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Trail etiquette and the misbehaving horse

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  • Trail etiquette and the misbehaving horse

    So, today I went on a hack with three other people from my barn (four of us in total), and for two of horses it was their first time going out. My boy hates being last in line on hacks, especially if the others are going faster then a walk, though he's totally fine if its just us and one other person. Well, one of the new horses kept breaking into a trot or a piaffe, which in turn made Matt angry.

    The girl I work with was leading on her super chillled out draft cross, so when we got to a wide clearing, I asked if I could jump in front. By this time, Matt had popped some good bucks in his anger. Leader said no, saying her horse preferred to lead. Well, her horse wasn't trying to buck her off! We were almost out of the woods, so I figured I could hang on until then. I figured wrong. Horse in front started to trot, Matt tossed his heels to the sky, yanked his head down and shook it, and I fell onto his neck. We were just walking, so gravity slid me to the side and I flopped onto my back into a foot of soft, fluffy snow.

    My question is, in a situation like this, when a horse is happier in the lead, is it safer to let him take that place? I know my boy, he would of calmed right down once ahead.
    Proud mother to Matt, a 18 year-old TB gelding.


  • #2
    Either train him to be happy wherever YOU want him to be in the line or ride alone.

    Both you and the "leader" of your trail ride have issues. The leader because his horse can't be happy unless he leads and you because yours can't be last (unless there's only two, WTH?).

    If you must know, it is poor etiquette to bring a horse to a trail ride, hunt, group ride, whatever unless he's going to play nice regardless of where in the group he is asked to be or how fast or slow he is asked to go.

    Bottom line be able to rate your horse. If you can't or won't either don't go in the first place or excuse yourself.


    • #3
      I only ride with friends, who care about my wellbeing and safety, sounds like you need some new riding companions. Also you Might want to have a trainer work with your boy on his issues.


      • #4
        Originally posted by BrookdaleBay View Post
        Leader said no, saying her horse preferred to lead. Well, her horse wasn't trying to buck her off!
        Because she was in front. That might have changed the second you swapped places. Then she'd be venting on a forum somewhere about how her horse would have been fine, if only the other people had just let her stay in the lead.

        If someone's horse MUST be in front I'll usually oblige...then I make a note to never ride with them again. It's not OK to go out in a group on a horse that only behaves under specific circumstances.


        • #5
          What they said. Plus, I really like that you have a horse named Matt
          Barn rat for life


          • #6
            I have a horse who feels anxious if he's not in or near the lead. I rode with a group of 4-5 other riders a few weeks ago and planned to mix it up, hold him back, let him come forward, etc as we were riding 10+ miles on varied terrain. I never really much got a chance. We gaited the entire time, just about...if I put him in the lead and slowed to a walk, just a plain walk, I got piled up on and pseudo-asked 'mind if I lead???" as the gal passed me. Gaiting.

            My poor horse- I did eventually hold him back to force/let him breathe...but it was not what I anticipated the day would be.

            look, it is hard to find a like minded group to ride with. This group is not for you if the Leader is unwilling to accommodate anyone but him/herself.


            • #7
              Ditto everyone else with one addition. What would have been best is for you both to work on training your horses together; switching places every few minutes. All horses have to learn, so I wouldn't be angry if a fellow rider asked for my help in this regard.

              But you don't get to be where ever you want just because your horse will dump you otherwise. That's like turning leadership of the group over to whoever whines the loudest.

              In general you will find COTHers aren't big on lazy horse-owners and part of training a trail horse is being able to put him where you ask him to be and have him at least accept it. If you aren't sure how to do it, that's a whole different thread.


              • #8
                Originally posted by gaitedincali View Post
                Because she was in front. That might have changed the second you swapped places. Then she'd be venting on a forum somewhere about how her horse would have been fine, if only the other people had just let her stay in the lead.
                That was my thought too.

                Look at the good side, you learned of a hole in your horse's training and now have something to work on.


                • #9
                  I guess I am lucky that at our barn when we go in a group for the most part we try to be mindful of the others horses and if they have issues do what we can to accommodate. Right now two of us have super greenies and sometimes that means we can't do much more than walk if they are acting up, but we know that when we go out. Another rider at our barn prefers to "go" the whole time so we wouldn't hold him up by taking the babies with him. I do think switching up the lead/order is good for everyone. Usually though the biggest issue is who will lead when a scary monster is lurking some where nearby (in the horses minds,) not who is in the back.


