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  1. #1
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    Jul. 11, 2007
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    Default ugh, attempted trail ride with ottb

    I am not sure what I am looking for. Maybe support, maybe ideas, maybe just to vent. I tried to take my ottb out for a trail ride yesterday, and we didn't really make it past grazing by the trailer. He was SO "up" and strong, I was NOT going to push any luck I may have. I felt like the slightest ANYTHING would send him into a complete freak out, causing both of us bodily harm. He is so mellow at home (aside from the occasional spook), but it is quiet there. I guess I would like suggestions in regards to making a horse into a confident, quiet trail horse. What does it take?



  2. #2
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    Jul. 12, 2008
    Location
    Louisville, KY
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    Default

    Were you by yourself or with other riders? I think it is best to introduce trail riding to your horse with some calm, experienced trail horses to follow. Do you have another horse that your horse is used to? Could someone else ride that horse with you?

    I don't know anything about OTTBs, but I have read on COTH that transitioning them to other disciplines presents some common issues. I would try posting and asking what issues are presented in retraining OTTBs and how to approach overcome those issues.



  3. #3
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    Nov. 26, 2003
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    NE FL
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    6,511

    Default

    you don't say how long he has been off the track, how old he is, what has he done since leaving the track, what is your riding experience and background?
    I have an OTTB mare that i bought as a 3 year old fresh off the track. She's 17 this year, and served me well as a show horse, trail horse, then a foxhunter, then a fieldmasters horse and then I whipped in off her. Everything I ever had was OTT and I trail rode every single one. By myself. A lot.
    So it's most likely not the OTT part that's the problem.
    You probably need to work with him more.

    IME the most important thing in a good trail horse is he has to have confidence in you in order to have confidence in himself.
    "Perhaps the final test of anybody's love of dogs is their willingness to permit them to make a camping ground of the bed" -Henry T. Merwin



  4. #4
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    Aug. 12, 2001
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    Trailer Trash Ammy!
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    What Jaeger said.

    OTTBs have to be *taught* to trail ride; it can be a long process. A lot of them have never been asked to leave the herd before, a lot of them have never had to feel brush & woods closing in on them before. If you can find a rock-solid trail buddy to go out with, that will help tremendously.
    "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief



  5. #5
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    Jul. 11, 2007
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    MA
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    Default

    I will try to answer as many questions as I can. He has been off the track for a while. He was at a rescue in a field for five months before I adopted him in September of 2007. We have been creeping along in his training, with me working so hard to understand him. We are doing so great together in the ring. He is one of the best horses I have ever ridden-smart and wants to please. He is quite a confident guy too. When something new is introduced (tarps, bikes, etc), he can't get to it fast enough to explore. He is a big puppy with me now when in his comfort zone. We have had to work through his dominant personality, as I am naturally passive and he is naturally strong-willed. We have come to an understanding though, and although I know it is an ongoing relationship, I feel good about the growth we have made. Realistically, to get on *real* trails, I need to ship him out (which is what we did yesterday), but I am planning to clear the acre of woods behind the barn here, to work on tight spaces, things brushing against his tummy (that really pissed him off yesterday). My expectations were too high I guess. I was hoping for the pussycat I have at home. I hear these wonderful stories of people taking their horses out for the first time, and they are angels. I was hoping that would happen to me! I did go with a been-there-done-that horse, which was good. My boy did settle pretty quickly and relaxed while munching grass. It was anytime we did something -anything else, he would turn into dinosaur-neck monster. I am contemplating sending him to someone who will give him a ton of miles, but I do not have the funds for that now. I also know that *I* am the one who will have to ride him out there eventually. Here is another question; Is it a waste of time to have someone else put mileage on him, when I will ultimately be riding him? I am a *cautious* rider/horse person, but work very hard to present as a confident leader for him (I know someone here mentioned that). I read a lot of Jane Savoie.



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb. 23, 2008
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    4,266

    Default

    It's easy to think trail riding is just something you go and do, and there are a *few* horses who just take to it, but most who are happy on the trails got trained to do that and practiced it - maybe when they were young, or with a previous owner.

    It's a whole set of skills - balancing on rough footing, stepping over stuff without tripping, watching where you put your feet, getting used to bushes and birds and logs and deer and water.

    Your guy sounds like a sensible type. I bet with some gradual practice he'll get comfortable and understand what he's supposed to do out there, and you'll have a great time. Just take it in steps, as if you were teaching him how to jump or something. One thing at a time!



