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Ex show horse success on first trail ride alone

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  • Ex show horse success on first trail ride alone

    Well it was not exactly the first trail ride alone, but it was the first long trail ride alone to an actual public trail.

    I just have to say how proud I am of this horse. He is a nervous type TB and a year ago I barely attempted going 10 feet on a trail with him. He was terrible; spooking at everything, nervous, bucking at flies, panic attacks about footing, etc.

    Today however, we rode 2 miles to the trail and 2 back on roads, passed loud trucks, trailers, scary orange blown up halloween pumpkins and flags, mules, garbage on the road and in the field, and a dog running out at us. Then we get to the trail and passed a few little kids on bikes, dogs, other horses. My horse was excellent! Very alert, but very well behaved. He only had one spook the whole time. He did have a number of stops and wanting to turn back, but nothing big and I just kept encouraging him to keep going. He did start getting a little "hot" on the way home along the road (I got off and led him), but got quiet again once he knew where he was.

    It was so much fun. It will definitely be a part of our regular routine especially since hunting season is on. My horse's ears were straight up and forward the entire time. I think he really enjoyed it.

  • #2
    Wow--that's very impressive! Mind sharing how to worked toward this goal? My last trail ride with my dressage horse was NOT fun. It's one of my longterm goals to have the kind of experience you are having. Great job!


    • #3
      We took one of ours that had been very sucessful in the show ring showing Nationally we took her into competitve trail..on her first 50 miler at the first P&R she squared up,head up, ears up and forward, she looked very pretty...she thought it was a line up...once she caught on, she went on to being nationally ranked so they can change


      • #4
        Dogs, pumpkins, kids -- sweet that he was so easy-going! Congrats, that's very good progress. Yes, do share details if you please.


        • Original Poster


          I just typed a big long post then lost it...I'll see if I can remember what I said

          For my horse, I think a routine and bond is what has helped the most. I go to see him everyday, I ride 5-6 times a week. I have the same grooming, tack up, stretching, un-tacking, cool down, etc. routine. He is now in self care too, so I have even more time with him and more caretaking to do.

          Last year this time I literally feared a trail ride. I would go 10 steps and turn back. I barely made a 5-10 min trail ride with out my horse grinding his teeth. I just kept trying little by little. Before our arena work, I'd take a few steps on the trail and then the same after arena work. I'd drag my husband out with us and he'd walk on foot, which made me more relaxed therefore my horse was more relaxed. I also listened to my horse and when he seemed antsy and nervous we'd end the trail.

          I also took him on very short trailer rides with my sister and her horse. He was very, very nervous doing this at first, but started getting better. We'd try to do that once a week or once every two weeks. My sister moved and I didn't have a trailer so, it was back to just me and my horse. I learned my horse is better alone and it also made the trust grow with just the two of us.

          I think the key for this horse, was to go slow, don't overface, be very patient and give lots and lots of praise. He loves to be told he's a good boy. I talk to him all the time and pat him. I always reward anything scary he is willing to do no matter how small and make a big deal of it.

          For this ride, I prepared by going in bits and pieces. I drove the path first to see exactly where I'd ride along the road to the trail. I started down one road a few weeks ago and just kept going until I thought he had enough. My horse has much more difficulty mentally than physically, so I had to be careful not to fry his brain b/c he has a shut off point and after that it is not fun.

          So in this case, it takes trust, time, patience and lots and lots of praise and reward.

          A very cool thing happened the other day. We started on a trail by home and there were about 7 deer in the woods the started scurrying around. My horse stopped dead in his tracks and I could feel his heart racing and pounding on my leg. I stayed calm and started petting him on the neck and told him what a good boy he was. I literally could feel his heart rate going down as I talked to him and petted him. After I knew he was not going to explode, I encourage him to move forward and he did very carefully and looking for deer. Eventually he moved a little faster and let out a big sigh.

          The next time a deer jumped out in front of us, he stopped in his tracks again, but with no heart racing and then moved on...


          • #6
            Wow Serigraph,
            Your boy sounds terrific! That sounds like a lot for a *green trail horse* to experience in one day and behave so quietly.

            Although, I think the kudos also goes to you and your training methods. This is the same way I rode my trail pony at first. Baby steps... And after a year, she'll do anything for me.

