People often say “I don’t want to do anything fancy, just trail ride…”
Sometimes they mean they don’t have lofty show goals and enjoy relaxing rides, which is just great! Sometimes, however, they mean they aim to cut corners with their and their horses education.
Let’s examine what’s involved in “just trail riding”:
For the horse:
-ability to trailer load and tie calmly
-ability to stand calmly while saddled and fly sprayed, often while tied to the trailer in a new setting
-ability to stand quietly while mounted, at the trailer and possibly on the trail
-the balance and fitness required to manage uneven terrain, hills, fallen trees, etc
-confidence and exposure enough to deal with the unforeseen: wildlife, ATV’s, bikes, hikers, dogs, etc.
-confidence enough to ride in a group (potentially with people who don’t have great environmental awareness or control of their horse and can potentially get you in some sticky situations) or alone
-confidence enough to ride back home or to the trailer without anxiety or rushing
Now the human:
-environmental awareness – taking note of themselves, the horse, and the environment at all times. Do you tend to zone out and just plod along, reacting once something has happened? Or can you stay aware and head off trouble?
- a balanced seat enough to manage hills and all kinds of terrain without grabbing the reins or interfering with the horses balance
-confidence enough to handle a little spook, jog, a canter or whatever movement happens as a result of “real life” on the trail
-fitness enough to have good posture in the saddle for a length of time
And much more….
A good trail horse can take quite some time to educate, and sometimes even more time than teaching an arena horse. Personally, I don’t want to be out in the woods or mountains without a good seat on a horse who is lacking education, but I like living and aim to live a long life with all my parts 🙂
Photo is of my personal horse who has become a great, reliable trail horse over the years (years!!) and my other, less confident gelding learning the ropes from her.