  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec. 9, 2005
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    North East, MD
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    Default

    I've trained several OTTB's to do trails. They make great trail horses, as long as they are sane. Sounds like your guy is sane. You put him into a new environment, he got edgy, you got edgy, and you did the right thing not to proceed with your ride. You could have schooled him in other ways, though.

    If it had been me, I'd have either opted to hand-walk him on the trail or to ride near the trailer for a bit and expand his comfort zone. Generally, I don't get upset much, so some nervousness and shenanigans on the horse's part are met with calm. Eventually, they get that it is no big deal if the rider continues to act like it is no big deal. I'm a confident rider, and that confidence transfers to the horse. Sometimes it takes a while.

    Since you two are not at that point right now, it might be wise to try going out with an experienced trail horse. Either that, or go out with the intention of hand-walking the whole way and only consider mounting up when you are both calm and relaxed. I've done that with young, barely broke horses on their early outings. So far so good.

    It has been my experience that OTTB's are great with any kind of machinery. Natural stuff that other horses take for granted seem to come alive when they see an OTTB. I swear my last OTTB wouldn't turn a hair if a firetruck barreled down the trail, sirens screaming. But OMG! A boulder? Has to be a lion! Fallen tree? Hiding a crocodile! And stream crossings had to be built up by width, from narrow to wide as though he'd never seen water before. For a while he seemed to think that one noisy stream was stalking him as the trail would veer away and come back where we could hear it. Once we got through that stuff he was wonderful on the trail. And in case you are wondering, the first few times I took him out on the trail he ran backwards, when he wasn't bucking. (Idiot that I am, took him to a trail that was within sight of the barn he used to race from. Duh.) It worked out. We stuck with walking for the first few rides until he got the hang of it.

    I've taken others directly off the track and onto the trail without any bother at all. The horse mentioned above was only ridden a few time in an enclosure before I took him out on the trail. Again, I have a knack for staying calm no matter what the horse does. And if I can't? It's time to dismount rather than wreck.


    1 members found this post helpful.

  8. #8
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    Jul. 25, 2003
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    Boston Area
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    Default

    I've had several OTTBs. What I've found is that although they are used to all kinds of equipment and man made commotion, horse eating chipmunks, ducks and large rocks can be terrifying . It's all what they're used to.

    I don't always have the luxury of riding with other, more experienced, trail horses when I restart mine. Often I start by hand walking them so that they 1) feel more comfortable and 2) bond with me. One of the big issues is to get them to depend on me to be the leader. I also prefer to start them on trails through the woods rather than in open fields. EVen when I start riding them, I will dismount and lead them by, through or over really scary things. I used to consider it an accomplishment if I only got off once.

    As a side note, sometimes when you take out an OTTB it helps for to go first. My current OTTB hated, hated, hated to go behind another horse. For the first couple of years I had him he would throw a tantrum or jig when I asked him to follow but was happy as a clam to go first. Once he got used to the idea that he didn't have to "win" every ride he settled in. These days he goes anywhere in a group and is even foxhunting first flight. So, it does get better!

    Good luck!
    Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
    EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.



  9. #9
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    Aug. 12, 2001
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    Default

    Wasn't going to mention it unless someone else did, but I too am a big fan of leading and (in my case) ground driving on the trails at first. I'm 51 and break too easily for much else!
    "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec. 15, 2005
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    Default

    I would have an experienced trail rider take him out on the trails with a group of old packers keeping him company. Your anxieties about how he is going to behave are probably not helping things.

    I bought a barely broken 4 year old 2 years ago. I got my daughters and their friends to take him out on his first few trail rides because I am a chicken. My chicken tendencies could have made him a chicken. I also had an event trainer work with my horse twice a month for several months. Schooling cross country is particularly good for some horses who need to become braver in the open.



  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr. 27, 2008
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    Default

    I just want to sympathize. I have a horse who I'm afraid to take trail riding. That's not to say I never take him; but I take him with great caution. Not every horse is ready to go trail riding every day. It can be really scary for the horse. And if not scary, then energizing and exciting. When my guy was 20 (!) I took him to a trainer for a month to work specifically on trail riding. She took him or us out on the trails every day, and it was quite an experience. And while it truly did help us both, it did not result in calm, relaxing trail rides from then on.

    Much sympathy.
    Last edited by Cindyg; Apr. 25, 2012 at 11:57 PM.



