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Learning to trail ride?

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  • Learning to trail ride?

    This might sound like a stupid question, but - there are hunter/jumper barns, and eventing barns, and dressage barns, and western barns of various types, and saddleseat barns, and they all (or almost all) give lessons or training sessions of some description.

    Are there places that do that for trail riding? I'm just curious because I don't think I've ever run across one advertised - admittedly I do not read magazines aimed entirely at endurance riders, so perhaps I'm just not exposed to the right places.

    It's just that going by some of the threads here about trail etiquette and safety and that sort of thing, there IS stuff to learn if you want to be a 'good' trail rider, even if you don't aim to compete in the big leagues. Do folks just learn by finding friendly more advanced riders to help them out?

  • #2
    That's actually a great question! As a former hunter, now eventer, who wants to do more trail riding, I'd love to learn about that myself.
    Flip a coin. It's not what side lands that matters, but what side you were hoping for when the coin was still in the air.

    You call it boxed wine. I call it carboardeaux.

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    • #3
      It might be a good idea to join a local trail riding club that can put you in touch with someone to mentor you. Our club has a handbook with about 15 to 20 "trail rules" and there are always a few that folks miss to put in there. Some rides are marked and can be ridden at your own pace and some are guided. Most rides are anywhere from 2 to 4 hrs long and ride hosts are very informative about places to stop if you need help. Arrive early and ask questions! It would be to your benefit that your horse will willing walk thru creeks, over wooden bridges, muddy and boggy areas, and has some general manners. Folks understand that everyone has "horsey moments" but it can be a pain in the butt riding near someones horse who is constantly causing trouble. Yes there are barns that mostly trail ride - they are the ones located near parks, without the fancy jumps, indoor arena, groomsman, and mostly western saddles in the tackroom!

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      • Original Poster

        #4
        Originally posted by painted spirit View Post
        It might be a good idea to join a local trail riding club that can put you in touch with someone to mentor you. Our club has a handbook with about 15 to 20 "trail rules" and there are always a few that folks miss to put in there. Some rides are marked and can be ridden at your own pace and some are guided. Most rides are anywhere from 2 to 4 hrs long and ride hosts are very informative about places to stop if you need help. Arrive early and ask questions!
        I don't own/lease yet, so no horse to ride. But I've had some lovely experiences riding basically trail string horses - there's a place I've been going to almost every year since I was 2, so even though they're all nose-to-butt types, when the trail guides see me coming they saddle up anyone with a 'personality issue', which means that after a bit at the beginning of 'no, really, I AM in charge here' I often get a lovely cooperative ride that isn't plodding along - and I would really like to be able to do that when I have a horse myself.

        But all my actual proper lessons have been arena type things (dressage) and even the places that get out of the ring, like for cross country, the focus isn't really on trail riding as such.

        So I was wondering about it - are there trail riding clinics or 'educational' trail rides through clubs where the whole point is to take some newbie horses out with some more experienced ones, and intentionally introduce just a few scary things at a time? (Like bridges or creek crossings or what have you - going by how the newbie horse is handling it so no one's bummed if they have to turn back early because the newbie handled the bridge, and the creek, but OMG THE MUD IS GOING TO EAT ME NOW!!!)

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        • #5
          Most horses don't make a huge issue out of crossing a creek or bridge or mud, etc. They might be in doubt for a moment or two but generally they learn quickly that it's NBD. I've never set out specifically to train horses for trail riding, we just head out and deal with things as they come up. Learn by doing, etc. If the horse is green we either go alone, or with a seasoned horse. I find that is best. Two greenies together can be worse than anything.
          2016 RRP Makeover Competitor www.EnviousBid.com

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          • Original Poster

            #6
            Originally posted by VCT View Post
            Most horses don't make a huge issue out of crossing a creek or bridge or mud, etc. They might be in doubt for a moment or two but generally they learn quickly that it's NBD. I've never set out specifically to train horses for trail riding, we just head out and deal with things as they come up. Learn by doing, etc. If the horse is green we either go alone, or with a seasoned horse. I find that is best. Two greenies together can be worse than anything.
            I kind of figure if they have someone who's BTDT to take cues from, as long as the rider doesn't get too wound up, they'd be okay, but then painted spirit was saying it can be a pain, so I was thinking maybe I was underestimating the terror level of mud. Or if trail clubs sort of intentionally organize trips where people KNOW there are newbies along, so they're prepared for it to be slower or have bobbles, and aren't put out because they were planning on something more intense/active and are stuck with someone who can't keep up.

