I took Savannah for her first solo trail ride off the property this morning. She was a rock star – we had a couple of her signature moves (she grinds to a halt to say “I REALLY don’t want to do this and then we get a little pigroot when I demand she goes forwards) but after I pointed out that that was unacceptable she settled down and we had a good ride. She even walked home on a loose rein.
As far as I am concerned, no horse can be called a solid equine citizen until they can hit the trail sensibly, both on their own and in company. They must travel at the requested gait until told otherwise, and they will NOT jog.. I HATE that! They can walk as fast as they like, but they will not jog. It is something I nip in the bud straight away – as soon as they break into a jog they get halted and made to back up three steps, then asked to walk forward on a loose rein again. Rinse and repeat as often as necessary until they figure it out. I don’t care if it takes an hour to get home. They must pass horses and be passed, and mine also learn how to manouvere to open gates.
My kids learn early on the joys of trail riding
And they must learn to do this on their own too… I do most of my training on my own, either one horse or sometimes ponying another one. I can’t be doing with a horse that is busy hollering for his mates for 3 and a 1/2 hours… My horses also quickly learn that when you are out on the trails with mum, you’d better believe that she is in charge.. and if you yell for your mates you will find yourself heading AWAY from home, or doing shoulder in down the road, or 10 metre circles in one spot… and that therefore it is much easier to shut up and travel nicely, because then she will leave you alone.
It’s boring sometimes, riding on your own, but then I get to rides and decide it is SOO worth it. You see people with ponies that MUST travel in pairs, that MUST have their buddy with them in the vet ring or their heart rate will spike, that fail to eat in holds because their buddy has already left on the next leg…
So – learning to travel solo. A vital skill. And one I find enjoyable to teach. Much more fun than arena work. Yet there are some riders who are petrified by the idea of leaving the arena. Each to their own I guess, but I happen to believe that even if you are not an endurance rider, there is nothing better for the heart and soul of both horse AND rider than a good long trail ride. Yes there are risks, but I can vouch for the fact that it hurts just as much falling off in the arena as it does out on the trail (or maybe that’s just because my arena is actually just a section of paddock!). The worst thing about falling off on the trail is facing along walk home, so I teach my horses the “carrot whoa”. More on that in another post. I also carry a mobile and a bottle of water on ME, not on the saddle, and I have good third party insurance.
Oh and take a hyperactive dog with you… best de spookers on the planet!
Missy waits to join me for 30kms on the trail