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How to introduce horse to new trails with no one else to ride with?

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  • How to introduce horse to new trails with no one else to ride with?

    Sorry for the long title, couldn't think of a better way to put it!

    I'm at a new barn, been there a few months now. The maresie has settled in nicely, and we've been slowly working on the trails (which are quite extensive). She's quite used to being ridden by herself, as that's what we do the vast majority of the time. However, I really prefer to introduce a horse to new trails with another experienced mount along for the ride. It really does seem to help keep the horse confident and willing to check out new places.

    Unfortunately, that's just not an option for us. The few folks I see riding at my barn... I'd rather not ride with. It would be more risky than just riding by myself.

    So, how do you despook/introduce a horse to new trails without having a calm buddy along for the ride? The mare enjoys trails, but I wouldn't call her a trailmaster or anything. She spooks rather easily in new environments, and it can be hard to keep her composure. Once she's familiar with the trail? No problem, we're set. But GETTING her familiar with the trail, without having a quiet buddy to help us, has been difficult.
    Tell a Gelding. Ask a Stallion. Discuss it with a Mare... Pray if it's a Pony!

  • #2
    I'm interested in the replies as well. I started taking a new horse out a year ago. It took us awhile. There were rides where we didn't get too far because we wasted too much time sitting discussing our options (either you walk through the puddle, or we sit here 'til Tuesday ). I did have some Hairy Scairy moments (think herd of cows, nippy neighborhood JRTs etc), but he has become quite reliable... finally
    Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans

    Comment


    • #3
      Can you borrow a horse to pony her off of?
      Janet

      chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).

      Comment


      • #4
        I'm a Just Do It kinda gal. I had no one to ride out with when I got my Clyde-x either, so without a second thought, I just did it.

        The key is YOU: you need to stay quiet in the saddle, act like everything you come across has been seen a million times and is no big deal.

        When you do encounter a spookable that the mare reacts to, I accept a "halt and watch." I do not accept spin or back. If they do, I turn them back to whatever the spookable is and halt/watch. Then ask for forward again. Every bit of forward is rewarded verbally and with lots pats. Any spin or back, results in a more firm spin back to The Thing until obedient forward is given. Once we're past it, it's back to Oh It's No Big Deal again and the incident isn't given a second thought.

        It's the same now that we've been together 5 years. We always encounter something you can't plan for (see this thread: http://www.chronicleforums.com/Forum...75#post4448575

        So, just have at it!!!!
        Last edited by ChocoMare; Oct. 20, 2009, 01:17 PM.
        <>< Sorrow Looks Back. Worry Looks Around. Faith Looks Up! -- Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don't have to sit on it.

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        • Original Poster

          #5
          Originally posted by Janet View Post
          Can you borrow a horse to pony her off of?
          Possibly, but most of the trails aren't wide enough to really comfortably pony another horse. I'd also be concerned that if my mare spooked, I'd have to be worrying about containing my mare while holding onto the pony horse.
          Tell a Gelding. Ask a Stallion. Discuss it with a Mare... Pray if it's a Pony!

          Comment


          • #6
            If she is has decent ground manners and won't climb on top of you when spooked, take her for a walk in hand along the trail, at least the first section, before you ride it. That way she has a "lead."

            Then ride it and go a little further each time, just pushing her a little beyond her comfort zone but not too far. If she is balky, just ask for a few steps more, not the earth and sky, return and repeat. The idea is to build confidence for the long run as well as just gain ground on the trail.

            Break it up into little bites and you'll get the whole trail done without incident, I bet. The good thing about riding alone is that you can be a patient trainer without spoiling someone else's ride.
            Publisher, http://www.endurance-101.com
            Blog: http://blog.seattlepi.com/horsebytes/

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            • Original Poster

              #7
              Originally posted by ChocoMare View Post
              I'm a Just Do It kinda gal. I had no one to ride out with when I got my Cklyde-x either, so without a second thought, I just did it.

              The key is YOU: you need to stay quiet in the saddle, act like everything you come across has been seen a million times and is no big deal.

