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Learning to trail ride as a total newbie?

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  • Learning to trail ride as a total newbie?

    I have a friend who I am gradually luring over into the horsey world (part of my Master Plan to make sure I have plenty of fun people to ride with ) and he's actually pretty interested in trail riding, but I find myself a bit uncertain as to how to advise him in terms of lessons. My background is dressage and I'm quite happy to keep doing that in addition to trail riding, which covers most of the riding basics at least, but I'm pretty sure he'd be bored stupid riding around an arena because he doesn't really have interest in dressage as an activity in and of itself.

    However, just throwing him out on a trail with a horse without a good grounding in the basics (how to have a good seat, general horsemanship, etc.) seems like a recipe for disaster. So what should I tell him to look for if he looks for some type of lessons? Annoyingly, he is not local enough that I can go check places out and say 'okay, even though they're doing discipline XYZ, they're teaching the basics properly so you should be set even though you don't want to XYZ.' And for what he needs, a place that uses tricks and gadgets to get around teaching basic riding skill seems like a bad plan.

    Is there such a thing as a trail/endurance trainer/instructor? As far as I know he doesn't actually have any endurance/competitive trail riding goals, but that might be just because he hasn't discovered the fun of that yet. (Well, I did show him a clip on YouTube of part of the Tevis ride, and he thought it looked kind of interesting, so maybe...)

  • #2
    Any dressage instructor worth their pay should be able to teach the basic skills required to survive on a trail.

    Honest, teaching doesn't start with half pass. It starts with W-T-C, and sometimes mounting and dismounting.
    Last edited by merrygoround; Aug. 26, 2012, 03:27 PM.
    Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

    Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.

    Comment


    • #3
      Starting a newbie ... Put him on a packer of a horse, go out for a short trail ride. Make it fun not a chore. If he wants more, then advance the game. More rugged trails require more skill. Longer trails require more conditioning of the seat. More horse requires more horse control skill. and so on, and so on.

      I remember when a walk on horseback around the farm was an adventure!
      Equus makus brokus but happy

      Comment


      • #4
        I agree. Find a sainted and bombproof horse, stick him in a Western saddle, and go.

        I learned that way when I was a kid. Heck, the woman who taught me has been riding for 40 years and never took a lesson in her life. She even managed to adopt a mustang and train him into a fantastic trail horse. She just had good horse sense.

        I should note that I am a FAR more competent rider now that I've been taking dressage lessons, but honestly even without them I had no problem surviving out on the trail.

        Comment


        • #5
          I would also just put him on a trust worthy horse and go out. As long as he isnt terrified, he should be fine. Riding lessons are always a good idea but I think a lot of people, especially guys, arent interested in that.

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            Originally posted by merrygoround View Post
            Any dressage instructor worth their pay should be able to teach the basic skills required to survive on a trail.

            Honest, teaching doesn't start with half pass. It starts with W-T-C, and sometimes mounting and dismounting.
            Well, that's what I would think, but I dunno who else could do it, if he doesn't find a good dressage place where he is. Plus I've definitely run into some dressage places where they don't really think in terms of trails. (Which is hilarious, because many of the big names will be happy to tell you how good it is for the horse to get out of the arena once in a while, but whatever.) I assume a decent Western barn would be the same? (I know exactly nothing about riding Western, but the basics can't be that different, right? )

            Do endurance rides/competitive trail events need volunteers? I know that can be a good way to pick up information with dressage and eventing - not so much formal instruction as little tips and tricks and things you might not have otherwise thought of. Plus it would help him meet people around him who do trail type stuff, which seems like it'd be a good thing. I think he'd eventually like to do things like ride in and camp, or maybe even ride/pack in, and that's well outside of my realm of experience - I think I've been camping exactly once WITHOUT horses, never mind going with and dealing with the complications horses add.

            (I should add - he's not local enough for me to just find a horse and try to teach him anything myself, or go to lessons to see how things are coming along. It'd be a lot easier if I could just tell him to take some lessons at a place I already knew was good. Perhaps I'm being a little over cautious since he doesn't need to learn anything exciting, but I have run into a couple of places where I honestly wouldn't actually trust them to teach w-t-c and tacking/grooming.)

            Anyway, the thread about riding hills got me wondering, so I'm asking.

            Comment


            • #7
              I guess I'm in the minority here. I come from the school of learning the basics in an arena first, THEN going out on the trail. There's much more to riding than just sitting in a saddle! I would recommend a few basic lessons first.

              Comment


              • #8
                I agree your friend should have some lessons first, mostly to be sure he's comfortable and can safely handle any of the issues that might come up on the trail even with the best broke horse. I think new riders should be able to "demonstrate" these basic abilities before going trail riding:
                - Mount and dismount correctly (accidents can happen during either)
                - Stop
                - Start
                - Steer

                If he's really never ridden before, he'll gain confidence just from being able to do these things. As for what style of riding, I think I'd probably have him start with Western if it's easy to find Western trainers there AND if he'd be able to use a Western saddle when you guys start trail riding. Guys tend to like the cowboy thing anyway and he can always change later if he keeps riding. Plus there's the added safety of the horn if anything gets hairy. BUT if you're only going to be able to trail ride with him on in English tack, that's what he should learn on in the arena so he's comfortable and confident on the trail. Good luck - I hope you get him brainwashed!
                It's just grass and water till it hits the ground.

