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Old 08-26-2008, 09:00 AM   #1
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Afraid to trail-ride

I trail-ride at a barn with lovely trails and access to many more. Most of the folks at the barn do dressage w/very few going on the trails. Several of the riders (who, I believe, excel in dressage) have started out on the trails and then expressed fear of what their horses might do and quickly head back to the barn. Some of these folks have even done hunter-paces and yet, they are afraid to head out on the trails.

What am I missing that makes these folks so afraid to head out on the trails? It would be nice to have company sometimes, but I'm unable to 1) talk them in to trail-riding, or 2) they become so nervous that they want to head back.

I'm suspicious that it's rider fear. The horses didn't strike me as being particularly afraid (though that's often the excuse), more the riders seem to be anxious.

Thoughts, anyone?
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Old 08-26-2008, 09:48 AM   #2
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I am sure it is partly fear of the unknown. If they know their horses have never been out there, they may feel like they will spook easily. I personally think it is really good for our show horses to get out on trails, it is relaxing for them!
I will say, though, that sometimes I feel my horse about to freak out, and it is not that visible, it is just a feeling underneath me. He feels like a tightly coiled spring about to release, and I am much better off if I can get off before the explosion happens. Maybe they are sensing that in their horses? Even when my horse does this, though, I get off and walk him until he calms down, and then get back on.
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Old 08-26-2008, 10:11 AM   #3
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Afraid to trail-ride

Thanks, Carrie - that makes sense. The horses seem calm, but maybe the riders ARE feeling something not obvious to another rider. Hopefully I can convince them to get past that and just enjoy the scenery

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Old 08-26-2008, 10:16 AM   #4
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Riding on the trails is IMO a completely different experience. There's no fence to give you that feeling of security. I first started out riding trails with my cousins and then began to take lessons and show. It was hard getting back into trails because you truly don't know what's around the next bend. It can be intimidating.

A possible suggestion could be to go for a light hack when the others riders have worked out in the ring. That way they may feel their horses are tired enough that they would spooke less?? Then work their way to longer rides.

Good for you for trying to get them to go, I've just starting to go into competitive trail and so far I love it!
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Old 08-26-2008, 11:00 AM   #5
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Afraid to trail-ride

Longshot -

Competitive Trail? Now THAT's intimidating

Thanks for the great suggestion. Wishing you all the best out on YOUR trails!

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Old 08-26-2008, 10:14 PM   #6
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If they spend most of their time in the arena, the wide open trails can be scary! I know the first time I went trail riding (on a real horse, not through a trail riding outfit) I was petrified! I'm so used to going around in circles with a rail. Its a feeling that definitely takes some getting used to
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Old 08-26-2008, 10:35 PM   #7
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Alright...I'm different. I am actually most comfortable on a horse out in the middle of a wide open field, then on a trail, and I am actually a little nervous in an arena or roundpen. I feel if I am out in the open there is space to make a mistake or two and time to recover before it's time to dodge a fence

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Old 08-26-2008, 10:47 PM   #8
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I'm with taelesean on this one - the trail is my comfort zone. I'm much more nervous to canter in an arena than I am on the trail or out in the open.
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Old 08-26-2008, 11:47 PM   #9
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My guess is that they're afraid of their horse spooking and having an accident with them. If they're H/J horses, they're probably larger horses, so a lot further to the ground in a fall. I would suggest riding out with one of the trainers at your barn, which may provide some security to the riders.
My horses are more comfortable on the trail then in an arena. There's security amongst the trees.
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Old 08-27-2008, 04:25 AM   #10
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I had some of this fear you mention Cathy T. Too many bad falls from a spooky horse. The arena is my comfort zone for my one horse. He is good on trails and loves the sights, but will make me a bit nervous since he gets a little bratty sometimes (he is 4). In the arena, he is good as he is my show horse, but Ive had his trainer and some friends and I go trail riding in the state forrest and he loves it. Its just me.. Many people who show, never see a trail as they are always training, etc so the horses are nervous which makes the rider nervous. I think even show horses need to be ridden and treated the same as a trail horse so they dont get bored. Its also a good way to keep them in shape without always having to work.
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Old 08-27-2008, 04:53 AM   #11
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Trail riding can be scarey for horses. Horses that live the arena life get a comfort zone just like the rider gets their comfort zone. Its a big scarey world out on the trails with a bunch of boogers. Not to mention, your horse can feel your nervousnes/anxiety so in turn he is going to feel the same. My suggestion would be after your arena work, go out on a trail ride with a quiet, seasoned trail horse that could care less. Let your horse buddy up with this horse as the herd instinct kicks in. Do little trips at a time. Don't go out for 1-2 hrs, work up to that length of time. Consider hand walking him at first and just talk to him while you are going along. You will be more relaxed on the ground then on his back. Also, when you are trail riding, let your horse be a horse and not worry about head placement, and such. Let him enjoy it and he will relate that hey this is fun. You enjoy it too, relax and chit chat with your friends. If you are relaxed, your horse will feel relaxed. When I showed, we did arena work 2-3 days a week, then trail rode the rest. So, yes, we trail rode MORE than arena work and it did the horses mind awesome. Didn't care about head set or speed or anything. Just went and had fun. Horses are not machines. I have babysat many of horses out on trails as my gelding doesn't care about much. I don't do any arena work anymore, alls I do is trail ride. My days of riding in circles are over. The trails is where the fun and beauty is when owning a horse. There is so much country to see and explore. Camping is a ton of fun too !!!!!!!! Good luck.

Last edited by BarnBum; 08-27-2008 at 05:52 AM.
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Old 08-27-2008, 09:00 AM   #12
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Afraid to trail-ride

I agree, Barnbum (love your avatar, btw) - I think it's mentally therapeutic for the horses (and the riders) to get out of the ring and see the trees, the creeks, the meadows, etc. While we DO tend to go out for 1-2 hours, what they don't realize is that a good portion of that is allowing the horses to graze while the riders dismount and let the feeling return to their old knees . What horse wouldn't enjoy that

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