            (My most fun moment last summer with the trail string horses was on a *gasp* CHESTNUT MARE - looked like maybe a TWH or Saddlebred type thing, with the higher set neck - who they were having troubles with because she was too smart to be a trail string horse and was getting kind of spooky as a result. Like: Oh, I am so bored. BORED. What shall I do? Oh, look, a leaf. A LEAF! OMG! IEEEEEEEEEEE!!!! And so I got her - most. uncomfortable. western. saddle. EVER. - and got the 'she gets spooky' warning and so naturally, 10 minutes into the trail ride we come across someone doing a controlled burn/bonfire type thing in a clearing. Some of the other horses weren't even that thrilled, so I was thinking 'oh, great' but I let her have a bit of a look while I kept some leg on and she just moseyed on past and didn't even bother to look when we went past again on the way home. She really seemed like she'd be quite a good horse with a calm and confident rider - she was curious, not freaked out, and intelligent, and just in the wrong job.) (Have no idea how the western saddle was so awful for me, though. Most western saddles are tolerable, even if they're not perfect, but this one - no.)

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            • #7
              I've never been in a trail club... but I would imagine you can find someone in a club, or just someone at the barn who has a good broke horse that doesn't mind babysitting a greenie on their first time or two out.

              On one of my horses first trail ride, we went out with a horse who was used for trails all the time but for some reason he was real balky that day and didn't want to walk over this section of land with a culvert underneath it.. creek on either side, etc. My horse was jumping backwards because her horse kept balking back into us. I asked a few times to just let us go first but the rider was wanting to overcome this with her horse, which I understood... but my horse was green and I didn't want him learning this crap (which was why we went out with a seasoned horse in the first place). Anyways, after the 5th big balk I said screwit and just went around her and trotted on down the old country lane, over the culvert, etc. My horse led the rest of the day.

              So you never know.. just gotta deal with what comes up
              2016 RRP Makeover Competitor www.EnviousBid.com

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              • #8
                I would highly suggest finding trail riding clubs in your area, I know we have quite a few here in NoVA. Meeting up with other trail riders is a great way to learn and maybe you will be as lucky as I was and have a seasoned endurance rider "take you under his/her wing"!

                Also, the more you get out and meet other riders, the more you learn. We have a great community here. Everyone shares ideas and current information (ie. trial conditions, tack reviews, etc.). Good luck and welcome to "Life outside the ring"!

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Originally posted by VCT View Post
                  I asked a few times to just let us go first but the rider was wanting to overcome this with her horse, which I understood... but my horse was green and I didn't want him learning this crap (which was why we went out with a seasoned horse in the first place). Anyways, after the 5th big balk I said screwit and just went around her and trotted on down the old country lane, over the culvert, etc. My horse led the rest of the day.

                  So you never know.. just gotta deal with what comes up
                  Now I'm wondering which horse. (For some reason, in my head, PJ's personality is such that he would've eventually gone 'oh, for Pete's SAKE' and marched across with you just because he was tired of the stupidity.)

                  I admit, though, I'm mostly concerned with learning the 'rules' of the trail in terms of sharing the space politely and riding with someone else. Having someone with an experienced horse to go with would just be good from the point of view of trying to make it as likely as possible that it was a positive experience for my horse.

                  Plus, I was curious, because there do turn up threads here in this forum about people doing this horrible thing on the trail or that horrible thing and I was wondering - so how DO you learn not to do those horrible things, then?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by kdow View Post
                    . . . Plus, I was curious, because there do turn up threads here in this forum about people doing this horrible thing on the trail or that horrible thing and I was wondering - so how DO you learn not to do those horrible things, then?
                    Honestly, I learned by effing up or watching other people eff up. By aged 17 I'd busted my arm, been run away with any number of times, been dumped even more times, scraped my girlfriend up and helped tote her to the hospital after another dipwad friend caromed into the back of her borrowed horse, and given up on riding in groups because it was too frustrating - I was the one on the hot headed horse who could not stand to be left behind and could leap enormous puddles from a standstill (she hated getting her feet wet). Then she'd hang a left and head off bucking downhill and all my friends would laugh after I got tossed. Ha ha. Right. You should have seen my glasses all through High School, they were held together by tape and chewing gum.