                Comment


                • #9
                  As someone who has taken a newbie or two for trail rides, my opinion is for the lessons. Yes, you can just stick someone with a little balance on a saint of a horse and go for a ride, but it's so much less frustrating if they know something and have some basics down.

                  I don't think it matters if he learns Western or dressage at this point. He just needs to learn the basics. I took Western riding lessons as a teenager, then English lessons in college, and now take occasional lessons, no specific discipline. It's group lessons with people of varying riding skill, breeds, English, Western, etc.

                  It's just nice to have the person you ride with know how to stop, go, steer, and groom and tack up. And if you don't ride together that frequently it will be much nicer if you let someone else do the work.

                  He's going to have to be clear that he wants the basics for trail riding, and maybe a Western barn would be better for this. It all depends on the trainer. Can you find a recommendation for someone in his area? Maybe post on CL looking for recommendations? I know you might have to weed through the nut jobs, but it's an idea.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Please make sure the saddle is large enough for him and his stirrup leathers adjusted properly! A new rider is already uncomfortable enough without the agony of crippled knees and no place to put his "package" !!

                    I've seen it happen and its not pretty for the otherwide trusting newbie.
                    "My treasures do not sparkle or glitter, they shine in the sunlight and nicker to me in the night"

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      A five minute run down of the controls at the beginning of an easy ride on a good horse is sufficient to start for a healthy semi-athletic guy. Once you get going there will be plenty of time to talk and demonstrate as you go down the trail. If you want a guy to continue to be interested in riding I'd preserve his safety and pride as much as possible.
                      “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by JumpQH View Post
                        I guess I'm in the minority here. I come from the school of learning the basics in an arena first, THEN going out on the trail. There's much more to riding than just sitting in a saddle! I would recommend a few basic lessons first.
                        Me too. Makes it much more fun for the rider, too, being set up for success.

                        Sure, you can just launch the friend with some basic tutorials, but would you do that if your friend had never driven a car and wanted to take you for a ride?

                        I once had a friend- horse owner for 'decades' - want to borrow a horse of mine for our annual Pony Express re-ride. She was quite used to her little gaited horse- had never ridden a warmblood, had never 'galloped' a horse as one does to get them fit for hunting and etc- and I ignored my better judgment and did not insist that she first ride my horse in the arena to learn how he goes, what his buttons are, etc. I did suggest we do that and she was a bit insulted, oh, no, I don't ride in arenas, etc.

                        So, when we got to one of my 'usual' gallop spots and the horse got on his toes a bit, she 'clinched' with her legs, I guess her little Paso cross is used to that, but as far as my guy knew, it was a signal to start trot/canter/gallop. And then she picked up the reins as one does to gallop, 'trying to stop,' she said, but again, she didn't know the horse's buttons. The message to him was, taking hold to have a nice rhythmic gallop (one then drops the hold as a signal that the gallop is over).

                        It did not end in disaster, but to this day, I'm sure she tells folks the horse 'ran away' with her, but what really happened was that the horse did just exactly as she asked.

                        If your friend really wants to just launch on the trails with no knowledge- steer him to a dude ranch/livery setup where they just do head to tail trail rides by the hour. He can have a road test and you don't have liability issues.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by birdsong View Post
                          Please make sure the saddle is large enough for him and his stirrup leathers adjusted properly! A new rider is already uncomfortable enough without the agony of crippled knees and no place to put his "package" !!

                          I've seen it happen and its not pretty for the otherwide trusting newbie.
                          Lol my husband who occasionally rides with me ( and did take lessons for awhile :-) ) would TOTALLY agree with this statement! A 15 inch western saddle ain't gunna cut it for most men.

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Originally posted by Beverley View Post
                            If your friend really wants to just launch on the trails with no knowledge- steer him to a dude ranch/livery setup where they just do head to tail trail rides by the hour. He can have a road test and you don't have liability issues.
                            Actually, that's how I started luring him in. We went on a couple of nose-to-tail trail rides at a camp and I was talking to one of the staff members a bit after the ride about the horses (long story there) and I think he realized at that point that riding can be more interesting than just sitting like a lump. That plus the fact that we got to see some nice scenery even just on a sad little camp trail seemed to get him intrigued.

                            Being a good friend, I naturally made sure he got to see some pretty photos from trail rides online, and bits of Tevis from youtube, that sort of thing. So he'd know there's lots more even more interesting stuff out there if you're willing to put in some time and money to be a competent and safe rider.

                            I just want to make sure I'm giving him the right advice re: getting set up to be a competent and safe trail rider. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who just buy a horse and some cheap tack and hop on and it turns out fine, but that is not how I approach horses so I wouldn't feel right suggesting/recommending that kind of thing to a newbie as the way to go.

                            (Luckily, he's the kind of person who did EMT training at one point mostly because it seemed interesting, so he does appreciate the importance of being safe and prepared so I don't think he'll be horribly offended by the suggestion of some lessons.)

