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"Well, he'll make a good trail horse..."

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  • "Well, he'll make a good trail horse..."

    I was out at the barn last night, helping feed while my 6yo OTTB ran his stupids out in the indoor arena (He's far too well-fed, and underworked this winter!) and asked a boarder how the footing was out in the outdoor as they had their horse out there earlier. There's a good foot and a half of snow, which is fine, but it's been unseasonably warm, and melting... and I wasn't entirely sure it wouldn't have gotten slippery under the snow, as other horses have been cut loose in the outdoor arena previously and it's packed slightly in some places.

    They thought it was fine, but proceeded to scoff at my concern re: the footing if he's running out there. Apparently, there isn't anything I could do to hurt that horse.

    I was like...Huh? He's in the indoor as we speak, running like an absolute idiot. He has a ton of energy, and zero common sense. Sometimes, it looks like his leg bends in 3 directions as he slams on the brakes, wheels, flings legs around, and then digs in and runs so hard and fast that he leaves 3 inch+ divots in the sand.

    So I'm a little bit perturbed by this because I know my horse, and I know where his common sense ends (it never really begins, some days!), and even after I try to point this out, and that it's not an issue of anything I would do, it's what he would do to himself, he is insistent that honestly, I don't need to worry, I can't hurt that horse, he's tougher than I think.

    He's a wimp and a walking disaster. I would probably make a good return if I invested in stock in penicillin.... He's also, despite only being six, got minor arthritic changes in his stifles due to running as a 3yo on a sloppy track when he was big, gangly, and immature. No big deal, he's sound, I like him, he'll never be a upper jumping horse, but whatever. (Actually, he still thinks jumping is deadly, so we haven't quite managed to get the over fences thing down)

    So he asks if he was off the track. Yes, I say... And he was bred for it, and had the talent for it, but just didn't want to and didn't run well at all.

    So he says... "Well, he'll make a nice trail horse."

    WTF? I've worked my butt off with this horse, who is only finally accepting contact after 3 years (I'm not the best rider, and he's very, very neurotic about contact...sensitive mouth + jerk of a trainer = horse who goes "Don't touch my mouth." regularly), and while we aren't very good at it, he is very much more my dressage horse (he is awesome on the trail, I can even get trees stuck between him and my leg and he just walks along marvelling at how his stupid human can't remember that she's supposed to be sitting ON him, NOT hanging off of his side.... all the while the tree and my foot are digging into his flank, and ending up under his tail......) and I would still like to get him jumping.

    It didn't really hit me at the time, but later I got kind of insulted. Like what, all he's good for is to be just a trail horse? Well shit, no duh I won't hurt him if all he ever did was toodle down the road.

    I mean, I love trail riding - I truly do. But I've worked my butt off with Poly, and we had walk-canter transitions this summer before he quite brilliantly sliced his gaskin open this fall. I have never ridden a walk canter transition in my life on a horse, let alone one that I owned, and I got him doing them this summer. He's becoming more responsive and more maneuverable by the day, and... he may not be brilliant, but I'd like to think he's got potential to be more than a trail horse...And they've got a 22yo OTTB, so it's not like they've zero experience with TB's who once were at the track.....

    Put blankly... I'm really kind of insulted, right now.

    for those who maybe remember when I got Poly... he's really changed and looks pretty awesome, now. Eats me out of house and home, though!

    "Show me the back of a thoroughbred horse, and I will show you my wings."

  • #2
    Well... it's sort of hard to be insulted by somebody that dumb. I just wouldn't waste any energy fuming about it.
    "Uh, if you're going to try that, shouldn't you unplug it first?"


    • #3
      Honestly, they sound like they don't know much about TB's. I would ignore their comment. If you want to persue jumping, or dressage, then try! Make it a goal to prove them wrong. Your horse sounds a lot like mine - I have a goofy WB that caught his hind legs up on the pasture fence last year kicking at a friend, and was on stall rest for months. They will mellow out sometime. Boys just can be boys
      proud owner of a crazy dutch warmblood


      • #4
        Pfffft. My BO's SO informed me one day the "Ammy's should NEVER own a TBs. Only professionals!". You should have seen the look on his face when I said that reason I LIKE my mare is because her TB side shows through so strongly.

        People just don't understand!
        "Adulthood? You're playing with ponies. That is, like, every 9 year old girl's dream. Adulthood?? You're rocking the HELL out of grade 6, girl."


        • #5
          You know - it just an opinion - blow it off!!!