                  • #10
                    I would say find some other folks to ride with! I agree that your horse does need to be comfortable in all positions, but also that sometimes it takes some training time to get there. My horse is pretty good, until we add lots of speed (this spring, of course last fall he was perfect, sigh...). The other day we did this, and when one horse would get antsy in back, we'd switch, and again. It is helping all our horses, but you need good friends. My horse finally was actually was acting so bad we left the group and had a little session of our own. That can always be a fallback, though it is my last resort.

                    If you like these people, and you think they're worth riding with, maybe have a talk about it. And be ready to compromise, leapfrog is a great trail ride game. I know that scary feeling of riding a rocket that is about to go off, it is best to try and diffuse the situation in an educational way for your horse. Good luck!
                    "Do your best, and leave the rest, twill all come right, some day or night" -Black Beauty



                    • #11
                      I am kind of confused by the OP's post in that she stated: "for two of horses it was their first time going out." Do you mean first time EVER? Who rode the experienced horses and who rode the greenies? If it was the experienced horses that were acting up if they weren't in front then they should not have been going out with first timers. If it was the first time greenies that were acting up, then yes, whoever the experienced riders were who knew that they were going out with horses that were totally green on the trail should have accomodated and switched off as necessary so that the greenies could have a good experience.

                      I will say that this is one reason that I have always taught young horses to hack out alone. It is easier for me to deal with the young horse, and not to have to deal with other riders who have no clue about training a young horse.
                      "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller


                      • #12
                        I ride with people who are considerate of the other riders, we take into consideration the experience of the horse AND the rider. If we have a horse that is acting out like the OP's, by all means we will let that horse lead for a while. No sense in letting it become dangerous. We swap around leading, middle and following anyway, just to make it interesting. Let the horse be upfront for a while then move him back down the line later. Ride him again through the tandrums UNTIL IT BEFORE IT BECOMES DANGEROUS then move him back front.

                        No need to have a rider ride a bucking horse, which could also upset the other horses.

                        I do agree that a horse needs to learn to be leader, follower or in the middle, but with some horses that takes time. Hell sometimes it takes a while to be brave enough to be a leader! I have one mare that is happy as a lark in the middle or back but terrified to lead, riding her in the lead is like driving with the emergency brakes on! Juuuuuuussst slow enough and leg leg leg to move on. Also sometimes she's doing good leading though she moves like a pinball down the trail "ohh! Look at that!" (jumps to side) "Oh look at THAT!" (jumps to the other side). I finally have her to where she leads with confidence and less fit pitching.

                        It just takes time and patience, and good trail partners. You have to find the right match.
                        I want a signature but I have nothing original to say except: "STHU and RIDE!!!

                        Wonderful COTHER's I've met: belleellis, stefffic, snkstacres and janedoe726.


                        • #13
                          It would be safer if your horse was better trained before going on group rides. Getting “angry” and bucking you off because he is not getting his way is unacceptable.

                          Giving in to his hissy fit, and allowing him to be first would just further enforce “if I throw my head and buck, I get MY way”.

                          I would recommend trying to arrange a group ride with a trainer, or some more experienced people where you can work on training him to listen to you, and go in the back if needed.
                          APPSOLUTE CHOCKLATE - Photo by Kathy Colman


                          • #14
                            Couldn't you and the leader have ridden side by side?


                            • #15
                              Etiquette completely depends on context. I ride with one group where there are printed rules that all members are expected to follow. I ride with many small groups where we are pretty adaptable and not married to "should haves."

                              See, I'm from the mountain-sports school of thought, which is that if you don't agree to spend time teaching people how to DO the sport, then you quickly run out of friends to DO it with. If your horse is a more unpredictable type, I agree, find people to ride with who are ok with getting off and leading home (if need be.)

                              I've been the person on the pleasant, nice horse, who had to jump off and walk home with the person on the "brat." It's not a problem for me, really. No, I won't ride ahead and leave you alone to walk home by yourself Just like I won't bring you out snowboarding and abandon you on the precipice of a cliff so that I can go do "advanced" runs...or leave you hanging in a climbing harness because I'm sick of your whining. We're in it together dude, whether it's my horse OR yours who is being a brat.

