For the most part, I pick speed and direction and let my Arab figure out where exactly to put his feet. At this point. The first baby year/training rides? Absolutely forget it. He got told EXACTLY where to put his feet.
Now he's realized things like collecting to go up and down hills works way better than being all strung out and flailing around. He does often choose to jump muddy spots rather than go through them, especially if we are trotting or cantering. At 8, he's finally got that mountain goat sure footedness a trail horse needs to have. He's also got the trail miles and experience to back up strongly not wanting to go down a trail.
He does occasionally balk at scarier things, but will sigh and go over/through/around/past them when asked. His balk there is a much different balk than when he thinks something is wrong up ahead. I do, for the most part, listen to him and take into account his opinion when that happens because it isn't terribly often and he's usually been right.
For my trail and endurance horses when I start to ride them I tell them / guide them to where they should go on the trail and how the trail should be handled. Then over time they learn to make good decisions on trail footing. But I am always there to have the final say, I do not just toss away the reins and let them pick their way. I see things they may not know what will happen if they put their foot there, or go too fast over certain terrains. Finally after x miles the horse learns its footing, good choices, and I do have to say I will trust what their feet say. But that takes time and training.
Like for mud, only they know if there is a bottomless bog there. Depends on the horse depends the trail conditions.
I do think some horses and breeds are just naturals when it comes to trail footings. I have had very good luck with the arabs I have ridden/trained. My Rocky Mt mare when I first started her on trails, was a total natural. She progressed very quickly. It was like she had been on trails her whole life.
I do try to keep my horses in the most natural pasture possible. I do work with them on trail obstacles I have made in my pasture. Never know what will come up on a trail, I like my horses to be adaptable and trusting of me when such an event comes up.
I have been lucky enough to choose horses who have great judgment and are very willing. I have friends who have to micromanage their horses, and I don't want to put forth that much effort. I love having two brains working at all times anyway.
50/50. My mare usually has a good reason for going where she wants. I control direction while she picks where to put her feet. If she needs to trot or canter then I let her do so within reason. She's an Arab/Mustang cross and has a good head on her shoulders.
On the other hand, my previous gelding would need his hoof held the whole way through with instructions for each step. I prefer the horse to have some say on what we should do. Especially in rougher terrain.
I had a quarter horse that I had mainly used in the arena and maybe the odd trail ride. I ended up selling him to a fellow that had planned to use him in the mountains for hunting. He ended up owning the horse until his retirement and had so many good stories about the horse. One in particular was that he was hunting in the mountains late fall and a blizzard moved in while he was away from camp. He got turned around and he said you couldn't see the hand in front of your face. He had no choice but to drop the reins and trust the horse and sure enough old "Doc" got him back safe and sound.
Another story was he saw some elk down an extremely steep hill, so he got off Doc and slid down the hill/mountain on his butt. He looks back and here comes Doc sliding down on his butt.
He was a great horse. They donated him to a camp for kids. We went and saw him when he was in his late twenties and he looked so cute with pink ribbons in his mane and tail.
I turned my show horse into a trail horse last fall, and I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly he took to it. Third ride out we came to a downed tree across the trail. We were literally on the side of a mountain, no way to go around it. He jumped it without hesitation, and I knew I had a partner I could trust. Some just "get" it right away, in my experience. He had a little trouble at first with the concept of walking out as opposed to the show shuffle, but now he knows what's expected of him and will either go slow or fast depending on where he is.
My heart horse...not a bit. She was game for whatever was on the menu that day but was really naughty on too many occasions for me to trust where to put her feet. Mustangs we trained, them I trusted explicitly they knew the best footing and the best course to get where we were going.
Adoring fan of A Fine Romance
Originally Posted by alicen:
What serious breeder would think that a horse at that performance level is push button? Even so, that's still a lot of buttons to push.
I'm usually pretty trusting and let him pick a lot of things. I do keep an eye out for holes though and steer him away (the place we ride now is a lumber tree farm, the paths are safe, but off to the edges are places where trees were cut down once upon a time and the stump rotted and left a hole that may or may not be obvious to the horse).
There's also a bit of a hill that makes me nervous every time we go down it. Up is fine (and it's not even that big, LOL) but it's just this length of hard packed dirt that seems like there's little purchase if he were to slip so I'm always like, "okay...let's go easy, be careful." And he just flicks and ear at me like, "lady, we've DONE this a thousand times."
My Tb mare is pretty steady. Generally, I just let her pick where she walks. Occasionally when on rougher terrain, I may ask her to take a different path than what she was choosing, due to something I see like slick muddy area or loose rocks etc.
It does seem that "snort and blow" equals "I'm airborne because I look so damn fine when I've got my Arab on," but head in the air means, "WHAT?WHEN?WHERE?WHICH?WHY?WHO? IS IT A MOUNTAIN LION? Or even worse than a mountain lion, ------ IS IT A CHRYSANTHEMUM?????!!!!!!!
Haha - they do know they look damn fine when they've got their Arab on.
For the guy I ride, substitute boulders for chrysanthemums -- yep, the one thing that hasn't moved since the Ice Age is the thing he truly believes are horse eating monsters. Doesn't matter if it's the same boulder we've passed every day on the same trail, it's still obviously going there to eat him.
I trust my guy 100%. Generally he and I are on the same wavelength and make mutual decisions but most often I leave the footing to him and the speed, direction to me. He's carried my butt through some of the most hair raising terrain and never took a wrong step or spooked at the wrong time. He's 26 now and still going strong but there will be a day when he will no longer be able to and what will I do then without my dependable Woodrow?
Yogurt - If you're so cultured, how come I never see you at the opera? Steven Colbert