          When I was a young adult I rode my AQHA mare with Sally Swift who HATED her! But I loved her and she was my horse. Honestly the mare never made the eventer I had hoped for, but she did go on to produce multiple superior horses in several events and even 2 World Champions. So Miss Swift HATED her but the mare really was somebody special. It never ever diminished my love and respect for dear Miss Swift!
          "If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there"


          • #6
            Sometimes people think ALL OTTBs are unsound, damaged, injured, something of the sort, and that's why they're not racing. Maybe that's what they meant. I have met several OTTBs that are sound and "normal," but they just weren't racers. They weren't hot enough; they weren't fast enough, and they enjoy another "career."
            If wishes were horses then beggars would ride...
            DLA: Draft Lovers Anonymous
            Originally posted by talkofthetown
            As in, the majikal butterfly-fahting gypsy vanners.


            • #7
              There's no such thing as "just" a trail horse. A good trail horse is worth it's weight in gold. I'd consider their albeit ignorant statement a compliment. Not many TBs I've seen are trailmasters.
              Tell a Gelding. Ask a Stallion. Discuss it with a Mare... Pray if it's a Pony!


              • #8
                Originally posted by sublimequine View Post
                There's no such thing as "just" a trail horse. A good trail horse is worth it's weight in gold. I'd consider their albeit ignorant statement a compliment. Not many TBs I've seen are trailmasters.
                It's funny, almost all the ones I've been on in the last year have been fantastic on trails

                They get used to a lot of stuff at the track

                OP, did this person know you or anything about what you do with your horse? If not, I wouldn't think it's an insult. He may have even been trying to be friendly. Try not to let it bug you too much.
                "smile a lot can let us ride happy,it is good thing"

                My CANTER blog.


                • #9
                  I guess it's your right to feel offended...
                  I was THRILLED when I took my newly adopted Thoroughbred on the trail and he was nice and steady, paid no heed to the rumming horses in the field nearby, looked and snorted at the elks but kept going, didn't even noticed when he stepped on a really loud plastic bottle (and my heart skipped a few beats as I was bracing for a wreck...)

                  For me, a horse that IS good on the trail, by himself noneless, is a good horse. Promising for going out on the cross country course, etc...
                  "When life gives you scurvy, make lemonade."


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by sublimequine View Post
                    There's no such thing as "just" a trail horse. A good trail horse is worth it's weight in gold
                    My boy used to be a show horse...but hated it; However is one of the most amazing trail horses I've ever ridden....You wouldn't believe the amount of training that I put on him to have him become 'just a trail horse'. My horse can jump and maneuver obstacles that would scare the poop out of some other horses!!!!!

                    Why do people always feel the need to make STUPID comments.....how about we enjoy our horses and let our horses enjoy their time with us....whether we choose western/ hunting/ jumping / trail....whatever...enjoy the precious moments with your beastie.


                    • #11
                      You were telling him your horse failed at his previous and the guy comes back with something he'll be GOOD at. Sounds pretty positive to me!!!


                      • #12
                        It didn't really hit me at the time, but later I got kind of insulted.
                        Get over it--really! I don't know why people are insulted when someone says their horse could be a trail horse! That happens to be a compliment. Do you know how many horses can't be trail horses???? A lot of them! And why--because they don't have riders who can teach them to be trail horses. It takes a special horse to be a trail horse--that is not a slam (at least it wouldn't be to me). It takes a horse with a great mind to be able to do trails.... I had a TB for over fifteen years. She was a bit of a frenetic, wild one but within a year or two we had our act together--she was my first TB. What an education, to say the very least. She was the fastest, smartest, most level-headed, trustworthy, and forgiving horse I have ever rode and she made one great trail horse!

                        But the fact remains that TBs are their own worst enemies. Although I fed her with an eye to keeping her energy on an even keel she was just Hell on wheels! I figured her legs would give out but I tried my darndest to keep her from hurting or killing herself. She finally succumbed after injuring her knee--she was 23 years old when she had to be put down. I was hoping I could keep her safer longer but TBs just have that GO, GO, GO bred into them. :sad: You do have to think for these TBs--most don't seem to realize how they could hurt themselves tearing around. More than once my heart was in my throat watching my horse tear around the pasture and then coming to sliding stops! I really expected her to break a leg at some point--not an easy way to have to live....

                        You know, TBs are not for everyone. If your horse is still a wreck after all this time you might want to find a different trainer who knows more about TBs to guide you in your education. I have had a handful of formal lessons but trained my horse myself. It was a long road but I learned more from her in those fifteen + years than I had from all the horses I have ever worked with in my entire life.

                        Whenever I had a problem I read, and read, and read some more. I picked people's brains if I thought they had an answer for me, took a lesson from anyone I thought could get us past whatever roadblock du jour that was troubling us. I formulated a plan on my own--first you have to know what your goal is, then you have to figure out how to get there.

                        Not all trainers are created equal either. I know a lot of trainers think they know how to deal with TBs but the truth is it takes a special person to get the horse to really work for them. That also goes for owners also.
                        Have we learned nothing from the Romans???