  12. #12
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    Mar. 20, 2001
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    Colorado, a suburb of Los Angeles
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    Default

    I have had several OTTBs like matryoshka described.
    Never bat an eye at screaming fast traffic, heavy equipment, bells and horns and whistles, but quiver at the sight of a grasshopper or blowing leaves.
    Some OTTBs were never farmed raised, they are essentially raised in the track environment.
    I had one that in 10 years never failed to snort at a lightning killed tree that we passed on every ride, but he did become a great trail horse fairly quickly.
    Think of all the desensitizing people do with horses for plastic bags and noisy trucks and air brakes....you just have to do some of that only for grass and grasshoppers and things moving in the bushes.
    A friend with a dependable, unflappable trail horse is your best training equipment, and you being confident (fake it if you have to) is the next thing you need.



  13. #13
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    Jul. 25, 2003
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    Boston Area
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    Default

    I know what you mean! I'm not far behind you.

    I also ground drive but that's a whole 'nother post. Also, I find that at least at the beginning, a nervous horse likes to have you right their to share your bravery.

    Back to the OP, I have never had a horse that didn't settle into trail riding. Some stayed on high alert, but they all seemed to enjoy it. My current OTTB trail rides on the buckle now. No jigging, very little spooking and a lot of curiosity. In the beginning I also only walk. My experience is that OTTBs need to learn that it's okay to go slowly. It's not what they are used to, so they need to be taught.

    Quote Originally Posted by War Admiral View Post
    Wasn't going to mention it unless someone else did, but I too am a big fan of leading and (in my case) ground driving on the trails at first. I'm 51 and break too easily for much else!
    Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
    EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.



  14. #14
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    Oct. 1, 2005
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    Sandy, Utah
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    Default

    My one-eyed OTTB served me well on the trails- he was better solo, actually, in a group, he really needed to be on the lead because he thought he was Secretariat.

    Your idea to get someone to put some trail rides on him is, I think, a good one. I say this for two reasons, based on what you've posted. First, he'll get farther faster with a confident rider as 'leader' to get him past the horse eating rocks, and all the lions and tigers and bears out there. Second, the rider can brief you on 'how' he reacts in the face of new surprises on the trail, and so you can be better informed, and thus better equipped, on how to ride him. Even better, if that person after some number of rides can accompany you a few times during transition to give you some tips.

    I would also suggest that before your next attempt, you work him in the ring at home, which will both take any 'edge' off and give him a start within the familiar, and then haul out for a brief trail ride.

    And, a final tip- obviously you know your horse better than I do, but I can tell you that my horse, when faced with a scary object (or a horse galloping away from him or passing at the trot), would hold his breath, raise his head, become two inches taller at the withers, feel like he was about to turn into a volcano and then...do...absolutely...nothing. Once you find that sort of thing out about a horse, really, pretty much no worries.



  15. #15
    Join Date
    Nov. 10, 2005
    Location
    Va
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    Smile

    My Tb is not OT, but I purchased her as an untrained yearling. I did lots of ground work with her including trail walks with me leading her. She inititally was a show horse and kind of spooky.In hind sight I attribute the spookiness to more stall time, more feed. Then we got tired of the show stuff and she became my old lady horse. I joined a riding club and have been trying all sorts of stuff the last few years. When I started trail riding her, I initially did the trail walk thing leading her to see how she would react to stuff( since it had been awhile for trail encounters). After doing this several times I started riding her. I usually didn't have a steady eddie to go with us. If I got nervous about how she was acting, I would get off and lead her and she usually settled pretty quickly. I did lots of bombproofing both at clinics and at home. Being an older person who doesn't bounce, I wanted her to be as unreactive as possible. Another thing I do is use ear pom poms. It was something that had started when she was showing and I just continued it. The other changes in her routine is that she lives out 24/7 and she gets much less grain than she did when showing. I could probably do without the ear pompoms, but hey it's a cheap crutch...hehe. These days we do lots of trail riding( at least 2-3 times a month at area parks). This weekend I am going camping in the mountains with my horse. I went a couple of weeks ago and she was great. Good luck.



  16. #16
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by matryoshka View Post
    I've trained several OTTB's to do trails. They make great trail horses, as long as they are sane. Sounds like your guy is sane. You put him into a new environment, he got edgy, you got edgy, and you did the right thing not to proceed with your ride. You could have schooled him in other ways, though.

    If it had been me, I'd have either opted to hand-walk him on the trail or to ride near the trailer for a bit and expand his comfort zone. Generally, I don't get upset much, so some nervousness and shenanigans on the horse's part are met with calm. Eventually, they get that it is no big deal if the rider continues to act like it is no big deal. I'm a confident rider, and that confidence transfers to the horse. Sometimes it takes a while.

