Is there such a thing as a "trail safe" horse for non/weak rider?
Not sure how else to explain it. I've ridden horses in trail rides that just went along and did whatever the route was, and sure, "anybody" could ride them. Because in a sense the group leader is "riding" all the horses - they are all following the direction of the lead horse, or they've memorized the route.
But is there really any such thing as a horse that is "safe" for a beginner/timid/weak rider when they are *not* in that kind of scenario? Like if the rider buys the perfectly nice trail horse, brings it home, and goes out riding on their own or with friends. If they don't have any real riding skills, how can they tell the horse they don't want to turn left at the usual spot, or don't want to trot fast up that one hill, or that the funny flapping thing in the bushes is not scary?
Two scenarios bring this to mind. One is when friends visit and they want to ride with us, but have no riding ability. My new horse for example is pretty much as safe as they come, in my experience. But you do have to communicate with him. He doesn't know what you want if you don't tell him. If you tell him, he'll do it. (I never let friends ride my horse unless they are better riders than I am, but just for argument's sake...)
And the other scenario is a woman I know who is looking for a trail horse, but is really quite elderly and timid too, and I keep thinking there's hardly a horse I've ever met that wouldn't at least occasionally spook or try to argue about something and learn real quick how easy it is to intimidate her.
Or are there really horses out there that are that solid and reliable even when handled by a person who has very little ability?
There are such horses but it is very difficult to get them on a trail because they tend to go in circles and require quarters.
Seriously, I've known some very kind horses but I don't know any that won't spook at something. I don't know any horse that a beginner could take out alone and be guaranteed to get home in one piece. There are kind old horses that won't take advantage but they do need direction.
Most beginner horses require the odd tune up. Even my bomb proof, years leased to my coach as a schoolie and theraputic riding horse fellow who is currently my goddaughter's first horse needs a little reminder of his manners.
That said, I could put a crash test dummy on either him or my Cleveland Bayx mare and go trail riding with it safely. Every day of the week with no tune ups, no. Regularly interspersed with an experienced rider, sure, as long as someone with some know how was there for the odd word of advice.
A very timid rider should be taking some lessons to develop skills and confidence in order to safely enjoy horses. Someone with no skills needs to be learning them from someone--any horse's training can be undone, even old and reliable horses like my grand QH fellow.
My old barn in Arizona is full of them. They go to summer camp in the mountains and then come down out of the snow for the winter and give lessons to beginner kids (who progress to hopping over crossrails by the end of the school year). Then it's back to camp and the cycle continues.
Where do they come from? The local auction. They're mostly older (but not always) and not generally the most beautiful things (though she has picked up some diamonds in the rough!) And they are worth their weight in gold.
The thing is... they get a week or two trial. If they don't work out, they go right back to the auction. Not everyone would be okay with that, but it works great for her program.
So, check around at barns that do beginner lessons and see if they'll part with one of these guys. Not likely, but you can ask!
I always think with trail riding there are so many things that are beyond your control . . . I wouldn't let my kids go on a trail ride in Wyoming because they couldn't ride. Even though the horses were clearly broke to death and pretty much followed nose to tail, I still think you need to know how to ride so if a bee stings the horse or some such freak thing the rider can handle it. But that's just me, I'm VERY risk averse!
Twofatponies, you know the pony I ride is unbelievably bomb-proof. But I won't let my 10 year old ride him out alone on the trail because I don't think my child can handle it when the pony gets the "let's go back to the barn!" thought in his head. Or, if the horse-eating cows are on the other side of the fence. Those scenarios are ones I'm happy to ride myself bareback and only in a halter, because he is just so trustworthy. But you do have to know how to ride/handle those situations. If you do, it is very easy. If you don't, I suspect the pony would decide he was out of there.
I had one, and doubt that I'll ever own his equal. He'd been a lesson horse. I could take total novices horsecamping, put one on Patch and the other on my much younger mare (who would always follow Patchy's lead) and send them off on a trail ride unsupervised. Honest. That reliable, that good of a babysitter. He never, never, never spooked. He'd look at stuff, true, he'd let you know he thought there might be horse eating alligators in the ditch (this in OH) but he never propped, dropped, spun, or unseated a rider. Period.
