the Typical Horse out on the Trail
By Judi Daly
Horses are definitely
unpredictable animals, and that is what makes trail riding such a dangerous
sport. Just the same, there are a few things that seem to hold true for
most horses in most situations. Of course, there are always exceptions
to the rules, and sometimes a predictable horse will do something very
uncharacteristic. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you wonder
how your horse will act in a particular situation. They can help you know
what to expect and guide you to make safe decisions.
1. Horses will typically
go faster on the way home than on the way out. Generally, horses are in
a hurry to get back to the safety of their herd, food and rest. The closer
they get to home, the faster they will go. There are exceptions to this
rule. My horse, Mingo, doesn't seem to vary in speed even on the last
leg of the journey. He doesn't believe in hurrying.
2. If you always do the same thing in the same spot, your horse will want
to do the same thing in the same spot. If you ride the same trails often,
the best thing to do is vary your routine. I've seen horses get very nutty
at the bottom of hills that their owners let them run up. It creates a
problem if there is someone riding down the hill, and you don't want to
run up at them. Even an experienced rider like me falls into this trap.
There are some particularly great places to canter on our trails, and
we look forward to these places as much as the horses do. We will walk
or trot in these spots every now and then to enforce some discipline.
Sometimes this rule helps you out, though. If you always stop at an intersection
before crossing, your horse is more likely to cooperate with you when
you have to stop for traffic. An old friend told me about a horse he rode
when he was a young man. They would get to a certain spot on the trail,
and the horse would come to a dead stop. Nothing would get the horse to
budge until you leaned back in the saddle like you were taking a drink
from a bottle. Here, the man who usually rode the horse would always stop
in that spot to take a swig from the flask of whiskey he carried with
3. Horses are harder to slow down or stop on the way back to the barn.
Keep this in mind when you want to canter up to an intersection or some
other obstacle. Just because he stopped well on the way out, there is
no guarantee he will do the same on the way home. Give yourself more distance
to stop or slow down.
4. The colder the weather-the sillier horse. This is something to remember
if you are wondering how your horse will behave on a particular day. The
colder the weather, the safer and more cautiously you should ride. I honestly
couldn't safely ride Cruiser on the trail when it was below freezing until
he was 6 unless he was lounged our turned out first. Even now, at the
age of 13, he can still be unpredictable when it is cold. Conversely,
in the summer, Mingo is so quiet and slow, I could read a book while riding
at a trot. Sometimes I think I could take a nap, but then he would probably
stop to graze.
5. A horse that is sensibly trail ridden will only improve. I put the
emphasis on the work "sensibly." A rider who "hotrods"
her horse, abuses his mouth with bad hands, asks him to do things he isn't
ready for, allows him to act aggressively towards other horse, etc., can't
expect her horse to get better-only worse. With sensible riding, though,
even a terrible horse will get better. I've heard it said that the best
thing for a horse is a lot of wet saddle blankets. Just make sure is sensible
6. If your horse has been cooped up for a while, turning him out to play,
even for just a few minutes, will improve your trail ride. A horse that
is deprived of time to play will take it out on you. I find that even
if they have a few bucks in them but have the self-discipline to refrain
from bucking, they tend not to be as cooperative. Once again, the weather
will play into this. A cooped up horse in the cold weather is worse than
one in hot weather.
Please visit Judi
Daly's website at: www.trailtraining.bigstep.com
Email Judi at firstname.lastname@example.org