I've had at least 1/2 dozen that I've trail ridden, and hunted. The worst on trails was my name sake. Toadie spooked worse than any horse I've ever ridden, and I grew up with Arabians. He did, however, go on overnight rides where we tied all the horses to a hi-line. At home I couldn't turn him out with other horses, but he never caused a problem in the camping situations.
The one I have now had a hard time figuring out how to step off of a 6" bank the 1st time we took him out. Now he's been on 3-4 day rides in the Ozark Mtns., Oachita Mtns., and LBJ Grasslands. He hasn't been tied to a line, but stands quietly tied to the trailer for hours. I just don't enjoy camping anymore, so the out of town rides we go on are to places that have cabins and pens.
"Everyone will start to cheer, when you put on your sailin shoes"-Lowell George
At the barn where I grew up, there were plenty of TBs. Lucky for us little kids, we trail rode several times a week, and WE even got to take the trail rides out! Those were the days...
The first horse who ran away with me on the trail was a older, taller broodmare, who one day decided she needed to be home NOW. It was just one of those days.
But most of the horses were just fine on the trails.
The OTTB I showed in the 70's/80's was fine on trails - even solo - except for riding by pastures of cows. And he was from Oklahoma! But cows!! I'm wondering if, as a youngster, one or more taught him something he'd never forget.
My guy right now has been very tough his first year (or two!) in training generally. The toughest - but most competitive - I've been around insofar as being too full of himself. But now with a good barn, lots of turn-out, and a few CTJ moments with an excellent trainer last year, he's figured it out.
I know trail rides this year still won't be straight forward, but will get better with more experience. And he really does always need a companion, or we can't go that far from the barn. We get a half mile away - he's enjoying himself - then realizes Holy Sh*t! No one else is with me!
The best part is - he's pretty bold, so will lead others, and rarely panic - as long as he has a chance to study something new. When he balks, I just allow him to get a good look/sniff, and then he's fine. Really a lot of fun!
But he thought, "This procession has got to go on." So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn't there at all. H.C.Anderson
My Tb is not OT, but was a show hunter earlier in her life. I got tired of the whole show expense and politics so started dabbling. My mare is awesome on the trails in company and solo, foxhunts, hunter paces, parades, team pens. Basically whatever I want to try. It took her awhile to become the steady eddie she is now, but it was sure worth it.
I had to use an Australian saddle for a few years until I found an old Big Horn that fit him. Problem was, the owner would not part with it, even though he has not been on a horse in 20 years. So it was back to the Aussie. I was later lucky enough to find a newer Big Horn that is Leather/Cordura that fits him really well. Those two Big Horns are the only Western saddles I have ever found that fit my TB.
OP here, this is all very heartening you guys - thank you! I love to hear about the ups and downs. My current OTTB is my first real training experience with a young OTTB and he is teaching me a lot, perhaps more than I actually teach him
Current lesson for me is to be 100 times more gentle and kind about absolutely everything. No firmness or "oh yes you will do what i say"... it always backfires. Even with the littlest thing! I find myself always rewarding the good behavior (have treat pouch on my waist, cut-up carrots only he insists) and just keeping everything super-chill at all times. He needs time to think, to investigate, to start from square 1, then he's an angel pony and goes happily.
My OTTB made me a better rider. When we first started he could do an unexpected roll back that would put any cutting horse to shame. I had to learn to stay balanced and aware at all times. Once I taught him to back up, he began to use that as an evasive technique when he spooked as well. It taught those riding behind me to stay well behind him so they did not get backed into or have him spin on top of them. He doesn't scare like that any more, but when he did it helped to make me better. I laugh now when I ride with people who claim their horse is "spooky." They have no idea what a spook is.
My OTTB is a good trail horse- and she never seems to get tired. She is especially adept at jumping over any obstacles on the trail (after mom checks first to make sure it's safe). She has been horse camping lots of times including in the Sierras on rocky trails with lots of water crossings. What makes her a good trail horse is that she is smart, sensible, athletic, and wants to please. Her only problem is she does like to be first and walks faster than most horses so it's usually just easier to keep her in the front.
Mine is a fantastic trail horse, always was from the beginning. But I bought him for that type of quiet, intelligent, kind, sensible brain. He events as his main job, but loves to spend 8 hours climbing mountains on the side!