perfectly trained dressage horse, or hunter, etc. But I just don't think trail riding is the toughest discipline when compared to a little more difficult ones like 3 day eventing, Grand Prix jumping, Steeplechasing, etc. for the rider.

walkinthewalk
Aug. 21, 2011, 10:56 AM
I have long believed that us trail riders are vastly underrated for what our horses and we have to cope with. How many riders in a ring come across rattlesnakes, bears, wild hogs, etc? Semis, barking ferocious dogs, tree limbs falling, etc

Well said. My Heart Horse has been my trail riding bud for nearly 21 years.

He has faithfully slid on his butt down hills and scrambled his little 14.3H self up scraggly paths over big rocks that his 16H buds effortlessly climbed.

He was born wearing a "No-Fear" t-shirt, is huge motored and full of go-go-go.

H has used his ear to flip off rude semi drivers that let their jake brake off right beside him; has literally gone nose-to-nose with an irate male llama that made three horses in front of him rear in panic and dump their riders (he won the stand-off:yes::yes:; has walked straight up to heavy construction equipment when its running and never thought about saying "no"; hopped right over a snake one day that thankfully was a friendly one; and thinks all the loud clapping and screaming in parades is for him and him alone. Yet he respects the fences and has never tried to get out - even when the fence was down.

Except for parades, I have never put a saddle on this horse - we have done everything bareback our entire lives. I only had to bail once and that was when a rein broke just as we were starting to cross a busy 4-lane highway. He stopped, I got my spare reins out of my backpack and we were good-to-go in less than five minutes.

I have learned to ask what "trail broke" means to the Seller. 99 times out of 100, it is not my interpretation:lol::lol: A season's worth of hacking in Metro Parks is certainly helpful, but doesn't count:)

I do have the greatest respect for what it takes to train a horse for the show ring.

It's a different kind of patience than training a horse for legitimate trail riding and is the kind of patience I do not possess.

I hate hate hate roundpens and have never broke or schooled a horse in a roundpen in my life. I have one for when little children come and want to ride my child-safe Arab. Other than my horses going in there to eat grass, that's the only use it gets:)

Equibrit
Aug. 21, 2011, 11:04 AM
In GB we learned to ride when young by riding OUT on horses that knew their jobs. That means, on the roads, bridle paths, cross country, hills, ditches, fences, etc etc.. "In the ring" was seen as a refinement of basic riding skills. ALL horses are expected to hack out for their fitness and welfare, not because "trail riding" is a seperate "discipline". Simon Barnes seems to have some problems with self worth ! There is no law that says you cannot school dressage movements when riding out, nor jump anything that happens to be in the way. I spent a lot of time schooling whilst whipping-in out hunting.

saddleup
Aug. 21, 2011, 01:23 PM
I, too, love this post. I have a show horse and two trail horses, and in their own way they're all priceless. My show horse doesn't know it but once our season is over next month he's going to go on his first trail ride. Time will tell if he's a true all-around horse.

I put my trust and faith in my trail horses to get me home in one piece, and we've come across some pretty daunting challenges over the years: moose, elk, scary mountain bike riders lurking in the bushes, emus, llamas, a hot air balloon descending right in front of us, a helicopter that decided to land right where we were stopping for lunch, etc. Not to mention washed out trails, snow banks up to their bellies, darkness that fell long before we made it back to the trailer.

I'm with everyone who's acknowledged that a good trail horse is worth its weight in GOLD!

kcmel
Aug. 21, 2011, 04:06 PM
Well, I am a very good hacker, but I suck at dressage! To me its much harder! My horse agrees--he would much rather go on a long, intense hack than work 30 min in the ring.

CosMonster
Aug. 21, 2011, 05:26 PM
As far as "just a trail horse" goes...honestly, that phrase doesn't bother me because the way a lot of people trail ride, it is easier. It isn't too hard to get a horse ready to meander down a bridle path IMO. It certainly doesn't require much athleticism on the part of the horse, so it can be a good default job for a horse who isn't really suited for anything else. That's not really a knock on the horses, either...there are plenty of riders who just want to do that, so there is a need for them and there's nothing wrong with it.

Bear in mind, I do a lot of trail riding so I'm not trying to tear it down. I think trail riding can definitely be a lot more difficult than schooling in the ring. At the very least, the stakes can be a lot higher if you screw up! And when you're trotting, cantering or galloping over unknown footing, climbing mountains, crossing unfamiliar waterways, etc. it definitely requires a great deal of skill and require a very specially skilled partner. I certainly have horses I would not take up into the hills because I can't trust them to keep themselves out of trouble.