              When you do encounter a spookable that the mare reacts to, I accept a "halt and watch." I do not accept spin or back. If they do, I turn them back to whatever the spookable is and halt/watch. Then ask for forward again. Every bit of forward is rewarded verbally and with lots pats. Any spin or back, results in a more firm spin back to The Thing until obedient forward is given. Once we're past it, it's back to Oh It's No Big Deal again and the incident isn't given a second thought.

              It's the same now that we've been together 5 years. We always encounter something you can't plan for (see this thread: http://www.chronicleforums.com/Forum...75#post4448575

              So, just have at it!!!!
              That's pretty much what I've been doing so far. But our progress is SO MUCH SLOWER compared to when we have a buddy.
              Tell a Gelding. Ask a Stallion. Discuss it with a Mare... Pray if it's a Pony!

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                Originally posted by monicabee View Post
                If she is has decent ground manners and won't climb on top of you when spooked, take her for a walk in hand along the trail, at least the first section, before you ride it. That way she has a "lead."

                Then ride it and go a little further each time, just pushing her a little beyond her comfort zone but not too far. If she is balky, just ask for a few steps more, not the earth and sky, return and repeat. The idea is to build confidence for the long run as well as just gain ground on the trail.

                Break it up into little bites and you'll get the whole trail done without incident, I bet. The good thing about riding alone is that you can be a patient trainer without spoiling someone else's ride.
                I've done that as well, take her for "trail walks". She's totally confident as long as I'm standing at her side. The second I hop up into the saddle, the confidence is blown to smithereens and we're seemingly back at square one.

                That's a good idea though, doing the trail in small sections. Most of the trails here are big loops, around a pasture, around a field, etc, etc. I've been doing an entire loop at a time, and by the time we're done, she's just quite frazzled and acts like, "Phew, glad THAT'S over!".

                Perhaps I need to start cutting the loops down into small sections, and like you said, have her go just a bit past her comfort level, then turn back. Then each time, ask for a bit further.
                Tell a Gelding. Ask a Stallion. Discuss it with a Mare... Pray if it's a Pony!

                Comment


                • #9
                  I think it so depends on the horse, and their personality. It sounds like you think your horse would be much better off if she got out there a few times with another good horse. I don't suppose you have a friend from your old barn or somewhere else who could trailer in once or twice to ride with you? For safety sake, that might be the thing to do.

                  But if you want to try it alone, monicabee's suggestions are good, and worked for me when I was leasing two different OTTB mares. With my current TWH though, he's not brave and that approach would traumatize him. But oddly, he's fine with stuff after I hand walk him past it (once usually does the trick) -- so I'd be taking my horse for a hand walk, and then riding him back.
                  "Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall." - Confucious
                  <>< I.I.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Too funny. My barn also features the Jack Russells (and often puddles) en route to the trails.

                    The best thing I've found is, frankly, singing (however badly). My horse responds well to "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," "Michael Row the Boat Ashore," "I've been Working on the Railroad," "I Ride an Old Paint", and "O Clementine." Also, "Ravioli, I like Ravioli" for when she's not jigging, but seems to benefit from alittle help in keeping her tempo at a good strong walk (she's walking nicely, but then she sees a bush or flower that she feels is NQR, for example).

                    If some feature of the the trail genuinely scares her, I will get off and lead her past it ONE OR TWO TIMES. After that, she needs to get over herself. I do lead her through water crossings where I can't tell the depth or what's under the water (usually a big fat hole that I fall in while she stands there looking at me enquiringly).

                    Comment

                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      Originally posted by jazzrider View Post
                      I think it so depends on the horse, and their personality. It sounds like you think your horse would be much better off if she got out there a few times with another good horse. I don't suppose you have a friend from your old barn or somewhere else who could trailer in once or twice to ride with you? For safety sake, that might be the thing to do.

                      But if you want to try it alone, monicabee's suggestions are good, and worked for me when I was leasing two different OTTB mares. With my current TWH though, he's not brave and that approach would traumatize him. But oddly, he's fine with stuff after I hand walk him past it (once usually does the trick) -- so I'd be taking my horse for a hand walk, and then riding him back.
                      Unfortunately there's really no chance of me being able to ride with the quiet folks I used to ride with.