    Since you two are not at that point right now, it might be wise to try going out with an experienced trail horse. Either that, or go out with the intention of hand-walking the whole way and only consider mounting up when you are both calm and relaxed. I've done that with young, barely broke horses on their early outings. So far so good.

    I've taken others directly off the track and onto the trail without any bother at all. The horse mentioned above was only ridden a few time in an enclosure before I took him out on the trail. Again, I have a knack for staying calm no matter what the horse does. And if I can't? It's time to dismount rather than wreck.
    Wish someone like you were closer! I wouldn't say that riding a more experienced horse would do much. I have been riding forever, but am just a cautious/conservative/chicken by nature. This guy has brought me further though, than any other horse in my riding, as green as he is.

    I did venture a bit away from the trailer. We (me and my friend with the steady eddie) took turns going around the parking area. Then we went through the gate (WAAAAHHH! What was that? Let's get out of here!!), and let them eat grass in the field for a bit. During this part, he was pretty naughty.

    It is nice to hear that you guys have had positive experiences. Thanks!



  17. #17
    Join Date
    Oct. 14, 2008
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    181

    Default

    I had my ottb out on a trailride and he was doing quite well. Until I fed him an apple off a tree we passed. (he is completely crazy for apples) He was chewing on half and had to walk over a small grass covered hump in a hedgerow. Apparently he couldn't walk and chew at the same time since he FELL DOWN
    to his knees. It was only about six inches high and gradual and not hidden. He had been over ditches,creeks, down gulleys, over logs so it wasn't like this was a big thing for him. Just got too excited about that darned apple...



  18. #18
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    Mar. 12, 2006
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    If you go to CANTER Midatlantic, there are all sorts of OTTB training blogs.... and many tales of trail rides. In general they seem to go out in small groups and get on with it. I think in those situations YOU have to be the leader and stay relaxed. In some of their examples, a horse that starts out hot might need a good trot to blow off steam.

    My horse is long off the track and is very pleasant on trails by herself and in a very small group with her leading. She sometimes needs to stop and look at things and can get "dinosaur head". But she is reliable provided I stay calm (I sing to myself if I get nervous).

    I think- great idea to have someone else ride him out. Sometimes a person who can chuckle at the hijinx can get a horse over a hump. And its totally understandable to think that heading down a trail on a snort jumpy beast is a bad decision. I'm a nervous rider as well. Having a person try something on her first has been a good system. She gets the best ride possible and when I get back on, I know she will be just fine.

    Oh, and last summer, I moved to a barn with trails. The first month I would not leave the ring. Then I rode back to the barn. Then I tried a short trail, then a longer. Within a two months I was out on the power line right of way solo cantering up hills.



  19. #19
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    Jan. 31, 2009
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    It's a little more country than that
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    Hey, you did alright! I tried to ride my OTTB around the pasture as our "intro to trailriding" and we had a rodeo! I swear, he went up and down vertically more than he went forward once we got 50 yards from the barn. So we have done and continue to do - lots of hand leading in the pasture. (and he is getting lower protein grain and less of it too) We are slowly working up to farther and farther away from the barn.

    When he is not paying attention to me and gets chargey or whatever other badness he is up to that day, he gets to move backwards IN A BIG OL' HURRY. Then we lead some more. It has been slow going, but that is what this horse apparently needs. I don't get why he can go out and walk all over this friggin pasture all by himself and calmly graze, but if he is on a lead or under tack, he is a nut. Oh well, such is how he is. And no, he is not a nut being led around the barn or the ring, in the ring under tack he is a push ride!! My horse is a man of mystery, that is for sure!

    My former OTTB was a fabulous trailhorse. They can indeed be wonderful trailhorses. My guy was the go-to guy who always led any nervous nellies past killer rocks, killer bread bags, whatever. With one single exception - COWS!!!!! I never got him ok around cows. He even managed pigs.... but never cows.



  20. #20
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    Mar. 25, 2008
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    Default Hay

    Another thing I wanted to point out is to take your time. Maybe on day 1, all you do is saddle up and ride to the trailer you mentioned, touch the trailer with his nose and then go home. Do the same thing day 2. Keep doing this and then on day 10 maybe you go 10 feet further. Horse training is not a race and sometimes backing off and doing things slowly will work better for both your confidence and your horse's.

    Also, do all this after schooling in the ring in his comfort zone. He'll be a wee bit more tired and you'll have a bit more confidence after schooling...
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