For those riders who do mostly just walk down established easy trails, though, it doesn't require much skill. Even the bombproofness (yes that is a word, see I just made it up ;)) required isn't more than what a good show horse should have--I mean, yes I've encountered bears and on one notable occasion a mountain lion on the trail, but I've encountered llamas and draft horses pulling huge noisy wagons at the show grounds and the same horse actually freaked out more at the llamas than the lion! Strollers, umbrellas, noisy kids, loose dogs...I've run into all of the above both at shows and on the trail. In fact where I live now I actually run into fewer scary things on the trail than I do at shows.

Both situations require a pretty solid horse. There was a big kerfluffle on the eventing forum recently because of a horse sculpture (made of horseshoes welded together) at the Rebecca Farm event that cost the favorite a win because her notoriously spooky horse couldn't hold it together. So the stakes might not be as high as if you're riding on a narrow mountain trail and a cougar jumps out and your horse has to decide whether to freak out and jump off a cliff or not, but a spooky horse is still a major liability in the show ring.

I did like the OP, though. I thought it was a nice bit of recognition for the skills that trail riding requires, just with a somewhat more divisive tone than I would like.

amm2cd
Sep. 2, 2011, 11:16 AM
Simon Barnes, journalist and author

"What is the toughest riding discipline of them all? Which is the most important, the most difficult, the most dangerous? I shall tell you: but first of all let me outline for you the dizzying array of skills necessary.

You need, above all, a sense of calmness and trust. Without that you won’t get anywhere. But you have to combine relaxation with a constant awareness of the considerable difficulties and dangers that surround you. You need to be able to sit in a way that fills the horse with confidence.

Ok, so far this sounds like pretty much any basic riding discipline.

You need to master all the basic paces. Horse and rider both need to be relaxed at all of them, from halt to gallop. You need comfortable, instant lateral work, particularly off the right leg. You need calm, soft unfidgety hands. Your aim is to combine calmness and confidence with dynamic and forward-going movement at all paces.

So your dressage or flatwork should be good. Again, sounds pretty much like what a reasonable rider of any type would expect.

You need your horse to cope with other horses, close by or at a distance. Your horse needs to be sociable when among strangers and friends yet happily independent when on his own. You need balance and control; but with a sense of freedom and adventure.

You need to trust your horse in extreme situations. You must allow your horse to be a wild animal and express himself with joy and abandon and yet you must be able to bring him back to civilisation with a touch, a shift in balance, a word.

Has the author ever been in a warm up ring at a larger show?

But above all, you need to understand each other’s fears; each other’s limits, each other’s strengths and weaknesses. You need to deal with situations that terrify a horse but hold no danger to him; you must deal with situations that terrify you, without imparting your terror to your horse. You must be able to deal with potentially life-threatening situations and to do so with great frequency. You must deal with them in a way that is completely calm and relaxed, as if it were the easiest thing in the world.
I've always been taught that if either you or your horse is terrified, you (the rider) is doing something wrong and should not be in that situation. Period.

The reason you must bring out all these high skills in yourself and your horse is because everybody’s life depends on them. But then you must get used to the fact that your painfully acquired skills are held in low esteem – even despised in some quarters.

The discipline I am talking about is hacking. Nothing is more dangerous – yet more pleasurable – to human and horse alike. If you can hack out safely, alone or in company, you are a real rider!

If you can deal with such things as school buses, Volvo drivers, pheasants flying up at your feet, a long, long canter track, boy racers, fluttering paper bags, gloriously inviting gallops, pigs, cows, overhanging trees, fields of lunatic horses and the most scarey thing of all, the wheelie bin that wasn’t there yesterday, then you can count yourself a hacker. Or to put it another way, a very good rider indeed.

And yet, even if you are the master of all those things, your skills might be sneered at. So you apologise in advance – oh I just hack out. I’m just a happy hacker.

No one will argue that riding of any type isn't difficult. But, sorry. Hacking is not the pinnacle of equitation, IME.

What? Only a master of the most testing and demanding and dangerous discipline in the horsey world, that’s all. You have to defer to obsessive show jumpers, dressage queens of either sex and showing people who prefer polishing horses to riding them – all these people are too precious to take their horse out for a merry hack and who think they’re better than you on that account.