                      I really think the doing the trail in small sections will help, though. I've done that before, along a particular stretch of trail she hated. There were really thick pine trees... and barn cats thought it was funny to pop out of the trees and watch the horsey become airborne.
                      Tell a Gelding. Ask a Stallion. Discuss it with a Mare... Pray if it's a Pony!

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        Originally posted by SharonA View Post
                        Too funny. My barn also features the Jack Russells (and often puddles) en route to the trails.

                        The best thing I've found is, frankly, singing (however badly). My horse responds well to "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," "Michael Row the Boat Ashore," "I've been Working on the Railroad," "I Ride an Old Paint", and "O Clementine." Also, "Ravioli, I like Ravioli" for when she's not jigging, but seems to benefit from alittle help in keeping her tempo at a good strong walk (she's walking nicely, but then she sees a bush or flower that she feels is NQR, for example).
                        That's a good idea, helps me keep my breathing relaxed and stuff too!
                        Tell a Gelding. Ask a Stallion. Discuss it with a Mare... Pray if it's a Pony!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I talk alot too... "you do see that rock/bike/tractor don't you?" And my favorite "oh yes you will."

                          I've also found one method that helps me make sure my body language isn't blocking him. I'm pretty sure when I identify a possible problem looming, I block his forward progress with my hand and leg without really knowing it. So, to get around this, I point my rein hand in the direction I want us to go. That seems to help. We have done quite a bit of stopping and studying, a minimal amount of spinning and bolting, and I've only dismounted to lead twice.

                          I have the added advantage of boarding at my mother's house. When I first started out, I had her or my step father walk with us through a couple of places. My horse knows and trusts both of them. I'm pretty sure I would have never gotten across the shallow ravine in the woods if my step father had not stood at the bottom of it so my horse could judge the depth. He must have fairly rotten depth perception. So, if you can find a non-horse friend who might like to go for a hike, that will help too.
                          Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            When I started my horse on trails, it was handwalking as a yearling. Very short ones of course. We went out with others (they rode, I walked) every once in a while. Sometimes friends would come walking with us.

                            As he matured I moved on to ground driving him. Then of course once he was saddle broke to under saddle work.

                            He is great with other horses, or if folks come walking with us (my SO is great for that). He is okay but not super brave under saddle by himself.

                            We wear bells (part of rythm beads) to help flush out the deer way out (as opposed to under our feet). I also hire a trainer about every month or two to come out and ride with us and I work on him leading (he prefers to follow). We leap frog- she leads, then we lead, then switch. This is building his confidence quite nicely.

                            I also ride in the park from time to time with one neighbor- we need to trailer there so I fill his gas tank and he gets someone to ride with him (both horses are quiet).

                            So you have a couple of ways to accomplish this objective as I have outlined here. My horse MUCH prefers the trail to the ring so he is pretty good nowadays. He is also over 20 yo so that helps, but he was generally quiet even when he was a 4 yo.
                            Appy Trails,
                            Kathy, Cadet & CCS Silinde
                            member VADANoVA www.vadanova.org

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Pay a trainer to come to you and take you both out on the trails. You don't trailer out, so this may be the fastest, simplest thing. Free, no. Done fast? Yes.

                              I bet ONE of the other riders at your barn is decent enough as a person, and would be glad to help you if you asked. There has to be ONE decent person there. Maybe loosening your primness girdle will free you to see that someone in that mix can serve your needs

                              Good luck

                              Comment

                              • Original Poster

                                #16
                                Originally posted by baylady7 View Post
                                When I started my horse on trails, it was handwalking as a yearling. Very short ones of course. We went out with others (they rode, I walked) every once in a while. Sometimes friends would come walking with us.

                                As he matured I moved on to ground driving him. Then of course once he was saddle broke to under saddle work.

                                He is great with other horses, or if folks come walking with us (my SO is great for that). He is okay but not super brave under saddle by himself.