                    I was mentored as a teen by a youngish married lady who needed company to fit up for an x/c trail obstacle class, and she taught me a few things, we had a lot of nice rides together, and then I got "formal" lessons after I started re-riding 20-some odd years later.

                    The way that happened was that the trainer's assistant was a multi-disciplinary type and had ridden a lot in this excellent nearby park, so a group of us got together and prevailed on the trainer to let us and the assistant take a couple of school horses in the rig to this park. (Actually the trainer said "Why don't you just go rent some horses down at the beach?", well, because it is nose to tail and no cantering, not in litigious CA). It was a little unfortunate that I got the one school horse that didn't want to be left behind by his pasturemate and even though we tried to break up into groups by speed he would have none of it, so we had a real-life lesson in why one might need to be aware of what is happening to one's fellow riders. Although he would slow and even stop he translated his desire to go, UP, and he was a draft cross so quite impressive. We felt it would be better if I swapped horses and he jogged the whole way home. He got to go on one other trail ride later with a far better rider, evidently his behavior was no different.

                    We had a couple of other issues in other trail rides that summer, there was a wide earthen dam that was about 200 yards long and we had a certain amount of jockeying to do to get over it - I think it is useful to see balking, although a seasoned trail horse should take it in stride I think everyone needs to know that horses will do that and not predictably either - the first time we crossed it two horses went together and the others followed, the second time we didn't have exactly the same group of horses and had all switched mounts so one of us had to get across while the assistant sorted things out with her horse, we also had bike riders resting on the dam, my did THAT cause some snorting and dancing.

                    Gee, this got long, sorry. I'm afraid you generally learn by trial and error and getting lucky with the trail riding partners you select. If the people you ride with have no organization/rules/manners but love to race each other, or spend the ride getting drunk, or come ill-prepared and whine about whatever they don't like, you'll either never know better or get disgusted with the whole group trail ride scene. As I said, I rode alone or with one older person, groups were prone to problems in my mind.
                    Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                    Incredible Invisible

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      There will always be horrible things on a trail ride. What's horrible and what's not depends some on the horse but mostly on the rider, I think.

                      When I got Sadie, she was supposed to be a seasoned trail horse, but she was a nervous wreck, very spooky, wanting to bolt and balk and almost every trail horse sin you could imagine. I had NEVER had that much trouble with a horse. It was all about trust, we worked through it, she is now literally a horse you can ride through, around, past or over just about anything and she is fine. But she STILL and always will be the Safety Horse who has to pause from time to time and assess the situation. And she will take charge when she thinks it necessary.

                      My gelding will do anything you ask, so you better be sure you dont ask him to do something stupid. He's a better horse in thick briars and vines and other tangly stuff, because he's so drop dead obedient you can tell him whoa, step, left, right, back and he'll do just what you say.

                      You put Sadie in the same stuff, and she's going to put her head down and bull through it HER way. You're going to get scratched up more then you would with the gelding. Her thought is, hang on Boss, I'll get us out of this. His is, tell me what to do, Boss, get us out of this. So there's one rider, two horses, and I have to ride and think very differently with them. But both are a blast to ride, and very safe IF you understand their strengths and work with them.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I'm going to have to agree with the recommendations of getting involved with a local trail riding club or organization and finding some experienced riders there who would make good "trail buddies" as well as mentors

                        A lot of clubs will have organized rides throughout the year, both in the form of day rides and camping trips. Others often have activities like dinners/chili cook-offs and trail-clearing days.

                        Just check ahead of time, before going on a ride, to get an idea of what their rides are normally like. If you're riding a non-gaited horse and the club is made up mostly of gaited horses and riders who like to "keep movin'," it may not be a great idea to join that particular ride.
                        Please copy and paste this to your signature if you know someone, or have been affected by someone who needs a smack upside the head. Lets raise awareness.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by kdow View Post
                          I don't own/lease yet, so no horse to ride. ...
                          Well, that's a bit of a complication.

