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How do horses find there way

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  • How do horses find there way

    I moved to a new barn & have been. Trail riding a lot lately. I rode some at another barn but on roads, it was hard to get lost lol. This new barn has trails that well arent really trails, they are more like deer pathes. Also we have to go out & come back the same way but the grass/brush cn be so thick you cant see your tracks. So how does this horse (we go out alone mostly) know how to find where he came from? Does he smell his trail even if its been wet & a coupld hours since we came through?
    “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Peter Drucker

  • #2
    Don't count on the horse. My horse will never find his way back, I have given him the opportunity many times .


    • Original Poster

      So far hes nearly perfect sometimes I have to back up & renavigate but 9/10 times can find his way out of the big meadow that is where the trail ends.
      “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Peter Drucker


      • #4
        Horses have a much finer tuned awareness than we do. Some are good at getting home from anywhere, some don't seem to care or pay attention. Long ago a lot of horses were driven from home to where ever they went, and when going home didn't need to be steered. I've heard many accounts of driving or riding away from home, and then if they wanted to stay and get the horse home, they just turn em loose and send em off. We don't see much of it since very few of us use horses like that any more. Do a set pattern of something a few times and soon they know the routine and can do it on their own. The loggers who used mules would use that nature to get logs out, after some time of driving them, the mules would go back and forth between logging site and truck on their own, just needed someone at both ends to hook up logs and unhook. Moving to a new site, one trip to where the logs were and they knew where to go. (my first equine was a retired logging mule) And I heard about a horse who could do math problems so well even the owner was baffled, he'd state a problem and the horse would give the right answer every time without him giving any cues. They finally figured out the horse was sensing the emotion of the audience. The audience was inadvertently giving him the answer.


        • #5
          I think horses either have it, or they don't.

          I have managed to part ways with my horse on numerous occasions. Unfortunately he's not the kind to hang around while I regroup, and twice this has taken place away from home-- once on an offsite trail ride about 1 1/2 miles from home, and another time when we had trailered to an event, some 150 miles from home.

          When I came off on our trail ride, he made a beeline for the farm and predictably arrived as expected a few minutes later (I called a friend whom I knew was at the barn at the time, to keep an eye out for him). When I came off at the event, he actually made a beeline for OUR exact trailer in a sea of other trailers, coming to a sliding stop right in front of his own haynet.

          I'm not glad I've come off, but I am enormously grateful to know that my horse knows where to go if/when he takes off... (Now, how exactly does one teach them to stay put when we fall off???)
          *friend of bar.ka

          "Evidently, I am an unrepentant b*tch, possible trouble maker, and all around super villian"


          • #6
            Originally posted by cnvh View Post
            (Now, how exactly does one teach them to stay put when we fall off???)

            Ahh! now that's the realm of some skilled "natural horsemanship" training.
            To teach the horse that I am your herd boss, I am your comfort, with me is your safety zone, (as well as food source) stay with me. Can be done using herd social elements in training. But again; may not work with every horse the same, some would take to it better than others. I once watched a mare teach her foal to stay with her, we can use the same technique. The closest I've seen a man come to imitating that technique was done by Marv Walker. A natural horsemanship trainer but not a well known one. He makes home made videos and sells them cheap enough so anyone can get em.


            • #7
              For some reason my TB mare has never left me when I have fallen off(let me knock on wood). The last two times have been several years ago, prior to that many years previous. The two most recent times were at a group trail ride where we had some turkeys fly up in the horses' faces, which resulted in spooking, bucking and bolting. A friend and I were a distance away from the main group as we didn't want to walk thru the tall grass. One horse was kind of green and he ran thru the small section of woods towards us which resulted in him breaking off a post with some barbed wire and dragging it thru the woods. This kind of unraveled my normally BTDT mare. She and the other horse with us turned and bolted back down a fairly narrow trail. They kind of bumped into each other and my mare who has a bit of a personal bubble swerved sharply to the side and I came off. I knew my horse was long gone. Imagine my surprise when I rolled over to find her standing over me so the other horse wouldn't step on me. The other time I fell was due to my mare's foot going thru a bridge. I didn't know what was happening, she started scrambling like crazy and then lost her footing and went down to her knees. I fell off and hit the ground hard. She stood up, stopped and turned and stood a few feet away from me while I tried to catch my breath and get up. I did a ton of ground work with her when I bought her as a yearling so maybe I inadvertantly taught her this.


