EquusMagazine.com - Full Article
Three seasoned trail riders offer strategies for overcoming the most common spoilers of the great-outdoor horseback experience.
UPDATED:MAR 10, 2017
ORIGINAL:MAY 20, 2008
Ah! A nice, relaxing trail ride on a pleasant summer day: What could be better to break the tedium of ring work and soothe the stresses of show training? Just head for the hills, the woods, the rolling meadows on horseback, alone or in congenial company, and all your troubles will melt away. Yeah, right... until your horse refuses to cross the creek or runs in terror from an innocent boulder or takes up a bone-jarring jig that puts you both in a lather for the duration of the ride.
When horses and their riders are unprepared for the out-of-arena experience, a simple walk through the woods turns into a series of frustrating or frightening confrontations. The disconnect between expectations and reality often begins with the choice of mount.
"Most people don't select horses for trail riding," says Montana horseman Dan Aadland, an avid backcountry rider and author of several books on the topic. "I get tired of hearing, 'Well, she's not good enough for the show ring, but she'll make a good trail horse.' Why should trail riding be relegated to a secondary job for a horse? If you want to trail ride exclusively, buy a horse who excels at it, not one who can't do anything else."
Compounding the problem, says Aadland, is a tendency to overlook the importance of a trail-riding education: "We train horses for very specific arena jobs but expect them to just automatically know how to handle the trail. Then we get frustrated when they don't. Horses need to be taught to trail ride just like they are taught reining, roping or any other skill..."
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