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horse trail
lacking confidence
building confidence
flight response
horse training
good friend
My Horse Training Stories : Horse Trail Ride From Hell !
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My Horse Training Stories : Horse Trail Ride From Hell !

My Horse Training Stories… What happens when you break the rules!!

The Trail ride from hell

There are certain rules you should always follow when working with green horses. This day we broke a couple of these rules which ended in a very dramatic trail ride which really didn’t end well with a low flying chopper and some dirt eating!

A good friend of mine and I about 12 months ago decided on a nice sunny Sunday to head out for a trail ride in the national park. ..This wasn’t an uncommon practice though we usually rode on a Saturday.

Not long before I had gotten a new horse Rez , a troubled arab whom I had finished breaking in. This was about his 5th ride … ever ! and 2nd ride in the National Park.

My friend was riding a young but lovely little Pinto … also very green. She is an excellent rider but is only just getting back into the saddle after a long break so is lacking confidence.

Two Green Horses

This was the first rule we broke … 2 green horses … A green horse needs the security of a more established horse especially early in their riding career, when they are still building confidence and anything could be a big bad monster .They look to the other horse as too how to react … flight response… but in saying that riding a green horse alone they will look to the rider for reassurance, it builds trust.. but also should only be attempt by a professional as the possibility of an accident is increased. It is better horsemanship to go with another horse first.

So right from the get go we were up against it.

Gun Club Sunday

Across the other side of the national park is a gun club . They only operate on a Sunday … you cannot hear the fire from my place … on this day I had completely forgotten about it. Rule number 2 broken … don’t make things harder than they have to be on a green horse . You would not go for an early ride down the side of the freeway . Work up too it.

So riding out on a day when there was constant gun fire was not the greatest idea. My horse was on edge from the beginning and it wasn’t until we were well into the ride that I heard the guns and realized my mistake.

Lesson two …think ahead.

Mountain Bikes

By this stage my friends horse was starting to pick up on my horses nervous energy being unsure about a rider as well as all the noise of gun fire which he didn’t appreciate and came in waves.

So of course then we came across our first group of mountain bikers … we could here them coming … wheels on dirt. The horses were not impressed.

Mountain bikes … or this day a whole comp … we must have passed a dozen groups of riders … this was the first and last time I have ever seen this in the park.

On top of the guns this was just too much for my friends horse and he constantly attempted to shy every time we came upon a group of riders.

My friends nerves were getting a bit frazzled by this stage … I couldn’t blame her … he was attempting to turn a 180 every few steps… and not slowly.

Good Company.. or not

We then had a stroke of luck and as we were moving so slowly forwards ,we were caught up by another rider a nice lady on a very large warmblood who didn’t know what all the fuss was about .

His attitude gave much needed relief to both us and our horses... Whom instantly calmed … She joined us and walked with us as we headed now towards home… having a good chat my friend was telling her about our horses .. the trail is a big loop… and we passed much more calmly a couple more groups of mountain bikers. The prob with this part of the trail is that it winds closest to the gun club.. Rez was starting to feel tense again and started jogging … so we were doing many stop reverse .. which slowed us all down.

Just when we came to a cross roads in the trail … which I have to add is the closest part to the sound of the guns.. The lovely lady who had been riding with us turned too us said good bye and cantered off !!! without any warning …we were totally shocked and of course so were our horses … Rez jogging was now getting really out of hand so had to turn to using a one rein stop as didn’t want to induce a rear. Remember this is only his 5 th ride ever and it was all getting a bit too much… which was understandable.

Ok so what went wrong here … I know we didn’t break the rule but we learnt why you never should.

Never leave a group of riders esp at a fast speed without giving notice. Horses are pack animals and want to stay together … it unfairly caused our horses much stress… and could have caused bolt, buck or rear.

This came out in my friends horse when he immediately started shying at any purple flowers growing at the side of the track… looking to express his worry.

We would have been much better of going with her and picking up the pace … we would have got home a lot faster too.

Almost home but not quite..

The rest of the walk home was far from drama free we encountered many more groups of riders … and much more jogging … round and round we went … Rez slowly got the message and we had more walking than jogging .. both horse started to relax… and so did us as riders.

We were in the home straight now … another 5 mins walk along a familiar trail to the gate .. across the road and home.

Since Rez had been jogging so much I was really still paying attention too him .. so when I felt him tense up all of a sudden I was ready for it . Sadly my friend behind me who was relaxing wasn’t . When the low flying helicopter passed very quickly and noisily above our head both horses jumped.. I was fine but I turned to see my friend hit the ground … her horse had done a massive shy and exploded .. on a loose rein without warning she had no hope.

The horse took off towards home. I dismounted .She was fine if bruised and angry . We had to go catch her very upset horse. He isn’t the best to catch in good circumstances.

Being so wound up it took a while to get hold of him … my horse and my friend getting very upset in the process.

Finally Home

Horse caught …we walked the short distance home .. not the most fun thing to do with jumpy horses and arrived safe and sound … a lucky day in all!

So as with most things in life you never quite know when things are going to go wrong. I have ridden in the national park many many times since. I started riding Rez alone after this .. but never on a Sunday !! Since that day I have never seen another mountain bike event and only very rarely see a small group of mountain bike riders .. I have also never seen choppers flying low over the park again.

We just got unlucky that day .. and sadly my friend lost a lot of confidence because of it… confidence when it comes to riding is the hardest thing to learn… I tend to go the other way and be over confident .. but in saying that I usually think things out first and take every precaution… but still when your dealing with horses you have to realize they are an unpredictable beast…. Especially when you are in an unpredictable environment.

I hope u enjoyed my article … I am no expert and am just sharing my own experiences as I try to follow my dream of becoming a horse trainer … Thanks Nic

Street Talk


Very exciting and instructive article about what not to encounter on two green horses! A green trail horse does indeed need a wise, experienced mentor horse to keep company until he has enough experience himself. I understand that the low-flying helicopter was a ridiculous thing to encounter after all that the two horses had faced already. The two of you handled it all in an excellent way. One tip from Basic Training for a Safe Trail Horse regards horses that jig. Besides turning in a circle, teach the horse (on his own) to stand on command. Then at the first sign of jigging bring him to stand followed by several steps backing (he should know this also) followed by another command to stand. Always vary the length of time for each stand and the number of steps backed. If riding with another horse, ask the rider to halt while you do this. What is happening is that your horse is finding out that he is not only making no progress but is actually losing ground. Horses are intelligent enough to recognize this and accept that only by walking at the pace you want will he make progress. There is another maneuver described in Basic Training for a Safe Trail Horse that can be used in this kind of situation.

  about 1 decade ago
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