              • #8
                Originally posted by cnvh View Post
                (Now, how exactly does one teach them to stay put when we fall off???)
                COTH member Reed had a cool video where a young horse dumped him in the nice fresh snow. I think the horse was a 3 year old. The horse fairly quickly came back to Reed. He explained that he spent time feeding treats to the horse while on the ground as part of his training. So the horse figured Reed is on the ground I guess I come back for my treats.
                Oh, well, clearly you're not thoroughly indoctrinated to COTH yet, because finger pointing and drawing conclusions are the cornerstones of this great online community. (Tidy Rabbit)


                • #9
                  A few years ago Mr. PoPo was riding my QH down our irrigation ditch to cool out after a ride. Neighbors at the end of a ditch had gotten a new hog that hadn't been there the last time. QH spun and left Mr. PoPo hanging in the air like a cartoon. After he landed, he figured horse had run home (there was really only one way to go and home was it) since horse wasn't there anymore. He got up and dusted himself off and was surprised when horse came running back to him, like, "what are you doing, there's a hog, you need to RUN with me now!!!!" Never leave a man behind!!!
                  "A horse's face always conveys clearly whether it is loved by its owner or simply used." - Anja Beran


                  • #10
                    My Arab led us out of a trail deep in the woods when downed trees forced us to go way off the trail. He had only been on the trail once before, and it was 11 months previous. He got us back on the trail several times as we went around the mess. Several times we had no clue where we were, but he apparently did. We went back to the trail several months later, and he did the same. I have tested him several times since then, purposely going off the trail as far as a half mile, and he never fails to find his way back to the trail. I have no explanation for this, but I am glad he has the ability. He also stays put when ever I happen to come off of him. He is a great trail horse.


                    • #11
                      All depends on the horse...

                      My most excellent and intelligent mare always stayed right with me the few times I fell off of her - one time was an accident where we both fell while on an incline, and I hit my head and was out. It was at an event, there were horses tearing around in every direction, and the stabling was right there, but she got up and stood overtop of me, I'm told with a look of "oh god I've killed her!" on her face. Somebody had to come lead her away from me because she wouldn't move.

                      Now my childhood gelding? More than once he dumped my butt waaaaaaaay out in the middle of nowhere, and I always found him back at the stable eating grass in our hunt field, once I had managed to walk all the way back there myself... he ALWAYS knew where home was!
                      Eventing-A-Gogo: Adventures of a Barefoot Event Horse and her Human
                      The Reeling: An Unexpected Mareventure


                      • Original Poster

                        I find it helps when you keep a grip on the reins

                        Theres times I think hes just lost cause there is no trail but then I see something I know, hes just that good it sounds really strange that a horse can find a path like that. I dont know if he was on trails much before I got him, he didnt seem like it but nbow I wonder.
                        “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Peter Drucker


                        • #13
                          I have no idea how they find their way, they just do.
                          Even my old OTTB that was a lousy trail horse could.
                          My best story pertains to my best horse, a Haflinger gelding.
                          We moved from OH to AZ & at first, the desert all looked the same to me. I was scared to death that I would get lost. I had ridden a lot in a regional park, but was on a bootleg trail new to me. We came to an intersection. My horse smelled the ground & turned right. I wanted to go straight. I 'knew' right was not the way home. I was wrong. The trail he turned on went back home & we had been on it many times before, but never coming from the bootleg trail. I don't believe we had been on it recently enough for him to smell himself. It was probably over a week since the last time we'd ridden there.
                          Edited due to grammar, punctuation, spelling, STML & ADD.


                          • #14
                            My friend and I were riding in a big preserve one day and had made our way all the way to the back when a storm developed and was coming at us fast. We were trying to get back to the trailer but had a long way to go...my horse kept insisting that we cut into the palmettos. We had never been to this park before but he was adamant about taking the hard left (the trailer was straight and then to the left retracing our path, which was the only path we knew). From prior experience I knew this horse was always good at finding his way home, so I told my friend to trust him and we blasted thru the palmettos as the big black cloud and thunder got closer. Lo and behold, beyond the palmettos was an easement that took us straight back to the trailer! We galloped down that easement just ahead of the storm and just got the horses on the trailer before the sky opened up. It was an exhilarating ride and it really reinforced my faith in my horse and his sense of direction! To this day I have no idea how he knew that easement was there for us but he did! Jake is an amazing trail horse, worth his weight in gold!


                            • #15
                              One time I trucked my pony to go out riding with a friend and her newly backed youngster. We went for miles, up in the forest, down narrow trails,between trees. When the light began to fade friend said she knew the way down to get us home quickly, but we found the road barred by huge fallen trees.
                              It was getting dark, and we were a couple of hours out and no direct way home. My pony got very reluctant to follow her horse, and finally friend had to admit she was lost. It was dark, and the night fog was coming down.
                              My pony, once I let her have her head, marched purposefully home, the last mile down the centre line of a tar-sealed road in dense fog. She had never been in that part of the country before.
                              She is an endurance horse, and reads the markers when we're out on track,. She is not averse to taking a short-cut if she sees a marker heading in the direction of the starting point, no matter how far out we are, lol.


                              • #16
                                [QUOTE=JohnDeere;7107844]I find it helps when you keep a grip on the reins


                                I did this twice last year, and both times dislocated my fingers. I'm hoping if it ever happens again, I can let go....but there's this overwhelming urge to hold those reins!


                                • #17
                                  Frequently when I'm out on the trail I'll let my mustang choose the path home, since there are lots of return options to choose from. He usually chooses the fastest route!

                                  I've always thought he'd be a good tracking horse - he uses his nose a lot. On a recent trail ride, we went up to the forest with Mr. PoPo who was on his mountain bike and took off before we did. I let Mac choose which way to go and it turned out he was tracking Mr. PoPo because we ran into him after he had looped back and was returning to the trailer!
                                  "A horse's face always conveys clearly whether it is loved by its owner or simply used." - Anja Beran


                                  • #18
                                    I'm not glad I've come off, but I am enormously grateful to know that my horse knows where to go if/when he takes off... (Now, how exactly does one teach them to stay put when we fall off???)
                                    I've actually participated in such training- you start out by putting a dummy, such as a bag of sand, on the saddle and lunge the horse, and when the dummy falls off you tell the horse to whoa and then feed the horse treats. After a few reps, the horse will start anticipating and will stop as soon as the dummy falls off- you've trained the horse to stop on the cue of his "passenger" hitting the ground.
                                    Then you add in a rider getting off- every time the rider dismounts, you make sure the horse stands motionless for a few minutes, giving treats sometimes.
                                    If you have a really athletic person who is willing to do flying dismounts, now you can expand the training to a person "falling" off.

                                    It's dangerous to try to hang onto the reins.

                                    You can also teach horses to come when called.

                                    as to finding their way, I think they use the same methods we use- observing landmarks, forming mental "maps" of the area in their heads. Plus of course they have a better sense of smell than we do, and can follow their scent-trail back. Many people, especially in this day of the GPS, don't pay much attention to their surroundings and thus fail to observe landmarks and fail to form mental "maps" of the area. Horses don't spend the ride out chatting with their friend and ignoring the trail- they study the trail.


                                    • #19
                                      Another thing about my Arab: Sometimes on trails we ride, like all of you I am sure, there are temporary obstructions that force us to venture off the trail to get around those obstacles. On subsequent rides when the obstacles have been removed we can use the normal trail again. It never fails though, that my horse takes a look at the exact spot where we had to leave the trail previously, even when I do not remember or recognize those spots. Even if we only took that route once he always remembers. He is uncanny. Sometimes I let him turn onto the alternate route just to let him know he was correct in remembering where we turned. Like a poster above stated, when my horse chooses a route, it is always the shortest route it seems.


                                      • #20
                                        My friend's QH can ALWAYS find his way back to 'home' whether that's just the trailer/campsite or actual home no matter how badly the humans have screwed things up.

                                        One year we were out on some familiar trails, but there had been a ton of flooding and we had been told all trails were open. They weren't. Some were still actually flooded out. Others were just so clogged we couldn't get down them. What started out as a short ride before dinner, turned into a several hour adventure in the dark. We finally gave up, put Bert in the lead, gave him his head and hoped for the best. We had been trying to stay out of the woods (there are trails in the woods and trails that go around the woods in this park) because we could see much better out there. Bert immediately dove into the woods and walked with a purpose. We went with it. About 45 minutes later he had us back at camp looking around at us like the stupid humans we were. I have no idea how he (or my gelding) saw anything at all, but they got us back safely.