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Hacking out alone...

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  • Hacking out alone...

    I'm sure it's been covered but can't find anyhitng specific in a search.

    I have a mare who is learning late in life about hacking out and trail riding. She is quite happy to go with another horse, but flatly refuses to go out alone.

    When asked to leave the outdoor arena towards the pathway around the farm, (20' wide, groomed, fenced on both sides, so not scary at all), she will balk, spin, back, shake her head and basically say "No way!" and give me the horsey finger in no uncertain terms.

    As she will go with another horse, I have to think this is a confidence issue, not her just being a brat, so I don't want to really get after her until I absolutely have to.

    What we have been doing is being relaxed when we are facing the path/on the path and working really hard when she is turning away and being a brat about it. After she has worked hard for a bit, we then see if she will walk or trot towards the path again...She usually will but will then balk after a few steps, so we repeat the above until we get somewhere. It took a good 1/2 hour to get 100' the other night, at which point we stopped before she did and hopped off as a reward while she was still pointed down the path.

    At this rate, it will take 48 hours to get 1/2 way around the trail!

    Any suggestions appreciated. I dont often have access to another horse to go out with so she has to go alone.

    Your beliefs don't make you a better person, your behaviour does.

  • #2
    Lead her on foot so she get's familiar with being there alone. That's what I did.


    • #3
      Crack down on her if you think you can handle it if/when she escalates her antics. If you get tougher with her it will do two things-convince her that you are an authority figure that she should trust and it will stop her bratty behavior. You're doing the training basically correct but if you're not making progress it makes me think that she's not trying to learn and she's just messing with you. When she wins these battles it makes her more confident that she can get her way, you're not tough enough and it reinforces the bad behavior. She'll play games with you all day long in sight of the barn where she wants to be-works for her.

      I've had problems like this in the past with horses that are monsters for me to ride away alone so I switch with my husband and he can't even get the horse to look at the rest of the horses as he rides off from everyone into the wilderness. DH is calm, collected and doesn't care if a horse acts up; he projects an overwhelming sense of "give it your best shot, Horse, we're going anyway" and they just don't even try.

      Give her a strong attitude of "Knock it off and let's go" and see if you can't get further down the trail! My good riding horse was pretty piggy about it when I first started riding him in the mountains. One day I absolutely HAD to go alone-had to go back to camp a few miles in the wilderness for a first aid kit for an injured friend-and he never even batted an ear at me. He knew I wasn't messing around.
      “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey


      • #4
        Yep, lead her. See if you can walk her about 50-100 yards down the trail and then get on and continue your outing. Go from there.


        • #5
          I've had problems like this in the past with horses that are monsters for me to ride away alone so I switch with my husband and he can't even get the horse to look at the rest of the horses as he rides off from everyone into the wilderness. DH is calm, collected and doesn't care if a horse acts up; he projects an overwhelming sense of "give it your best shot, Horse, we're going anyway" and they just don't even try.

          That is a great definition of perseverance. I wished I had it when my mustang was being a pig. Some of them just will get on the fight and Know they are going to win. Sounds like you may be headed in that direction unless you take the upper hand and Insist on going. Depends on if it puts you in a bad situation or not too.


          • #6
            I also suggest leading your horse. I often introduce horses to trial riding this way. I prefer to make it a non issue rather than escalate it into a battle.

            All the horses I started this way have become happy and confident on the trails.

            Sometimes I lead the whole trail; sometimes I get on and ride for a while then dismount and lead when they get balky.

            You need your horse to trust you -- not the steady Eddie horse -- so that you decide where to go.
            Last edited by Bogie; Jul. 20, 2011, 11:07 PM. Reason: fixed typo
            Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
            EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


            • #7
              Lead or ride in small circles, each circle a couple of inches further up the trail than the last one....


              • #8
                My suggestion: lead the whole thing. Tomorrow. Hand lead the entire trail. Really. The learning point is that when you say we're going down this, we're going. Pony's had too many incidents of balking and a complete win of no balking and no fight involved would be a nice score for both of you.

                Leading a few hundred yards and then mounting could well mean she'll balk again at the next scary thing, five minutes out. At that point, the only way forward could be to get off and lead but this is a situation you do not want--it would be a great loss. No way do you want to be leading every tie her courage fails.

                So, get a full win, lead the whole thing (but do have her tacked up.) Next time, (next day, hopefully) after this double win of a full trail lead, all tacked up, mount three-quarters or two-thirds through, when she knows she's headed home. Make no hurry of this. Day, three same as day 2. Day four mount half way. Day five, one third, day six same as day five.

                Day six ride backand forth on the beginning of the trail, though still past the ring, on the trail, then do the loop. Day seven, ride out like you own the place.

                It would be worth taking a week to win it all.