Let’s not be snobbish back, however.
Too late.

Every way of enjoying your horse that doesn’t harm him is alright by me. So we won’t ask what’s so marvellous about going round and round in circles and why it is so superior to a great cantering blast up the hill, and we shan’t point out that while a square halt is hard, it’s far, far more difficult to get your horse to stand still while an articulated lorry goes past. Especially when it then stops and whistles its brakes at you.

Oh dear. Let's review that statement. The auther thinks that riders practicing their equitation and working on strengthing their horses using the bend of a 20m circle are somehow less adept then those who 'blast their horses up a hill' (his words, not mine)? Of course, who needs proper and correct equitation as long as one is fearless?

So let’s make this Hacker’s Pride Month. Say it out loud; I hack and I’m proud! We won’t be snooty about it though. We won’t say, I know the real reason you won’t hack out. It’s not because you’re Anky von Grunsven and Bonfire come again. It’s because you are ever so slightly scared. And I’m not; so I hack.

Oh for pete's sake! MANY upper level international riders hack their horses. And I'll bet MOST of them are less afraid of a blow up or riding in general than the average adult rerider (many of whom find trailriding relaxing, btw). Judging by this little snippet, I've say that Mr. Barnes had a poor experience at a dressage barn at some point.

No, we won’t say it. We’ll just think it very quietly when someone looks at you with condescension because you’ve been for a hack while they have spent an hour trying to establish a leg yield. I’ve got nothing against leg-yielding myself but I do have a great deal against snobbery.

Pot, meet Kettle.

No one will celebrate hackers for their skills of horsemanship, their mastery of fear, their overcoming of horsey temperament, so it is only right that we should do it for ourselves. Salute the hackers! Damn we’re good.

And if you have any doubts on that score, just ask our horses!"

Simon Barnes
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Ooooookay then. So other than dripping with condescension, ironicly, this guy thinks that just hacking out makes people the best and the bravest?
I'll admit, I've taken my horses camping. I've ridden in state parks all across the midwest. Heck, I even have a 100 yard walk along the road to get to the fields I school in because I don't have an arena. Does that make me the best and boldest? No. It means that I have well trained, well behaved horses. How did they get that way? Schooling in other disciplines. Dressage, in particular.
A good rider is a good rider. No discipline has a corner on that market. I've seen some awful coddled dressage horses (and riders) and some equally awful and dangerous trail horses and their riders (you know what type I'm talking about. The kick means go, yank means stop, run up behind you pests)
So, I would ask Mr. Simon Barnes a question:
I can take my dressage horse to a county fair, compete in western patterns classes with a demolition derby and carnival not 200 feet away, and walk away with the prize because my well trained horses don't bat an eye at the surrounding hubbub when they are being ridden. They are paying attention to me. Is this because I am afraid to go out trailriding instead? No, I do that on the 'easy' let down day to relax my horses.

Sheesh. What tripe.:rolleyes:

katyb
Sep. 2, 2011, 03:06 PM
Is this because I am afraid to go out trailriding instead? No, I do that on the 'easy' let down day to relax my horses.


Your trails may be that. Some of ours are around here, but most aren't. I took some midwestern buddies riding last week on what I considered to be the easiest trails around. Let's just say that was constitutes easy seems to have quite a bit of regional variation.

JollyBadger
Sep. 5, 2011, 01:34 PM
Well, everyone has their own definitions within the horse world. Whenever I hear someone refer to taking their horse out "hacking," I don't think of it in the same way as a real trail ride.

To me, "hacking" is like riding a horse down a wide, well-groomed dirt, gravel or grassy road or path. Or around the perimeter of a farm or through a field. They may just go at a relaxed walk with some trotting, or they may spend time doing flat-work exercises similar to what they'd do while riding in an arena. I think of "hacking" as a ride that lasts an hour or two.

Trail riding, to me, involves going "off the beaten path" a little more, longer time in the saddle and covering a bit more distance. The trails are more "natural" and trail-like with water crossings, natural obstacles, climbing and descending hills, navigating and picking their way through areas with tricky or slick footing.

Of course, it could all just be a matter of using different terminology, and that's fine as well. I'm not about to get into a discussion about who the "toughest" or "best" riders are, or which discipline is the "best," because those types of debates just go on forever and no one ever agrees anyway.:winkgrin: