View Full Version : Stopping & Backing on the Trail

Aug. 26, 2011, 08:36 PM
Any ideas why a horse in her first season of trail riding veers off to the right on the trail and backs into the brush. She doesn't seem to care if there is a steep drop or not. Spurs have no effect. Happened today, eventually turned her in the opposite direction and got her moving.

Tamara in TN
Aug. 26, 2011, 09:06 PM
cause you have not taught her to go forward or
you are in her mouth telling her to go backward and don't know it

both are signs the rider should stay in the arena a little longer


Aug. 26, 2011, 09:08 PM
Because she can ;)

Sounds like barn sour, or just “has enough” and decides she wants to turn around. It is a common evasion. I have ridden quite a few that seemed to have landmarks that they decided should be the “turn around point”.

Get after her, make her get FORWARD and WORK any time she tries that nonsense. Reward forward movement, but DO NOT let her get away with the backing off the trail bullhonkey. Its dangerous, and she is doing it to get one over on you. If you are not able to get to her listen, and march down the trail, enlist the help of some one who can.

Aug. 26, 2011, 09:20 PM
Next trail ride I will have a crop, bigger spurs and an attitude!! This horse was an AQHA Western Pleasure show horse for 4 years, we have spent enough time in the arena. I ride her on a loose rein, so am not telling her not to go forward.

tabula rashah
Aug. 26, 2011, 09:37 PM
Next trail ride I will have a crop, bigger spurs and an attitude!!

work on it in the ring before you go back out on the trail.
Also are you sure she wasn't sore? Saddle fit ok? Not ouchy on her feet? Ride not too much for her physically? I've had a horse do that who was really uncomfortable with her saddle- changed the saddle and voila- no more random (dangerous) backing

Aug. 26, 2011, 09:59 PM
She is perfect in the ring...lacks confidence on the trail. We have been trail riding for a month now and she started this the last time we were out. Since we were on a very narrow trail on a steep hill her behavior was dangerous and she had no where to go but up the trail. She was very good today, up to a point. We had never been on this particular trail,and all of a sudden there we were backing down the brush!!

Aug. 26, 2011, 11:24 PM
Biscuit would do that to me. Start backing when I asked him to go forward. At the time my knees were killing me and I was having severe leg problems. Kicking was pretty ineffective and it was like someone threw him in reverse. I quit my job that was causing my leg issues and gained strength back in my legs and got a crop! He will still back up some but he is getting out of that obnoxious behavior with consistent move forward cues.

She is unsure and maybe a little more than a little bit nervous. Slow and steady with her will keep her moving forward. Biscuit stopped dead in his tracks when feral hogs crossed in the trail about 75 feet ahead. No amount of kicking would get him to go forward. I thought to myself...he WILL not win. I got off and made him go. I had to get off a few times on that ride and make him go forward. At one point when he didn't want to go forward and he turned around LOL I started backing HIM up - up a hill! He decided backing UP a hill wasn't too fun. He is getting better and now leads the trail rides when I couldn't get him to do it before! It takes work to get them to trust you and trust the trail that it isn't going to come alive and eat them!

Aug. 27, 2011, 10:01 AM
you didn't mention if you were alone on this trail. If your horse is new to the trails, it is quite likely a confidence issue. Riding out with a horse that is an old pro on trails would be a huge help.
If you don't have the luxury of a riding pal, consider getting off and leading your horse. There's no shame in that, and it gives your horse the message that they are going to go YOUR way, not their way. From your original post it sounded like you let your horse turn around and go back? That tells the horse that they are in control and can decide where to go.
Of course, having a crop and other necessary "motivators" doesn't hurt either.
Even in groups, when we first got our paint mare she would pick random spots to 'rest' at a dead standstill! No amount of kicking bothered her. After a few rides we realized that it was partly an 'ouchy' issue and she needed more time for her feet to toughen up. She's fine now. So pay attention to your surroundings when your horse does this and see if you notice a pattern.

Aug. 27, 2011, 11:31 AM
I was riding with a very inexperienced, nervous rider. The second my horse stopped, she began yelling " Oh my God"I should have just let my horse stand, relax, the ask her to move forward. I reacted to the other rider's yelling and immediately asked my horse to move forward. She was scared by the yelling and not sure of the situation.
Next time I am going to trust my instincts and my horse!!

Aug. 27, 2011, 01:46 PM
It sounds like you set yourself up for failure by putting yourself in a situation with multiple uncontrolled problems:
-Your horse is green.
-Your riding partner is green.
-The trail you chose left you no margin for error.

If you were dealing with only one problem, you would probably have been ok.
-On a good trail with a sensible riding partner, you would have had several options to deal with your green horse. You could have sent the other rider ahead to show your horse that the trail wasn't scary. You could have backed your horse up until the horse decided going forward was more pleasant. You could have spun your horse in a small circle until your horse decided that walking forward was a good idea.
-On a good trail with a solid horse, you could have moved your horse between the timid rider and the scary things to give her more confidence.
-On a bad trail with good riders on good horses, you could have carefully picked your way along and trusted your horses to take care of you as part of taking care of themselves.

Aug. 27, 2011, 09:27 PM
Ride out with an experienced rider and horse, and I bet she'll be fine.

I really don't think you can fix every trail problem in an arena. There are just issues that have to be addressed where they happen.

Aug. 27, 2011, 11:14 PM
I agree with carp's post. Next time leave the nervous friend at home. Ride with an experienced trail horse/rider, but if that is not possible, you are better off alone. And try to find some trails that are wider and safer for working through issues. You might still have to work through things in the future in a bad spot, but hopefully by then your horse will have more miles and more confidence in you.

Mike Zimmerman
Aug. 28, 2011, 09:35 AM
Next trail ride I will have a crop, bigger spurs and an attitude!!
I've been a lurker on here for some time but this statement bothers me. It's not so much the crop but the spur comment, bigger spurs really? Why not just sharpen the ones you have? Think of it like your car, if your car is shifted into reverse you can stomp on the gas pedal all day and that car will never go forward. So you need to work on shifting your horses mental transmission.

Aug. 28, 2011, 11:46 PM
If I were you, I would leave the spurs at home and just take the crop. Spurs lift the ribcage - they don’t necessarily create forward motion, as you've already discovered. Spanking her on the butt with your crop will be the most effective method.

Aug. 29, 2011, 12:52 AM
Ohhh, that is dangerous. I had a horse that would back off a cliff if you let it.

The solution was a crop and loose rein, liberal use of both.

Aug. 29, 2011, 11:02 AM
Teach the horse at home what you want her to do, then apply it on the trail. If the horse knows already, then practice at home and then apply it on the trail. Works for me.

Auventera Two
Aug. 29, 2011, 11:27 AM
My Arab mare did this to me a few times the first year I started her under saddle. She backed right into an electric fence and then we went on a joy ride! I ended up taking her to my friend's round pen and riding her in a halter and spurs. She was so sensitive to any pressure on her face that just the weight of reins hanging on a bit or hackamore told her to WHOA. I rode her in very light weight rope halter with a very thin, light weight barrel rein attached to both sides so there was no weight on it. I used nubby spurs (nothing sharp) and we worked on GO FORWARD. It took a couple hours (with a few breaks) but she got it. She was able to go back into a snaffle bit, or a hackamore ok and she finally knew that leg = go forward, regardless of the weight of a bit or hack on your face.

Aug. 29, 2011, 11:28 AM
Careful with the use of crops and spurs to get the horse to move forward. You need to know WHY the horse is not moving forward. Smacking a naughty horse which doesn't want to work will get the point across. Smacking an uncertain horse will merely reinforce the fact that there is indeed something the horse needs to be scared of.

One of my friends rides a very sweet and sensitive mare, the kind of horse which responds to just a shift in your seat and a feather of pressure from your calf. This horse was almost ruined by the previous owner. The poor mare was taken out on trail rides and had the living crap beaten out of her every time she froze or did a spook in place. The result was that the mare learned to stop spooking in place: she started spinning and bolting instead. By the time the horse got to a competent trainer it would take two hours to get the horse to walk one mile up a not very scary trail. Her mind was completely blown. After about two years of work the mare was finally retrained enough that she could go out dependably with an intermediate rider and a steady companion horse. The whole situation was so unnecessary. Has the original owner simply recognized that the horse was SCARED and not stubborn, she could have saved everyone a lot of trauma, work, and expense.

Aug. 29, 2011, 12:17 PM
Geez Carp, that is a shame for someone to treat a horse that way. Biscuit would move forward for his former owner but with me he would stop and refuse. One little tap with the crop (and I mean tiny tap) and he now moves forward. I would never beat The Biscuit...he was harshly treated by a trainer and spooking in place is a good thing so why beat a horse over that?

Horses aren't machines. They are living breathing animals with their own brain. I have worked with Biscuit quiet a bit this summer and am thrilled I have been able to get him to go first now. He still has a way to go because he will still throw it in reverse when he decides he doesn't want to do something!

Aug. 29, 2011, 03:58 PM
Any ideas why a horse in her first season of trail riding veers off to the right on the trail and backs into the brush. She doesn't seem to care if there is a steep drop or not. Spurs have no effect. Happened today, eventually turned her in the opposite direction and got her moving.

Because it works as a diversion for her. At some point you're losing enough control that she's able to get all four feet and her head going the wrong direction-start watching for the very first signal that she's plotting her diversionary tactic and put her to work then. If one foot is off the trail you're too late; if she's going backwards you're 100 years too late. Catch her when her brain first starts to wander-work her every few minutes as you're going somewhere and don't give her enough time to start working a plan. Work her, even when you're going down a trail you can always be working a horse. Faster, slower, go around brush when it's safe to do so... Get it in the small moments and you won't have as many big moments.