                • #9
                  I would lead her calmly and confidently on a few handwalks down your trails to start. No pressure - just walk her a few days in a row. Make it fun and relaxed. When you get to the furthest point on the trail, before heading back or the middle point if it's a circle or loop, let her rest, relax, graze - bring a few carrots.

                  Then, let the training begin. As the owner of a very, very barn sour horse at one time, I can only share what worked for us. Keep in mind I was a scared beginner at the time and 75% of the problem was in MY head. I was nervous, and horse picked up on it BIG time. Set yourself up for success. Put on a western saddle or grab strap if you have to. Before you leave, get your head in the game, as in "Today, we are confidently going to ride on the trail. Period. End of story." You must get there. My trainer at the time told me to think that my son was in the woods, with my car keys. I had no way to get to him except to ride. He was 5 at the time.

                  Sit tall, and ride her to the trails. At the first balk, squeeze, kiss and crop. If and when she moves forward, release the reins immediately - reward her, sit tall and walk on. If she does move backwards, put her to work immediately then and there. Trot small circles, yield her HQ in circles and make it enough that it is work for her. Ask her for forward again. If she does it nicely, she gets a loose rein and gets to just walk. That is her reward. The old "make the wrong thing difficult, and the right thing easy...".

                  I will say that what made the change and the turning point for us was to dedicate 5-6 days in a ROW to work on it. I found that if I tried one day...skipped a few days, and tried again, we were back to square one. It is best to work consecutive days.

                  I also became keen to his "set up". As we walked down the path, he would first start edging right, so he could make a wide turn to the left or spin left to turn back. I started to get ahead of this tactic, keeping my right leg on and forward aids sharp so he stayed in the middle of the path. His way out is still ALWAYS to the left if he tries anything.

                  My horse was once a nightmare with this. He would do mini-rears, and literally pirrouhette me up the fenceline path back toward the barn doing little spins. It wasn't until I made my mind up that enough was enough - we were GOING and going now...I sat tall, followed my aids with my crop and meant it, and made sure to release and reward at the right times. Fast forward to today, this horse will ride anywhere alone - trailer anywhere alone and we hack alone all the time. He goes happily and actually prefers to lead now. (He used to only follow, with his head practically resting on the horse's butt in front of him!!) I would have never, ever believed back then that we would be riding alone all the time today. He is a joy now and lovely to ride alone. So it can be done. Just set your mind to it, train several days in a row and make sure you reward her when she does what is asked. A pat and "good girl" goes a long way.


                  • #10
                    Everyone's given good advice, but you have to know your riding limits. My mare does the exact same thing. I ride alone on the trail and my nerves were frazzled after taking 15 minutes to get down the driveway to the woods (kick, crop, one step, stop and repeat). So instead of trying to do the whole trail I took her halfway down the driveway after every ride in the arena. By the fifth time she was walking willingly. Then I increased the distance to the whole driveway again it took a few times before she would go willingly and without a lot of drama. I went to a set point every time we rode until she was bored and calm. Only then did I increase the distance. She still has some days where she spins, balks and acts terrified and then I just take her back to the arena and work her a bit then its back down the trail. I know my nerves have contributed to this problem but this helped both of us gain confidence in each other. Good luck this is not fun to deal with.


                    • #11
                      There is absolutely nothing wrong with a hand walk and graze at the furthest end of the trail. Take a back pack with your favorite magazines, bottled water, and have a quiet picnic.

                      Even better - bring a curry and brush and give her a spa treatment while she grazes.

                      If you don't teach her to relax and smell the fresh air, no one else will either. Teach her it is just another walk in the woods.


                      • #12
                        My TB mare was around 5 when I started trail riding her. I never had anyone with a steady eddy to go out with. So, I did as many of the other posters mentioned. I trail walked her. I would tack her up and lead her down the road and into the woods. On the way we would practice crossing ditches, over branches or any mudpuddles etc. Same on the trails. I lead her several times without ever getting on her. Then I would get her into the woods(I was still nervous about riding her along the road), and find a stump,rock and get on her and ride her. If I felt nervous about how she was behaving, I would get off and walk for awhile. Then I would get back on and ride. Another thing I did was to take her to a few "bombproofing" clinics. For years now, I have owned the "steady eddy" that everyone wants to ride their greenie with. It just takes consistancy and committmant to keep at it and not let the horse get away with anything.


                        • #13
                          Another thing I did which requires a friend, but no horse, is I had my mother walk with us on foot. It helped to teach my horse that ravines and soft spots are crossable. I mean, how else would he know right? Once he saw a human on the other side, he was prepared to give it a try.


                          • #14
                            My mares that I use for guest and kids have gotten quite herd bound, Great for babysitting kids as I can just lead and I know the mares will follow and stay close. But lousy when I want to work them by themselves.

                            If I ride anywhere near where they can see or hear the others, It just takes all the fun out of the ride. they walk so slow going away and rush back toward the barn.