                            If he does get into it and wants to do more I'll probably be back (or get him on here) to ask about folks in his area who do more horse camping type stuff or longer rides. I imagine you can kind of muddle through figuring it out if you need to, but if you can find someone local who is willing to help you out a bit then that ends up being better for everyone (including the horses) imo because you're less likely to make dumb mistakes that could lead to big problems. (Like I have no experience at all with setting up a portable corral overnight vs a tie line vs hobbles. I'd want to look into that and talk to folks before I decided to do something where I'd need to use one of those options.)

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by JumpQH View Post
                              I guess I'm in the minority here. I come from the school of learning the basics in an arena first, THEN going out on the trail. There's much more to riding than just sitting in a saddle! I would recommend a few basic lessons first.
                              No, you're definitely NOT in the minority - or shouldn't be.

                              Just "stick him on a bombproof horse & take him for a ride"??? What a ride - training him to be a rent-a-horse yahoo. You folks suggesting that should be ashamed of yourselves. Unless, of course, you're yahoos yourselves.

                              Lessons. With a HELMET. Basic lessons. The kind that can be had pretty much anywhere & everywhere, regardless of the discipline of the barn. And in this economy, most trainers are grateful for ANY type of student. He doesn't need to have any goals other than to become fit re: the muscles necessary for correct comfortable riding; balance; gee - do you kinda think steering & halting without yanking the horse's mouth/head around is kinda important? Learning how to deal with spooks, backups, etc., etc., to at least lessen the possibility of falling off & ending up in the ER? Learning how to tack, untack, the purpose of each piece of tack?

                              Don't think this stuff is important & worth learning? Then carry on. But you folks who don't think it's important certainly aren't horsemen/women.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I have a horse that is our extra, and I've taken quite a few kids for their first ride ever, and two adults for their first ride in over a decade. I'm not a yahoo. My horses are reliable, we start on easy trails, and it's not really rocket science. If only people who started in an arena with an instructor rode horses, that would leave the vast majority of riders out. Everyone who mounts one of my horses is in a helmet. We sandwich the newbie between experienced riders. Our horses know the drill, and it has gone fine every time. Lessons are a great idea, but doing an easy ride or two without them isn't a tragedy.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Bacardi1 View Post
                                  No, you're definitely NOT in the minority - or shouldn't be.

                                  Just "stick him on a bombproof horse & take him for a ride"??? What a ride - training him to be a rent-a-horse yahoo. You folks suggesting that should be ashamed of yourselves. Unless, of course, you're yahoos yourselves.

                                  Lessons. With a HELMET. Basic lessons. The kind that can be had pretty much anywhere & everywhere, regardless of the discipline of the barn. And in this economy, most trainers are grateful for ANY type of student. He doesn't need to have any goals other than to become fit re: the muscles necessary for correct comfortable riding; balance; gee - do you kinda think steering & halting without yanking the horse's mouth/head around is kinda important? Learning how to deal with spooks, backups, etc., etc., to at least lessen the possibility of falling off & ending up in the ER? Learning how to tack, untack, the purpose of each piece of tack?

                                  Don't think this stuff is important & worth learning? Then carry on. But you folks who don't think it's important certainly aren't horsemen/women.
                                  Oh brother. You're over-inflating your importance. It really isn't rocket science and the guy will be fine despite your vapors. Go down the trail, learn as you go from your experienced friends.
                                  “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Uh...

                                    Trail Riding is a discipline. You don't just hop on a gentle horse and go ride. You need training just like any other discipline.

                                    I'd suggest dressage. It's not just learning passage -- you'll first learn walk, trot, canter, halt, back, control of YOUR position, and just being able to listen to your horse. Dressage movements will also come in handy on the trail; to open gates for example.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I see the problem now ... You aren't close enough to advance him beyond the head/tail trail ride. A lesson schedule may be more commitment for him than he wishes. But that's likely the only way for him to learn, unless he makes friends with someone willing to let him use their horse.
                                      Equus makus brokus but happy

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Lessons are good, BUT not everyone has the money or starting interest to take them.

                                        I think putting a rider on a packer, then teaching them stuff while on the trail is fine.

                                        My hubby and I went trail riding yesterday. His first ride in probably a year. He rode my horse, the packer, and I gave him pointers off and on during the ride. It was an easy ride. We stayed in HIS comfort level, mostly walking, w/a bit of jogging. I gave him my saddle and adjusted everything to fit him, so he was comfortable.

                                        If you are trying to get someone into riding that is not horse crazy, I think it is more important to KEEP IT FUN!

                                        That will keep him interested and coming back. He will pick up more things w/each ride. Learning on the trail is a good thing. Lessons are usually a hour, while trail rides could be longer.

                                        Riding is learned a lot by time in the saddle. Going around in a circle is really boring to some people too.

                                        My guess is that hubby will probably go riding more often, he had a lot of fun. Was a tad sore, but after a few hours, he said he felt really good.

                                        BTW - Before Bacardi freaks out, YES, we both wore helmets, LOL.
                                        Riding is NOT meant as an inside sport, GET out of that arena!!!

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