If you turned your herd of horses out into the woods, more than likely they would adapt pretty quickly to their environment and would be investigating with curiosity. If they were startled or frightened, they might run a bit, then go back to eating.
One of the biggest complaints I get from people about their horse is how nervous they are and how they don’t relax. This is not a horse’s natural state – humans bring and cause fear that lasts. Horses; though they have a strong sense of self preservation, are inquisitive and curious by nature.
The thing that never ceases to amaze me is how little many trail horses have little education, and how many trail riders have little education on how to ride without fear in all three gaits. It’s like learning to fly a jet plane without instruction on a plane that hasnt been checked for safety. Sounds crazy, and yet trail riders who don’t know how to ride on horses who don’t know how to be ridden is quite common. It doesn’t take long for a naturally inquisitive horse to become fearful with a worried and restraining rider, and this can damage a horses confidence long term. A trail horse needs to have the confidence to leave the herd or to ride with strange horses, to take in the changing scenery, the balance to carry a person up and down different terrain, to interpret and respond to the needs of an ever changing and unpredictable reality. A trail rider needs the balance to ride the off movement here and there without requiring the reins for balance. They need the feel and timing to guide their horse so their horse doesn’t have to resort to following the herd for support or direction. They need independent hands and an understanding of equipment and saddle fitting so as to not cause pain to their trusty friend.
Trail riding might be simple but it is not easy – why wouldn’t you want as much preparation as possible before putting your life in the hands of a 1200 lb flight animal while you’re out of Cel range?