            That bond and trust is incredible isn't it? Not knocking *Ring* riders, but the trust on the trails is something hard to explain.

            It goes 100 percent both ways... Your horse has to trust you 100 percent not to put him in unsafe situations and you have to put your trust 100 percent into your horse to keep you safe.
            Not something many people can say..

            Keep up the good work with your boy...
            MnToBe Twinkle Star: "Twinkie"

            Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!


            • #7
              You have about duplicated the regimen I used with Sadie, the Incredible Safety Horse. She was allegedly an experienced trail horse when I got her, which to my way of thinking meant she could go out alone in the woods with me and not kill me. Wrong. She was accustomed to being the autopilot on beersoaked "trail rides" which around here means about 300 horses and riders getting blotto in a group. Oops. Since she is a boss mare and didnt know me and didnt know diddly about going out solo she felt responsible for running away from anything unfamiliar to Keep The Herd Safe. I fell off. A lot. She fought me for leadership rights. We have worked it all out, she is still the Safety Officer but takes my advice in potential spook situations. I had to call Mr Jeano many many times when we'd get stuck--he'd show up and call her and she would agree to walk past the booger. Since we have come to an agreement she is a pure pleasure on the trails, road safe, very brave about all kinds of nasties, including mylar balloons, riding mowers, roofers, men in boats, trains, work trucks on the RR tracks, powerline treetrimming saws (aka giant horse eating giraffes) mules, donkeys, bison, and log trucks (as long as they are full of logs. She still gets worried about empty log trucks, very whistley when they go by.)


              • #8
                Congrats Serigraph, isn't it a great feeling?

                The regimen you describe is pretty much what I did with HRH Avery - albeit this was one TB I actually did *not* use a buddy horse with. Avery was so herdbound when I first started with him that I felt it was more important to keep his attention on ME, and NOT another horse. But yes, short trail rides to build confidence, and lots and lots of despooking exercises.

                Keep at it. Your "nervous" TB may end up the way HRH Avery did, and be the horse eeeeeeeeeeeeverybody wants to trail ride with, b/c he keeps his head when other horses are losing theirs, provides an excellent lead, and rarely spooks.
                "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief


                • Original Poster

                  I totally agree about the bond being different out on the trail than in the ring. We've done lots of ring work, but the trails is where I have learned I have to trust him too, not just him trusting me. If something awful happens in the ring, it is only a few steps back to the barn, but not the same on the trail. Just the two of you and nature.

                  I'm still a little in awe of how good he did. I hope I didn't jinx it!


                  • #10
                    Your post sounds alot like my method of getting my show hunter out of the ring and able to enjoy a nice trail ride. Our first tries were alot like yours, 10 steps to the tree line and 'out of here'. After a long year of pushing just a little bit beyond his comfort zone, we are now able to enjoy a nice solo trail ride, complete with deer and cows, which don't faze him in the least anymore.
                    There were a few episodes of running and bucking when the deer herd took off in the other direction and we are currently working on trying new trails and he is not so confident.
                    It is a really nice feeling when they trust you enough to go when they're scared.
                    "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." --Ghandi


                    • Original Poster

                      It is a very rewarding feeling when they are willing to do what you ask but still scared.

                      I love taking him on trail rides now. He seems so happy and proud of himself afterwards, and he nuzzles me too when I'm taking the tack off - maybe as if to say thanks for the change of pace...? I jumped him yesterday in the ring and he was still forward from the trail ride the day before. I think it is a really good "pipe cleaner" when you do too much ring work.

                      If I had tons of trails, I would just do all my work out of the ring!


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Serigraph View Post
                        It is a very rewarding feeling when they are willing to do what you ask but still scared.

                        I love taking him on trail rides now. He seems so happy and proud of himself afterwards, and he nuzzles me too when I'm taking the tack off - maybe as if to say thanks for the change of pace...? I jumped him yesterday in the ring and he was still forward from the trail ride the day before. I think it is a really good "pipe cleaner" when you do too much ring work.

                        If I had tons of trails, I would just do all my work out of the ring!
                        It is extremely rewarding with that two way trust. I feel more of a partnership and closeness is formed as opposed to ring riding.

                        I'll usually ride in the ring, then reward her with a nice trail ride or vice versa.
                        So glad everything is working out for you...
                        MnToBe Twinkle Star: "Twinkie"

                        Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!