                              Anyway, when the draft cross person let you know that her horse was only ok in the lead, I think my idea of "etiquette" would have been "ok guys, could we please stop and take a quick breather here? This isn't working, I need to change something." You could have discussed different ways to do the line up, or split off into two groups, or whatever you needed. It isn't very reasonable to expect that someone can accommodate you, right now, on the fly on any type of trail. It IS reasonable to let the leader know that you're having trouble, and could they please stop at a safe spot so that you can work it out.
                              Lifestyle coordinator for Zora, Spooky, Wolfgang and Warrior


                              • Original Poster

                                Thanks for all the great responses so far.

                                katarine - in a large group, my boy is exactly like that, he gets anxious. On the short walk on the road in order to get to the trails, he was fine, everyone was spread out, but as soon as we got in the woods, all engines were set to GO!

                                I held him back the entire trail, mostly he just jogged and chomped on the bit, but rating a tense horse only works for so long. The leader, her horse doesn't buck, it can't buck, and all it does is walk faster in order to get in front again, so it most certainly wouldn't of been a tense situation in that regard.

                                Eclectic Horseman: The two newbies are at the barn for the winter, so this was their first time going out on our trails, but experienced going out at their own home.

                                I agree with everyone saying he should be taught to be comfortable no matter where he is in the order, and most of the time he is as good as gold, even going on the buckle. He is perfectly fine at the walk, but anything faster his little Thoroughbred brain kicks into race mode. But, that's just making excuses for him.

                                I probably should of mentioned this in my original post, but the girl who was leading is someone I work with and don't along with at all. But, that is something for a different post. She was riding bareback, and I expect to show off to the two other people. Any other time we hack out she has no problem letting me lead.
                                Proud mother to Matt, a 18 year-old TB gelding.



                                • #17
                                  Sounds like just a bad idea.

                                  I would suggest going out with a group who wouldn't mind "training" on the trail...even if it means only going out one mile. If your horse is being a brat, you can't just hope he'll be better next time. You'll have to train him to work out of that, and that's only going to happen when you have people on your ride who are willing to help you out.


                                  • #18
                                    I always ask what kind of trail ride are we going on 1st. I had the best trail horse in the world for years and didn't worry about what she would do but sometimes we were in the middle of conditioning and a short walk was not in my plan for the day. However I love to trail ride and this horse used to be the bad horse in her early days, and I didn't mind at all riding out with folks on goofy horses to help them get through a ride and expected my horse to be a good citizen. It's always nice to help people be comfortable doing a sport you love.
                                    I have 2 horses I trail ride now, one is ancient and only walks but get hysterical if left behind, I think she's senile or blind or something because she wasn't always like this, I always ask 1st because if at any point the fellow trail riders are going to do anything but walk at a snails pace, I don't go.
                                    The other horse is a quick hot mustang and will enjoy walking for part of a ride but prefers to trot most of the way, so I ask 1st, she doesn't care where she is in the group if everyone is moving along.
                                    I expect both horses to behave but know where the holes are in their training, so might ask the group do you mind if I work on making the go go horse slow down and walk which might wind up in some twirling and spinning.
                                    If I have a really bad experience with folks who blatantly do not consider if one of the riders is in a dangerous situation, I avoid riding with them, I've also been riding long enough that any horse, at any moment can make a fool of you, so a little patience and tolerance is welcome from people who are supposed to be having a nice day out.
                                    I think in the op's case, it's not really anyone elses responsibility ultimately, you would hope other riders would be willing to change their riding to help someone having trouble but honestly this is something the Op might want to ask a rider who is willing to help her work on some of these issues before going out with a larger group.


                                    • #19
                                      I think you need to pick your trail buddies with care. If I were to go out with two green horse/riders and I were the seasoned steady Eddie I'd make darn sure that the other steady Eddie was someone that I already got along with.

                                      It's really pretty mortifying to be the supposedly quiet and well trained pair that are there to provide a steadying influence on the "newbies" and end up in a snowdrift because your opposite number is telling you she needs to be in front.
                                      Of course I suppose that's educational for a newbie as well, to learn that there are lots of dynamics to pleasant trail riding.
                                      Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                                      Incredible Invisible


                                      • #20
                                        I want to ride with Rubygirl.