                          If you actually found a place that did do a trail riding clinic with horses for you to use, it's likely those horses are dead broke and you wouldn't get much experience dealing with issues that a greener trail horse would have. And it probably would be an expensive, one shot deal.

                          With the clubs, you'd either need to have your own horse, lease a horse you have permission to take off farm or out on trail, or have a friend who will lend you a horse. All the clubs that I belong to, everyone has their own horse (owned or leased). And if you join, it's hard to get to know folks if you're not able to get out there and ride with them.

                          My suggestion is to find a barn near you that has ride out, and see if you can take some lessons or volunteer there. Get to know folks and let them get to know you and your riding skills. Let them know you're looking for a lease or just time out on the trails with a good trail horse. They'll let you know what local clubs are around and what possibilities there might be for you to get out on the trails with other experienced riders and learn the ropes.

                          I have to say, my guys are good trail horses, but I'd be much more willing to let someone I hardly know ride them in circles in a ring than take them out on a trail ride. For me to let someone take them out, even with me, I'd have to build a certain level of confidence that the rider could handle what they're likely to dish out on their worst day.

                          So if you really want to get out there, I think before you reach out to the clubs, you might want to try to lesson or lease at a barn with good trail access and build your skills and relationships from there.
                          "Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall." - Confucious
                          <>< I.I.

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                          • #14
                            One suggestion: find a local riding stable that offers trail rides and ask about a monthly lease -- many offer this. Here you will learn a lot about trail safety rules (lets hope).

                            Each riding club is different. You wont know until you visit one whether your compatable. Some allow smoking, drinking, and reckless riding behavior disguised as (having fun),
                            Some only walk, gossip and many may find boring.

                            Other groups are made of folks training for Competitive Trail rides or Endurances that welcome company but never lose sight of the first purpose ---- trail riding. (Anything that requires long periods of time in the saddle) >>Im of this group.


                            NATRC: http://natrc.org/
                            We are in Region 5: http://www.natrc5.org/
                            ECTRA: http://www.ectra.org/
                            AERC: http://www.aerc.org/
                            Here are the sanctioned rides for 2011
                            http://www.skidmore.edu/~elarsen/San...tioned2010.pdf
                            Volunteers are always welcome ! It's a great introduction to new trail riding people, and the rides!
                            IN GOD WE TRUST
                            OTTB's ready to show/event/jumpers. Track ponies for perfect trail partners.
                            http://www.horseville.com/php/search...=1&ssid=057680

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                            • #15
                              The rescue where I volunteer makes it a point to take its horses out on trail rides (since most of the adopters want a nice, calm horse they can mosey around on the trails, it makes sense to give them experience outside of a ring). Usually, the way they do it is the "green" horse gets put in the middle of a few experienced horses, and they have a nice, pleasant, walking trail ride. Trails around here include hills, open spaces, lots of forested areas (state parks), water crossings, possible road crossings, possible deer popping up out of nowhere, possible bicyclers and hikers, and various encounters like that.

                              Over several rides, the horse can get experience riding in front and behind as well but usually will be in the middle the first time or two, so the horses around it can act as a buffer.

                              They also have a lesson program and the instructor focuses on making safe (not necessarily "pretty" or "wins all the ribbons") riders and likes to do trail ride lessons when then the weather is nice (or practice trail type things in the arena when it is).

                              So...there probably are barns that do similar things. But I agree, you probably would have a better time trying a local trail club.
                              The Trials and Jubilations of a Twenty-Something Re-rider
                              Happy owner of Kieran the mostly-white-very-large-not-pony.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by VCT View Post
                                Most horses don't make a huge issue out of crossing a creek or bridge or mud, etc. They might be in doubt for a moment or two but generally they learn quickly that it's NBD. I've never set out specifically to train horses for trail riding, we just head out and deal with things as they come up. Learn by doing, etc. If the horse is green we either go alone, or with a seasoned horse. I find that is best. Two greenies together can be worse than anything.
                                I spend a lot of time specifically training for trail which is why my horses are so good at it.
                                I spend time teaching correct balance up and down hills, crossing obstacles, voice commands, lateral movements, opening gates, mounting from both sides, ground tying, trail trimming while mounted, going away from the group, having everyone else in the group go past and leave me behind, etc and ad nauseam.