                        • #13
                          Wow, BoldChance, there's that's quite a point of view. There are those who ride on trails because they enjoy trails, and then there are those who take that riding seriously, and have very high standards for the horses they'll even consider riding, and the riders they ride with.

                          To be nice about this, the show person's point of view usually is that a trail horse is a nothing horse, one who isn't good for much in the ring, so he MUST be good on the trail, and is even marketed that way, even if he has never, ever set foot on one. The OP's post strikes me as this sort of viewpoint.

                          The serious trail rider's point of view is that until a horse has spent years been seriously ridden and trained on the trails, crosses water reliably, has common sense needed to deal with all of the garbage that is out there, paces himself well to last on long rides, and isn't an idiot to handle in unexpectedly dangerous conditions or in traffic, he isn't a good trail horse. He is simply one that could become a good trail horse, given enough time and exposure. We don't really care if the horse can perform splendidly in circles, counter canters to the nines, gets great scores, mountains of ribbons or can jump over the moon. Breed and discipline don't come into it. There are a LOT of performance horses out there that are used up and marketed as trail horses that you couldn't pay me to get on and ride down the street, let alone out into the woods. And there are plenty of what we call 'circle riders' that we wouldn't ever go out on the trails with. Some of them are just too damn dangerous to ride with, and we are the ones that either have to haul their butts out of trouble, or wind up getting hurt because of their inexperience and blissful ignorance to their surroundings.

                          A lot of trail riders who are serious at this, and don't just do it because they enjoy trails, are also veterans of serious study in one of more disciplines. The more experience you have in those disciplines, the more you weapons you'll have in your arsenal for dealing with what is out there.

                          I'm glad you love your thoroughbred. I'm glad you enjoy riding on the trails. Until your horse can outperform the horses we spend years building into stellar trail horses, don't look down your nose at folks like us just because we would prefer to spend our time working on our skills out on the trails rather than living in the ring.
                          "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits." Albert Einstein



                          • Original Poster

                            I guess that really didn't come out well, at all...

                            I do, truly, have a huge respect for a good trail horse - and I've ridden a fair few of them. I love getting on the broke rope horses at home, who are all wonderful, anyone can ride, cross anything, go through anything, walk headlong into a moose's path and deal with it kind of horses. And I've ridden some horses I wouldn't want to ride in an OUTDOOR RING, nevermind on the trail. Poly himself is amazing in the bush - his only real issue is this "If I don't fit under it, I can just go through it!" attitude that might jsut get me knocked off by a tree one day. He doesn't do mud yet, but someday we'll get there.

                            In truth, and maybe this is why it didn't come across well, is it wasn't so much what was said as how it was said, and coming right after the condescending "you can't hurt that horse no matter what you do, so why are you worrying about the footing" thing ..... Especially as we are often out there at the same time - me to ride, he to grain his 22yo TB mare who was also supposedly off the track, and whom he is happy is sound, etc (and she is a lovely mare) ... And I'm always working on bend, frame, forward, lightening him to my leg .... Plus, they've never seen him go out (I ride largely at night, it's dark, and winter.....) We spent part of summer wandering the pastures, and putzing around on the cross country course at my trainers...not jumping - just trotting circles and wandering around and walking over the baby logs.....

                            He's not nutty, he's not all that difficult, and he's really not actually a wreck. Well, except in his propensity for injury ... This summer was the first time I got any real consecutive time on him - 4 months worth, in fact ...and that, coupled with help from my trainer (an eventer who's ridden scads of TBs) when she was around has actually gotten us onto a road to somewhere, and I'm so proud of where he's at...It's just that it took this long to get there between his string of injuries and my learning curve.... I just recognize that he'd be amazing with a really good rider... And yes, he's kinda high and stupid lately, but he really is just too well fed, and under worked for how much he's being fed. He's yet to be unsafe to ride... I still feel more comfortable on him than anything i've owned to date...

                            And around here, trail horse doesn't seem to mean what trail horse really means... around here, trail horse seems to mean a walk and trot down the barely driven road.... Back home, it involves galloping down cutlines and ducking under trees and chasing the odd straggling cow and crossing muskeg and beaver dams and all sorts of stuff. And I love riding horses that are steady through all of that, and I'm so grateful that my 3yo's first thirty days are largely in this setting (minus the galloping!)....and then more. and I can certainly say that if I was told back home that he'd make a good trail horse, I'd be tickled... It just very much was the tone and context... I don't even know for sure if I'm insulted so much as disheartened...

                            I probably should not have posted - I certainly didn't mean to offend anyone. I am, perhaps, too sensitive sometimes....
                            "Show me the back of a thoroughbred horse, and I will show you my wings."