He was in his mid teens when I got him. He was absolutely safe but after he'd taught you to ride and figured you could rise to the challenge he'd think up stuff to make sure you were paying attention. He was a lot of fun.
Friend of mine wanted to ride him, someone whose sum total experience with horses had been a couple of those nose-to-tail trail rides. Got on in the pasture, within a few seconds they are cantering, Patch aims for a nice fat log left out there and pops over it. Friend comes back beaming. I said, uh, that was pretty good, I didnt know you knew how to jump. Friend says, I dont, but Patchy knows!
Yes but they are hard to find. We have one for my hubby. It was/is his first horse. (hubby is normal but has a cyst on his brain and has a shunt to drain the fluid off. We wanted him something as safe as possible). She is not ugly but not attractive. She is also 21 and requires some maintenance that some folks that only trail ride might not want to deal with. Pour in pads, MSM and Map5 IV shots. This mare loves beginners or weak riders. She HAS NO SPOOK. Will follow or lead with them. NO RUN AWAY. However she is 15.3 and does have a big motor. TWH. She does not walk slow by any means. Her height and speed walk often scare new folks that have not ridden. We have had little kids on her to adults. The less they do and more they just sit the more she likes it....LOL
The funny thing is if you can ride she will give you all kinds of sh*t, no I can not stand still, no I dont like how you just told me to do that, will pick up speed (faster walk) going to the barn or trailer. She is very smart, as in one of the smartest horses I have ever been around but very opinionated. If she gets in a bad situation she does not freak out. She will wait for you to come help her. The best thing is that she is a FUN ride. She is not a dead plug along like a lot of the horses that will take care of beginner or weak riders. That is even harder to find.
We purchased her from friend and follow COTHer, Chardavej. They messed up and in a moment of weakness decided to sale her. 3 folks were lined up but the first 2 passed for different reasons. We tease Charlotte that she is still kicking herself. We have thought about selling her a few times but know that it would be hell to replace her. Hubby could us a bigger and younger model.
Oh, yeah, I've been fortunate enough to have a few. If I could have cloned and sold copies, I'd be lying on the Riviera right now instead of posting.
One gelding in particular took a journalist foxhunting. Said journalist had never been on a horse before.
That gelding's dam STARTED foxhunting at age 26- packing my 4 yo son. Both horses were the sort that, if they sensed rider losing balance, would try very hard to get back underneath them, and failing that, would simply come to a gentle stop on their own motion and wait for rider to get back in good order.
I will add here that my parellified neighbor's boarder found a sweet little mare to ride who has every appearance of being a kind and good babysitter, but boarder's fear and balance issues are such that she cannot/does not ride out and barely rides in the arena. The one time we coaxed her out for a tiny little nose-to-trail ride she kept hauling on the mare's mouth and saying whoa, whoa whoa repeatedly. Mare was walking calmly. It was too fast and scary for her rider. Mare is a 14.2 QH. We had her boxed in safely between two safe horses but she fretted (rider, not horse) continually "where are we?" (we were three hundred yards from where we started, out in the deep scary woods comprising less than a hundred acres.) The best horse in the world may not be able to conquer that much lack of confidence.
I have one. He's 27 now, and retired except for his very important job of packing my 4 year old grandson around on a lead line. I bought him at 14, and he taught my daughter how to ride, along with several other youngsters and a couple of timid adult riders, too. He's a handful with an experienced rider, but put a kid or beginner on him and he goes into caretaker mode. He's worth his weight in gold, literally, and I've turned down multiple offers for him over the years. I never hesitated to put a beginner on him to go on a trail ride, because he would never take a wrong step.
So, they do exist, but good luck buying one since they're usually not for sale. And if they are, it's usually for a higher price than a lot of people want to pay for "just" a trail horse.