                                I've actually had several trail students- people who came and rode my horses on the trail in a private lesson with me to learn the etiquette as well as the how's.
                                I'm good at being uncomfortable so I can't stop changing all the time -Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine
                                If I were your appendages, I'd hold open your eyes so you would see- Incubus

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  When I was much younger(and invincible) we just headed out and didn't worry about a thing. Now that I am way older and not invincible, I had to really work at it with my current TB mare. A couple of things that have helped me is to board at a farm where there is trail access, and I also joined a very active multi-discipline riding club. I have hooked up with a great group of people by taking advantage of the monthly club trail rides. I also try many of the other activities from team penning clinics, to schooling combined tests, dressage clinics, etc. I now have a great group of lady riding buddies(about 30 of us) and we frequently go away to b&b's with our horses and have an awesome time. Once you get hooked up with a great group of people, there are almost always extra horses that need ridden so not always neccessary to have your own horse.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by tabula rashah View Post
                                    I spend a lot of time specifically training for trail which is why my horses are so good at it.
                                    I spend time teaching correct balance up and down hills, crossing obstacles, voice commands, lateral movements, opening gates, mounting from both sides, ground tying, trail trimming while mounted, going away from the group, having everyone else in the group go past and leave me behind, etc and ad nauseam.

                                    I've actually had several trail students- people who came and rode my horses on the trail in a private lesson with me to learn the etiquette as well as the how's.
                                    It's amazing how much better a trail ride is on horses who have been specifically trained for trail riding.

                                    Knowing how to negotiate hills, especially steep, or slippery/muddy hills, bounce down into creeks/dry streambeds and back out when the sides are steep, keep their head when you run into yellowjackets, or have a grouse blow up into the air from between their front feet, or stand quietly if they get tangled in something, or stand quietly and "stay" (ground tie) if you have to get off and clear something on the trail, or follow along without crowding or even needing you to hold a line if you need to lead them for a bit, being able to go in any position in the group (to add just a few things to the post above!)...........is absolutely invaluable.

                                    Not too many horses are just "born" knowing all that.
                                    Laura Martlock
                                    Virginia Horse Council Board of Directors
                                    Owner of The Mane Street
                                    Wildwood Farm Lessons and Training

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Another supporter of NATRC here (Region 6), the goal of the organization is teach you how to ride trails so that both you and your horse come back unharmed.

                                      It would be best to go as an observer/volunteer first to just see what is going on

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I did a little research for you ---

                                        Here is a link to a stable that specifically has a horse for lease that does lessons and trail rides....
                                        http://www.bethelparkstables.com/Hor...e---Lease.html
                                        Romeo-11 year old 15.2 chestnut quarter/paint gelding for half or full lease. Currently being used for lessons and trail riding.

                                        Heres one that offers trail rides;
                                        http://thelakewoodstables.com/trail-rides.htm

                                        And 2 more:
                                        http://www.yellowpages.com/sycamore-...table-14609907
                                        http://www.merchantcircle.com/busine...s.724-948-3341

                                        Wow, OP, you are surrounded by lots of rentals! I'm sure one of these would be willing to do monthly lease for you. When you know what kind of trail horse you prefer, then you can start looking for your own ...
                                        There are so many different *trail* disciplines -- you will only discover what (*calls*) to you when you get >>out there.

                                        For me, it was distance -- not so much speed, but what's over THAT mountain ? or on the other side of that Lake?....
                                        and having the horse who can meet those challenges of climbing that hill, or crossing that creek / even sidelining to take a swim... jump that ditch to get to the other side...
                                        http://www.facebook.com/album.php?id...40&aid=2066984 >> this is where *I* live.

                                        I grew up with westerns...... so , it was natural to expect My trail horse to do all those things ... a real ah-ha education!

                                        There are also .................>> Long Riders
                                        http://www.thelongridersguild.com/LRG.htm
                                        Here's a fellow doing a 10,000km ride for education to raise money to educate the poor in each country he travels through.
                                        http://www.r4e.org/
                                        Trail riding? many disciplines -- first to explore -- and find what your passion is.
                                        IN GOD WE TRUST
                                        OTTB's ready to show/event/jumpers. Track ponies for perfect trail partners.
                                        http://www.horseville.com/php/search...=1&ssid=057680

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