                            • #15
                              Don't worry about it. You just hit a nerve.

                              If I were you, I would be keeping the horse off of that footing as well. Some horses don't have a strong sense of self-preservation, and can hurt themselves on just about anything. That is not confined to thoroughbreds, either. Ignore your barnmate's attempts at advice, do what you think is right for your horse, and enjoy him.
                              "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits." Albert Einstein



                              • #16
                                Just let it go. A silly comment that means nothing probably from someone otherwise well meaning. Good trail horses are worth their weight in gold!

                                I'd watch that outdoor footing, though! Some controlled exercise (lungeing) before you turn him out might be a good idea. They can get hurt flying around the arena like you describe. If nothing else, make sure he is well booted up with fronts, back and bell boots.


                                • #17
                                  I'm going to join in the others who would consider it a genuine compliment. Granted, we weren't there at your side to see expression and body language or hear the tone ... but even if this guy did mean the comment in a critical way, it's still a compliment. I have a friend who is an avid trail rider; she gets irritated at people trying to sell her or her friends horses as "trail horses" who lack training, manners, soundness, etc. A good trail horse is a valuable creature!

                                  What does it take to make a good trail horse? He must be calm and responsive to his rider in a variety of settings. He must be light to the aids, able to immediately respond at a moment's notice ... to move forward, backward or sideways ... in response to the many unpredictable challenges that may crop up on the trail. He must be supple, both laterally and longitudinally to make those movements and to negotiate the imperfect terrain. He must be clever with his feet, surefooted and well-balanced, equally strong on both sides. He must be confident when faced wtih new things, bold in negotiation obstacles -- whether going over or around -- and trusting in his rider. Hmmm ... sounds an awful lot like the qualities necessary for a good hunter, jumper, eventer or dressage horse!

                                  Tell ya a little story: I have an adorable little TB cross mare ... not a world-beater, but athletic enough to be pretty darn good at what I want her for, sensitive enough to make me do it right, and kind enough to let my mistakes go once corrected. She's also small and rather pony-ish in appearance. At a dressage show not long after I got her, a woman I know slightly from showing came up to me and gushed about what a CUTE LITTLE HORSE I had, so CUTE, just adorable and CUTE. She apparently meant it as a slam ... yes, I was definitely aboard the shortest horse on the grounds and probably did look a bit like a fat kid on a pony. But I honestly thought it was a compliment ... I mean, yeah, she IS little and cute! Well, I got the cute comment from this gal repeatedly throughout the day and every time just beamed, genuinely pleased that this lady, a good rider riding VERY nice horses, was complimenting my cute little crossbred. Later, another show acquaintance told me my response had really chapped the other lady ... she was trying to insult me for some reason. Oh, well. I still think my little horse is cute and if you tell me so, I'll beam and agree. She's a dang good trail horse, too, even the mosey along variety.

                                  Moral: At the end of the day, are you happy with your horse? That's all that really matters. If you know what you have in him, just take every comment about him as a compliment and respond with a big, cheesy grin and "Thanks! He really is a great horse!"
                                  Equinox Equine Massage

                                  In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was in me invincible summer.
                                  -Albert Camus


                                  • #18
                                    That wasn't as bad as the guy who was yammering at me one day, as I stood in front of my two Thoroughbred's stalls, and midway through the conversation, he makes the remark that "Thoroughbreds are just as dumb as a box of rocks."
                                    This from the same asshat who later told me about sending his lame 30- year old mare to auction and that he felt bad because he knew she was going to slaughter.
                                    So who was as dumb as a box of rocks there....


                                    • #19
                                      The trail horse comment taken as an insult kinda poked me, too. Another thing that bugs me is people who have a horse who becomes unsound and say "he's sound enough for trails". Uh, what trails?? The manicured five miles in the park maybe? That "ain't" a trail horse IMHO .
                                      You know why cowboys don't like Appaloosas?" - Answer: Because to train a horse, you have to be smarter than it is.


                                      • #20
                                        Not just any horse can be a good trail horse, just as not every horse can be a good jumper, etc. I had the best trail horse in the world for many years (RIP). I could take him anywhere under any circumstances and could count on him to bring me home alive and in good condition. My current horse loves to be a show horse, but is an idiot out on the trail. I don't think he has the grey matter for it.

                                        I alaways say " a good trail horse is as highly trained for his job as a grand prix jumper or dressage horse is for his."

                                        Unfortunately, for alot of people, "he'd make a good trail horse" is actually a derogatory comment. I always say, well, bring your fancy XYZ horse out on the trail with me and we'll see how he does. Love to see the rider turn green with fear. And yes, for the trails I used to ride, the horse must be extremely sound.

                                        paint hunter
                                        NATRC judge