                            So my solution is to load them in the trailer and take them away to another trail. I find they become a whole nother horse when they are alone and have no idea where their buddies are. I can work them the way I want. They listen to me and give me the proper respect.

                            After a few rides by themselves away from the property, They have a better understanding of their job and I can start to work them around the property. They are still herd bound, but since they developed confidence in me as the alpha on the individual rides, I start off with better control.


                            • #15
                              Some good advice above. I have one that backed toward her buddies so I just turned her around and backed down the driveway to where I wanted to be...turned her back around after getting there to see a very confused "how the heck did we get HERE?" look on her face and a willingness to go where I directed after that. I often get horses in for retraining that are barn or buddy sour and it really isn't all that hard to fix for most. I work hard around the buddies or pens or barn (if on on place that has one) and then leave the work area and make being away where they get to relax, get the cinch loosened a bit, some rubs and pets and maybe a snack. Doesn't take long for them to figure out that "home" is work and away is better. I also never, if at all possible, ride a trail out and back...I make a loop of it if there's a way to do it.....I don't want them to learn that there's an end point and get silly about returning. The first trip "out" might be 50 feet but the idea is planted.
                              Colored Cowhorse Ranch
                              Northern NV


                              • #16

                                Originally posted by SmartAlex View Post
                                Lead her on foot so she get's familiar with being there alone. That's what I did.
                                As many of the others have said...

                                The only thing I would add to this is that I would groom and tack up just like normal and then I would lead her around the trail whenever it is time to go that way.

                                Keep things as you normally would so that this just seems routine. After she seems relaxed (and you might have to do this routine a few times), then you can try to ride her around it.

                                If she gets too keyed up being out there, then take her out and let her hand graze on it, near it, in it, etc. until she calms down.

                                **Keep it safe** Do it on the ground first - then ride
                                "The Prince" aka Front Row
                                Cavalier Manor


                                • #17
                                  My mare used to act the same way about going on the trail alone, but would be very happy hacking out in company. She had - reportedly - been a trail horse for some former owners, but if that is the case, they never took her out alone. When I first tried to take her on the trails alone (right on my barn's property)we couldn't go more than 20 feet before she would start snorting and backing up. When the wind blew some dead leaves off a tree, she would get light on the front end.

                                  So I did what many people suggested. I would try riding her along the trail, she would walk backwards, so I would then hand walk her along the trail, return to the trail head and then ride her along the same path I had just led her down. After I had made myself her lead pony by hand walking, she felt more confident with me as her rider.

                                  Four years later, she will still get uncertain if she hasn't been on the trial alone in a while. If something bothers her so much that she won't go forward, I still hop off, hand walk, and hop back on. Last night, for our first time ever, we ventured down a trail we had never been on before - all while riding alone. She was perfect - and when I got turned around, she knew which fork in the trail took us back the way I wanted to go.

                                  I think with a little practice, your horse will be happy to go out alone, too.
                                  My blog: Journeys in Riding


                                  • #18
                                    Yep-- been there. My mare was TERRIBLE about going out alone at her former barn. But, I would work her in the field right next to the barn until she was tired. Then, convince her to go for a walk down a very short trail (probably only 100 yards long) and let her graze at the end of it. Then, bring her back and work in the field and repeat the walk down the trail then go back to the barn. She soon equated the trail with a break from working and actually started to act like it was the exit gate in a ring-- that half slow down and look at it like I-want-to-go-that-way-please-mom? look.

                                    Now, strangely, when I moved her to her current barn, I could not get her to come back to the bar a few times. NEVER have I had that problem, but she seemed determined to be going somewhere. Nothing bad happened to her at the new barn, she just decided she would rather be on the trail. She's such a weird little horse!!

                                    Best of luck!
                                    Who say's your best friend has to be human?


                                    • #19
                                      when you ride the path with others, does you horse lead the group? If not start there where you and your horse are the leaders.

                                      your horse may be nervous, but she may just be pushing your buttons b/c she knows she can, sit up tall, cary a dressage whip and keep turing her to the trail and tell her to go, no need to be abusive but be firm, once she goes for a bit listening then ask her to turn around and head back to the barn.

                                      you can try really working her good in the arena then take her on a trail ride so that she learns this is a good relaxing thing

                                      also the trail may be "to inviting" with no turns, branches or hills or narrow spaces she feels she can act up instead of thinking about where her feet are

                                      also this may sound silly but I trail ride with my dog after we are done working in the arena and if my horse is a tad backed off I will send my dog first then my horse follows like it is no big deal *sigh* what a goober sometimes

                                      without watching you and your horse we don't know the exact situation and there are several ways that the end goal can be acomplished


                                      • #20
                                        you could try going out with a group, and then when you are out, split off and calmly ride home alone.