                                We wear bells (part of rythm beads) to help flush out the deer way out (as opposed to under our feet). I also hire a trainer about every month or two to come out and ride with us and I work on him leading (he prefers to follow). We leap frog- she leads, then we lead, then switch. This is building his confidence quite nicely.

                                I also ride in the park from time to time with one neighbor- we need to trailer there so I fill his gas tank and he gets someone to ride with him (both horses are quiet).

                                So you have a couple of ways to accomplish this objective as I have outlined here. My horse MUCH prefers the trail to the ring so he is pretty good nowadays. He is also over 20 yo so that helps, but he was generally quiet even when he was a 4 yo.
                                The rhythm beads with bells idea is an interesting one I never thought about, I wonder if they would help my mare focus in that they drown out a little bit of the noises she occasionally spooks at? It would also be nice to help warn the wildlife that we're coming, as you mentioned!
                                Tell a Gelding. Ask a Stallion. Discuss it with a Mare... Pray if it's a Pony!

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's off to work we go also works really well.

                                  I've also just started carrying my iphone in my pocket, with a perky but not distracting music shuffle playing. We had a great ride yesterday - the music seems to keep me focused and relaxed, and horsie seems to enjoy it a lot.

                                  That was indoors, but I'm looking forward to doing it outdoors too.

                                  Originally posted by SharonA View Post
                                  Too funny. My barn also features the Jack Russells (and often puddles) en route to the trails.

                                  The best thing I've found is, frankly, singing (however badly). My horse responds well to "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," "Michael Row the Boat Ashore," "I've been Working on the Railroad," "I Ride an Old Paint", and "O Clementine." Also, "Ravioli, I like Ravioli" for when she's not jigging, but seems to benefit from alittle help in keeping her tempo at a good strong walk (she's walking nicely, but then she sees a bush or flower that she feels is NQR, for example).

                                  If some feature of the the trail genuinely scares her, I will get off and lead her past it ONE OR TWO TIMES. After that, she needs to get over herself. I do lead her through water crossings where I can't tell the depth or what's under the water (usually a big fat hole that I fall in while she stands there looking at me enquiringly).

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Typically I have the opposite problem, horses want to take off into Unexplored Territory, thru swamps, into bear traps...

                                    But, pretty much what ChocoMare said. When I became a 52 yr old re re rider with no-one to ride with a little over3 years ago, I had to ride out alone a lot and still do. I have taken several different new horses places that neither one of us ever had been.

                                    When I first had Sadie, she was firmly convinced that everything was a Death Trap. We just had to deal with stuff as it came up. Even though she was terribly afraid of stuff, (and didnt trust me for a long time) she's also very curious and is usually the first horse in a group to pull up her big girl panties and go forward.

                                    She still spooks at stuff, particularly if its a new booger in a familiar place. Other day she saw the Giant Garbage Can on Wheels for the first time in the neighbor's driveway (we just got garbage pickup for the rural parts of our county a few weeks ago.) Sadie spooked in place, didnt wheel, but also didnt want to go past the booger. I laughed at her and repeated a familiar phrase from when I was doing clicker training with her a couple years ago: 'Can you touch it?' Then I told her I'd give her a peppermint if she touched it with her nose. Whereupon she marched over, nosed it good, and begged nicely for her peppermint.

                                    I had never used the phrase for anything but targeting, and havent done any clicker stuff with her in ages and ages. Decided that's a handy thing to have in the tool-kit, though.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Why don't you convince your horse that you are the calm, experienced buddy. You will take care of her no matter what, so she trusts you and no ground is ever totally new when you are with her.

                                      I'm thinking this is more a confidence issue for you than for the horse. You may need the buddy horse more than your mare. She may be responding you your lack of confidence. Perhaps you can get somebody to go out with you on a mountain bike. Or hiking.
                                      Last edited by matryoshka; Oct. 21, 2009, 08:58 AM.
                                      "Passion without knowledge is a runaway horse."

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I'm in the just do it category. I ride by myself a lot and try and find new places all of the time.
                                        Missouri Fox Trotters-To ride one is to own one

                                        Standardbreds, so much more then a harness racing horse.

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